Tunisia, Alive

By: /
July 14, 2012

I returned to Tunisia Live the next day to interview politics-desk editor Charles Baeder and political journalist Farah Samti. I learned a lot from their insights into reporting in Tunisia, on the revolution, and on the relationships between secular and Islamist factions. Their perspectives on these issues, as well as how they viewed Tunisia Live in the context of international media, provided a sense of the import Tunisia Live holds for the future of this nascent democratic state.

I also interviewed Megan Radford, the culture editor for Tunisia Live. She provided me with a keen sense of how religiosity is situated within Tunisian culture. Her work on the hijab and women’s fashion elucidated a lot about the diversity of dress and personal expression in Tunisian society.

Megan is a Canadian national hailing from Toronto. I asked her how she’d like to see the Canadian government continue to support Tunisia’s democratic transition beyond recent efforts. She alluded (and rightly so, I think) to the strengths and merits of the Canadian democratic system – the Charter of Rights and Freedoms immediately comes to mind – and the professional training that Canada could provide.

Following our discussion, Megan invited me to Blanko, a kite-surfing spot and restaurant cum bar/nightclub in Gammarth, a wealthy and touristy suburb of Tunis. Until then, my only experience of Tunisian nightlife had been of shady downtown encounters, and I was happy to try something new.

I travelled to Blanko by taxi. The street leading up to the bar was lined heavily with cars on either side and the driver indicated that I’d have to get out and walk the half-kilometre to the entrance. I heard four or five languages en route, mostly European – German, French, and Dutch, I think – as well as Arabic.

As I walked onto the beach, a stretch of beach chairs and loungers led me to the water’s edge, where blue, red, and white lights refracted off of the sand. I found my party, introduced myself to some new acquaintances, and relaxed for the first time since I’d arrived. Within minutes, someone proposed a swim in the Mediterranean, and sure enough, a small group of people set off to take a midnight dip. I joined with only limited hesitation, and my decision was well worth it: The view of the beach boasted the club’s lights cascading off of the shallows of the water. Turning around, I saw a red moon hovering on the horizon, surrounded by the brightest stars I’ve seen in years.

We danced to the resounding drum and bass until 4 a.m. From time to time, Megan would point out the who’s who of the fashion world in attendance. A plurality of sexualities, nationalities, and ethnicities peppered the crowd, and I felt, for the first time, close to home.