Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Postcard from Tunisia

Happy New Year

2007 greetings from sunny but chilly Tunisia. After a hectic 2006, I decided to have a well deserved break from the stress and pace of Lagos. December is also an opportunity to get in touch with one’s inner self and meditate on things past,present and future. So I jumped at the opportunity to head to North Africa for the first time. But to my surprise, getting to North Africa from West Africa was going to be a feat as challenging as the border crossing with Cotonou. Once again I am confronted with the problem of mobility within the African continent as the travel agent informs me that I would have to go through Europe and pay an exorbitant fare to boot. To me that was an unacceptable option and I was determined to find a route through Africa that wouldn’t take all week. With some clever re-routing through Cotonou I was on my way.

Tunisia was a cultural shock. I thought I had landed somewhere in Europe, it was freezing. Thinking I am still in Africa I had few warm clothes with me. In fact I had landed in the middle of their winter, but i remained undeterred. The drive from Tunis to Hammamet was smooth. The roads were impeccable and the scenery was breathtaking. I revelled in the shape and sizes of the mountains that the driver said were part of the famous Atlas mountain (news to me) that went through about 3-4 countries in Northern Africa. I guess the equivalent of the also famous River Niger. Within 45 minutes we were in the tourist town of Hammamet and my abode for the next week.



I was to lodge at the 5* Hadsdrubal Hotel Thalasso and Spa Resort and the room from my suite was breathtaking as the pictures above demonstrates. The belly dancing was on New Year's eve where we were treated to a sumptuous 6 course mean. I think i gave up on the 4th course. Hasdrubal wasn't chosen only Thalasso and Spa. The owners of Hadsdrubal are art lovers and the hotel doubles as a gallery of sorts. The walls and other appropriate space of art – mainly modernist figurative but mainly abstract paintings of Tunisian artists with a splattering of Iraqi artists too. The collection has been built up over the past 25 years by the art consultant to the owners of the hotel chain.

Hadsdrubal in the process of building it biggest, most luxurious hotel to date in the town of Djerba.
Within its premises will also be located the first private museum. I had the opportunity to speak with the art consultant and buyer for the Hadsdrubal Mr Amouri about past and future plans for the new space. He acknowledged that the art collection has to be reviewed and the new strategy will take the museological process into consideration. It was heartening to learn about their commitment to open up across the continent and embrace contemporary art from other parts of African which until now has remained completely oblivious in Tunisia. They also intend to develop an artist in residence programme to encourage dynamic interaction between contemporary artists on the continent and beyond.


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