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Eat with me! You won't eat with me?

Kairouan, Tunisia

This is Mohamed el Amied Ben Hedili Ben Mohamed Ben Romd’hane, storekeeper, father of 2 children (ages 2 and 3), devout Muslim, and gentleman of real character. I approached him simply to buy a spoon.

"Une cuiller seulement"?
"Oui, une".

He quickly had one of the 2 guys working for him find an old spoon. While they were cleaning it and I was wondering what an old spoon would cost me, he invited me to eat with him. Though I told him I must go, he quickly set up two packing crates inside his store, brought out dates, olives, olive oil, chili paste, milk and water, and told me to have a seat. I did as I was told.

About the milk: apparently fresh from the cow. I admit to some reticence. Lots of solid material that tasted kind of cheesy, with a slightly sour tinge and just a hint of the flavor you expect from the pasteurized, homogenized stuff. I was assured it was vital to keep me strong on my trip, and finally dug in for a couple of cups full.

Center for Disease Control advisory on traveller's health: "Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized".

Mohamed proved to be open-minded, but suggesting strongly that I read the Quran so that I might afterwards allow myself a choice. It definitely made me regret not bringing an English version along on this trip, if only to set the context. As far as Mohamed is concerned, there is no book with as many good answers to life’s important questions. I thought: why not?

Western culture fears Moslem culture, let’s face it. Facing the strange, the unknown, the “Other” requires a certain sense of security and trust, which seems to be diminishing despite everyone’s best efforts. The Netherlands just banned the burkha, for example, a move that frankly reminded me of the old dress code we had in Junior High. No jeans children!!

It wasn’t the jeans but what they represented, and so it is with the burkha. Holland is impoverishing its own culture, and nullifying one of it’s most generous and well-known tenants: tolerance.

Back to Mohamed: we ate and chatted as he and his employees dealt with a jostle of customers, and when it was time for me to go, he handed me 2 plastic bags filled with groceries and took not a single Dinar. I said “Mohamed, il y a une difference entre l'amitie et l’argent. Laisse-moi payer pour ces choses”. He told me “Une autre temps, peut-etre”. I bicycled away and found a scooter at my elbow not 3 kilometers later: it was Mohamed with that spoon I had originally approached him for: no charge.

permalink written by  roel krabbendam on December 26, 2006 from Kairouan, Tunisia
from the travel blog: Harmattan
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Your photograph of Mohamed the storekeeper and his "supermarket" in Kairouan is fantastic. It's an award winner. Be open to the adventure of travel. There is a gift to experience every day. I just read your entire trip from the 14th in one sitting. I have enjoyed it immensely. Good luck.
Worldfamouspatty from Acton (Larry's friend)

permalink written by  Patty Taylor on January 17, 2007


permalink written by  roel krabbendam on January 24, 2007

Really enjoying your blog, Kairouan is my late father's birthplace, I do go there once every ten years or so.
My late father really loved Massachusetts one of his favorite things here was maple sirop ! he couldn't believe this stuff came out of a tree.


permalink written by  Rashid Darradji on February 13, 2013

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roel krabbendam roel krabbendam
7 Trips
687 Photos

Here's a synopsis of my trips to date (click on the trip names to the right to get all the postings in order):

Harmattan: Planned as a bicycle trip through the Sahara Desert, from Tunis, Tunisia to Cotonou, Benin, things didn't work out quite as expected.

Himalayas: No trip at all, just...

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