Saturday, September 18, 2021

Traditions & Customs in Tunisia

AfricaTunisiaTraditions & Customs in Tunisia

Tunisia is a Muslim country and dress code is important, especially for women. While a lot of skin (even topless) is tolerated on the beaches and in hotel complexes, a modest amount of exposed skin may be frowned upon outside these areas.

Be aware that Tunisia becomes more conservative the further south you travel. While most women in the capital (which has a mix of Mediterranean, European and Arabic cultures) wear Western clothes, southern Tunisia is more conservative and far more traditional.

Ramadan in Tunisia

This information is based on the experience of the first days of Ramadan 2012.

At least one Tunisian tourist website says that after the revolution, Ramadan was observed more strictly in 2011, and hinted that this might be even more the case in 2012. For three days at the end of July 2012, the vast majority of shops were closed during the day, although the medina of Tunis was mostly open. Virtually all restaurants were closed. Apart from a few tourists sipping Coke, nobody eats or drinks during the day, not even in the tourist cafés in Sidi Bou Said. It was not clear if any of the tourist restaurants were serving at all.

In Tunis, on Ave Habib Bourgiba, all the cafés had cleared away their tables until after iftar (the breaking of the fast) at sunset, around 7:30pm. After that, many people were outside and you could order food in some cafés and coffee and desserts in others. Just before iftar, Ave Habib Bourgiba is completely lifeless and devoid of words. In small cafes like 3 Etoile on Mustafa Mubarek Street, families and men can be seen sitting around tables eating and waiting for the sun to set.

At night, however, the medina comes alive – huge crowds are out and about, thronging the streets, and it’s definitely an experience! Shops and supermarkets are often open until midnight.

Be prepared for a somewhat unique experience when visiting Tunisia during Ramadan. Eat and drink very discreetly during the day (including water). For lunch the next day, go to a stall in the late afternoon and buy some bread or focaccia, or find a local shop that is still open and buy something. As hardly anyone drinks alcohol (at least in Tunisia), the Hotel Africa is the place to go.