08 December 2008
Land of Christian History & Star Wars
We returned late Thursday night from an incredible week in Tunisia with friends. Wow! Let me just say...Wow! We absolutely loved it there. After a rather upsetting change of flight (there was a mix-up in communication with the place we bought the tickets from, and we didn't find out until we were AT THE AIRPORT standing in line that our flight had been moved to Thursday evening instead of Tuesday). I was mad, but I got over it, and Thanksgiving turned out to be magnificent. Our friends & their friends all agreed to celebrate one day late so we could be there. Yay for friends!
The next 3 days we went on a road trip that in included the Sahara desert, a Roman Amphitheater & a Mediterranean beach, among other things. Not bad. Not bad at all.
In the Sahara, we saw one of the sets for Star Wars. We found out that the Jedi & Jawa robes were not made up costumes for the movies. They are outerwear actually worn by Tunisian men. We saw them everywhere! While we were in the desert, we paid a guy to let us film him & his camel while he watched an iPod. We needed the footage for a video we're doing. The scene was not too far from reality, as his cell phone rang while w were out in the middle of nowhere. Then I got to sit on the camel, who was really not in the mood. I think he looks like he's singing blissfully with his eyes closed. In reality, though, he was hollering to be left alone.
The paradoxes for us were rather startling. After the road trip, we returned to our friends' house & put up Christmas decorations. Tunisia is a Muslim country, with very few known believers. The women veil only if they want to, but sharing your Christian faith & converting a Muslim is illegal. So the culture is most definitely Muslim. The clarity of cultural & religious differences came to us while putting up the Christmas tree & listening to Silent Night, while the Muslim call to prayer is broadcast loudly in the neighborhood around. Or driving in the car with Nat King Cole singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, while the view out the window shows a relatively warm day, skinned sheep carcasses hanging from butcher hooks, and veiled women walking down the sidewalk. Not the Christmas scene we grew up with!
But while America seems to dominate as a "Christian nation", I was enlightened on this trip as to the rich Christian heritage in Tunisia. The ancient city of Carthage is just on the outskirts of Tunis. This is where Scripture was canonized. It is also where the first female Christians on record were martyred. You can read about Perpetua & her maid Felicitas here. In Carthage, you can visit the ruins of the Roman amphitheater where they and other Christians were martyred. Their story, although ancient, is not too far off of the present day stories of believers in Muslim cultures today.
It was difficult to leave Tunisia! We made new friends & saw & did SO many things while we were there! Definitely one of my favorite vacations ever.