I visited Tunisia for the first time in 1973 and spent five weeks, visiting many beautiful and interesting villages and also the capital Tunis and many renowned historical sites. I also made many Arab friends, among them my good friend Hedi Ben Sassi, of whom I heard for the last time (by mail) in 1975 when completing my graduate studies at Syracuse University, USA.

Sidi Bou Saïd. Village en nid d’aigles sur une colline à l’entrée du Golf de Tunis, côté Nord de Tunis. Sidi Bou Saïd a longtemps étè un lieu villégiature pour la bourgeoisieTunisoise. Mais dès le début du siècle une “intelligencia“ internationale faite d’ecrivains, de peintres et d’artistes de tous genres, a adopté et habité le village.  سيدي بوسعيد قال Sidi Bou Saïd – not to confuse with Sidi Bouzid, where on December 17, 2010 the “winter of discontent” began with the self-immolation of the Arab street vendor (Tarek al-Tayeb) Muhammed Bouazizi, who hailed from Sidi Bouzid. Le village Sidi Bou Saïd aura tousjours une place spéciale dans mon cœur. Named for a figure who lived there, Abou Said ibn Khalef ibn Yahia Ettamini el Beji (previously it was called Jabal el-Menar). And famous for its blue and white structures. My re-visit came much later in the Spring of 2012, when I spent an entire month in a Hammamet resort by the Golf of Hammamet. Renewing my acquaintance with most of the 1973 visited towns and villages, including Sidi Bou Saïd.

Tunisia then and Tunisia now – I could hardly see any difference. Public bus services had improved, we did not have to sit by the side of the road waiting. Then again, Tunisia had always been more liberal in their culture and relationship with the Western world than other Maghreb countries. Yet, it seemed that time had stood still for the Tunisians, despite all the sociopolitical demonstrations and upheavals following the winter of 2010, with the “Arab Spring” in 2011 which was supposed to bring about a change in most of the Arab countries involved. At the foremost Tunisia followed by Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, then Morocco, Jordan, Iraq.