Day By Day

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tunisia Trip -- Part Three

We left the Bardo Museum in late morning and headed into the center of Tunis where we had a light lunch and viewed the government buildings.

I was particularly attracted to this hardy little flower clinging precariously to the top of a tiled dome. There really wasn't much to see at the seat of government so we proceeded on to the place everyone was looking forward to -- the medina [old town] souk [market].

The vitality of the souk stood in stark to the stolid atmosphere of the buildings where government bureaucrats and politicians lurked. This place was fun. We walked the length of the souk, pausing from time to time to look at the wares being presented, and emerged eventually into the wide boulevards of a modern city.

And this came as something of a surprise -- right in the heart of a Muslim capital stood this cathedral. That is the Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Paul, a Catholic priest who was captured by Muslim raiders and sold into slavery in Tunis early in the seventeenth century. As a slave he ministered to the spiritual needs of other Christians held in slavery. Eventually he converted his Muslim master to Christianity and together the two fled Tunis for France where he established a missionary order dedicated to ministering to the poor and to convicts. The cathedral was built in 1881, while Tunisia was still a French colony. After independence most Catholic properties were taken over by the government, but this magnificent structure remains in the hands of the Church and today serves as the headquarters of the Diocese of Tunis.

After milling around for a while looking for missing members of the tour [one person had taken a cab back to the hotel but had not told anyone] we again boarded our bus and returned to the hotel where we enjoyed an evening meal complete with belly dancer and traditional Tunisian folk music. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the pictures I took at the dinner. Alas, alack! Maybe they will turn up later and I can post them for the amusement of all and the embarrassment of a few.

More to come.

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