Tunis travelogue

Tunis travelogue

A journey through Tunis
Photographer: Shihab
ROAD TO TUNIS : Ater the revolution overthrew President Ben Ali, Tunisa looks as people return to their daily mundane lives with nothing left to fight for;no protest left for uphold.

The road from Zarzis to Tunis is long and languorous. As somnolence takes over, tired eyes struggle to stay open.The Tunisian capital (ancient Carthage) is 600km and six hours away. Rural Tunisia has suddenly fallen quiet;it’s almost surreal here. The revolutionary zeal witnessed among the masses in January,which overthrew a leader, has dissipated.Disquiet is dead, the road is barren and people appear to have gone back to their mundane lives with nothing left to fight forany more.

It’s tormenting to stay awake when the mind and body protest after a troubling journey to Ras Ajdir on the border with Libya to witness the refugee deluge of stricken humans, their sprits broken and possessions stolen on their trip to freedom from violence. North Africa has been wracked by tragedy and there appears to be no end to its winter of discontent.You can feel it in the air, in your bones.The minivan picks up speed and driver Hamid seems at ease on the narrow two-lanehighway, having done the trip many times before. A fellow journalist rattles away on the upsurge in violence in the region,another bemoans the looming crisis in neighbouring Libya. “The people, they are the ones who suffer through all this,” he says. “Zunga, Zunga,” bellows someone at the back of the van, imitating Colonel Gaddafi. Laughter rents the air, followed by silence. Everything worth saying seems to have been said.

My colleague and lensman Shihab’s cameras shutter away, shattering the prospect of a well-deserved rest. Two Canon digital SLR cameras are his tried and trusted companions on the journey.He shoulders them with élan and wields them with a precision so true of a marksman.His eye never misses the changing landscape capturing the essence of life along the road.

“Did you notice most people here are dressed in black… black jackets, black everything, not many colours,” he says.Bleary-eyed, this writer mutters a delayed sigh. Disappointed with the reply, or the lack of it, Shihab goes back to looking through the lens, switches cameras, genuinely trigger-happy.

All pictures here are taken on the move,in natural light, without flash. The Tunisian countryside is a snapper’s delight with young olive farms, women rearing sheep,rows of mud houses, roadside grills and mobile cartsmen plying their trade. The people are in no apparent hurry, poised and elegant in their lifestyles. Young men lounge at favourite joints with cups of steaming coffee for company. Contemplation is later thrown in, so is conversation if a buddy comes into sight. Some wear a distant look; the women giggle, while the seniors prefer a stroll in the souk.

The sights are many, smiles are few, and Shihab’s shots tell a glowing tale of Arab-French culture and interaction. Tunisia became a republic in 1957 after breaking free from France a year earlier.Back on the road, the little hubs of Medenine,Gabes, Kairouan go past in a flash. Tunis is just a few clicks away.