In Tune with Tunis

This item appears on page 20 of the November 2021 issue.

The topic of ITN’s last essay contest, “In Tune with Tunis,” elicited colorful entries, and the winning essay (as judged by ITN staff) was that of ALBERT SIMONSON of Santa Ysabel, California, who will be sent an ITN mug. Taking second place is the work of SANDRA YON of Virginia Beach, Virginia, who wins a 1-year extension to her ITN subscription.

The current topic is “Mad about Madagascar.” If you are an ITN subscriber and have been to Madagascar, pen an essay, in no more than 300 words. Express the mood of the place, what it felt like to be there, or get across what the local people were like, or describe a meaningful encounter you had, or share any insights you gained into the culture. Paint verbal pictures of things you saw.

Email your essay to or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include your mailing or billing address. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2021. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in the March 2022 issue. Now here are this month’s winning essays.

I had always wanted to visit the ancient city of Carthage, and since Tunis was only a few kilometers away, I ended up spending several delightful days in Tunisia’s capital, where I became immersed in the history and culture of that lovely city. While I was in Tunis, I stayed in the luxurious, 5-star Tunis Hotel & Towers, surrounded by Roman ruins.

The city was filled with wide tree-lined boulevards, colonial buildings and many inviting outdoor restaurants. I enjoyed a visit to a large indoor market that was filled with every kind of foodstuff imaginable, from cuttlefish to the largest carrots I had ever seen.

I enjoyed a leisurely walk through the city’s old walled medina, with its many narrow winding streets and small shops, where one could become lost for days. While in the medina, I visited the Al-Zaytuna Mosque, constructed in AD 698, the oldest mosque in the city and at one time considered one of greatest universities of Islam.

I also took quite some time to tour the Bardo National Museum, considered one of the most important museums in the Mediterranean area. After the museum in Cairo, it is said to have the most extensive collection of artifacts from former North African civilizations.

One day, I enjoyed lunch in the Moorish-style dar Hammuda Pasha Restaurant that had once been the home of a former Turkish governor of Tunisia.

The thing about the city that impressed me the most were the unique rounded, carved doors that were painted in vibrant colors and had black stud nails that formed different geometric designs. I came home with more photographs of the doors than anything else, with enough to make a coffee-table book.

Sandra Yon
Virginia Beach, VA


We picked up a Peugeot at the Tunis airport and from dear memory zeroed in on the familiar looming white village of Sidi Bou Said, spread like frosting over a high prominence above the sea.

We found Hôtel Résidence Carthage on the tree-shaded Rue Hannibal among tidy villas. I didn’t know the small hotel was built on part of the Punic sanctuary where beloved Carthaginian infants, in times of public crisis, were said to be strangled and sacrificed in flames to the goddess Tanit.

Stark moonlight flooded our garden window. Sleep was fitful. At breakfast, things felt better. Propped up in puffy pillows, we were sweetly served by a slippered hostess in Berber dress.

A few more blocks led to the twin harbors of ancient Carthage, now fringed by villas but retaining original circular and rectangular outlines. Carthage had been a great maritime power.

Maybe you can buy “Phoenician” oil lamps from an old man on the sidewalk. With olive oil and wicks they illuminate your soirées, with antiquity enough to fool your friends.

The light TGM train takes you along a causeway across Lac de Tunis, with its glittering ripples and pink or white flamingos standing tall in shallow water. You feel you are gliding on water.

My clearest memory of the medina is a cat who adopted me. I seldom get to dine on tongue, but in the old labyrinthine medina we found a tiny stall serving it. The extremely pregnant gray cat shared my delight. Our restaurateur offered us the cat for free.

The natural symbiosis of man and critter is a good reason to eat the aromatic street food of the medina. We left her overfull of kitten and tongue, and she waddled heavily under a table for sweet slumbers. She and Tunis are well remembered.

Albert Simonson
Santa Ysabel, CA