Expat Life In Tunisia

My Life In Dar Chaabane El Fehri

Some refer to it as a town, some a city, and perhaps a stranger to Tunisia would call it a borough or a suburb of Nabeul.  On the face of it and at first glance, Dar Chaabane El Fehri is part of Nabeul.  Well is it part of  Nabeul?  No it is definitely not!  It is a town in its own right and the inhabitants guard it as such jealously!

Whatever you call it, as I write this, I moved here ten months ago from the UK.  When I think back now, I first visited Tunisia too many years ago to want to remember. It was in 1970.....!  Was it really that long ago?  I fell in love with the country then and my opinion hasn't changed!

Dar Chaabane El Fehri - Traditional Tunisian Life, Near To Cosmopolitan Nabeul!

The apartment I am renting is about six hundred metres from the sea. It's a good size with not only air conditioning, but also central heating for the chilly winter evenings. These don't last long though. I don't mind receiving the gas and electricity bills because they are not massive!  And the rent? If I were still in the UK, I would not be living in the style that I am here!

I have a massive balcony which wraps around three sides of the apartment and gives me fabulous views of the sea and the surrounding area!

I am just about to go out to do some shopping locally, so why don't you come with me and find out more about the town in which I live?

This is the corner shop literally two minutes from my apartment!
It is the garage of a neighbour turned into a shop selling all the basics and if you urgently need some credit for your mobile phone, he will top you up with whatever he has left on his own mobile!

If he has no credit himself, it is not a problem, because a minute away is the next shop which is about three times the size, but still tiny compared to probably what you or I have been used to!  It is undergoing modernisation and if you ask the builders how long it will take for it to be finished, they just smile and say "Weeks," which I have found to be an expression for "Months...!"

It is one of the things you have to get used to and accept!  The pace of Tunisian life is slow and that is one of the reasons why I decided to live here. The slow pace is fine, but it can sometimes be frustrating when the slowness spills over into bad business habits!  For example, I have money electronically sent each month from the UK which takes two days to be received here in Tunisia.  It goes to the Bank's central accounting offices in the capital Tunis, but can take another fourteen days for it to arrive at my branch, if
 they remember!  Always allow at least double the time you plan, and this goes for everything!  And watch out for the charges incurred for transfering money from the UK and from the central bank to your branch!

As we walk along this road towards the town, I am sure you have noticed the architecture of the houses, the apartments, or even the local, private, primary school, L'ideale!  No more
square and rectangular boxes to look at and it's a joy to behold!  The standard of building has improved tremendously during the last ten years and traditional Mediterranean design is enhanced by all the mod cons you would expect if you were in Europe!

This shop we are looking at now is one of many 'speciality' shops you can find dotted around the town and because it is a specialised shop, it doesn't have to be in the town centre in order to survive. That has a flavour and character of its own. This particular shop is a wedding gown and accessory shop and the Tunisians know how to celebrate a marriage!

A Wedding Gown And Accessory Shop - Dar Chaabane
The Tunisians Know How To Celebrate A Marriage!

We've walked now for about ten minutes and this little parade of shops has everything I need on a daily basis. There's also a pleasant cafe where we can sit and enjoy a coffee and the late summer sunshine.  Although, whilst writing this, it is the middle of November, today is 23c degrees!  Long summers and short winters are other reasons for the move!

So already you can see that there is no need to take a taxi for 75p into Nabeul (about a mile and a half only from my apartment!)  Now we are getting towards the heart of the town and the houses and apartments give way to traditional town shops. There are too many to mention but suffice to say there is a big choice and all the food is fresh.  Have you ever seen oranges in Tesco's still with the leaves on?  And until you've cooked some meat or poultry, you will wonder why the taste of it is so much better than in the UK!  Fresh food, that's the answer and if you shop wisely, your budget will go more than three times as far as it would in the UK!  Healthy
 eating is not something that the Tunisians think about - it's a way of life and I've lost a few pounds from my waist since I arrived!

Where are we now? Just getting to the main square and to the hub of Dar Chaabane! We've already passed many small general shops, hardware shops and two specialist photographic shops. We are now very close to the fourth chemist and this is the all night chemist. Just another five minutes and you'll find the emergency doctor whose surgery is open 24/7. Unfortunately I have had to use his services and those of specialists quite often since I've been here and miss the N.H.S.  You could also be sent from one specialist to another with no one co-ordinating your affairs.  Although most doctors speak a little English, I found that the French I learnt at school will not suffice. Try to take someone with you whose French is good!

Jamaa el Kbir - The Big Mosque, Dar Chaabane El Fehri

We saw a couple of mosques on the way here and there are another three here in the town.  Watch out for the bicycles and the mopeds. The kids ignore the one way street signs but the police seem to turn a blind eye to them! 

We've been walking now for about twenty minutes and, "Oooh!! Look at those gorgeous pastries in the patisserie!" 

And can you see those chairs outside that cafe, just a short distance away?

 Around the town you can find many pavement cafes where the locals will sit and drink coffee and enjoy a noisy game of cards.   We'll just have to be careful there because it's impossible to walk on the pavement because of the chairs! 

Pavement Cafe - Dar Chaabane El Fehri

The next picture shows you a small corner shop selling nothing but fruit, but just a few yards from here we can find the market where all the fresh fruit and vegetables can be found as well as fresh meat and poultry.  

Have you enjoyed your visit so far? 

Dar Chaabane El Fehri - A Town Renowned For Its Skilled Craftsmen

We haven't quite finished yet, because I now want to take you to show you a piece of the town of Dar Chaabane El Fehri, which is characterised by the high skill of its people and especially women in a variety of handicrafts such as embroidery, using many decorative designs in wedding dresses and other garments. 

The town is also renowned for its skillful craftsmen in the fields of building, decorating and all creative techniques in every domain and especially for stone.

 It all began with stone engravings, but later on with the increasing needs of ambitious generations aiming for a better tomorrow, sculpture replaced engraving. It was slow to begin with, but after the country's independance, things improved drastically and the number of workshops kept increasing as the more wealthy inhabitants asked for arches and pillars to decorate the facades of houses and mosques!

I dont want this to be like a history lesson but the heritage and traditions of Dar Chaabane make it what it is!  Do you want to see the stone masons at work? Ok. We'll take a taxi for the short journey! 

Here we are back at the town centre and now that you have a flavour of Dar Chabaane, I think you can see why I chose to live here rather than in Nabeul itself!
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