Saturday, April 2, 2011

more fun in the sun

Yesterday we learned about animal husbandry and today we learned the same about vegetable husbandry or at least about fruit husbandry.  But more on that later.  We started the day by leaving town and driving to the brick factories.  Here we learned about how the bricks are made by hand and fired in small kilns.  One of the things the former president Ben Ali did that didn’t involve stealing from his citizens was to ensure that all buildings in the old town of Tozuer are faced in this brick.  They can be made of the cheap factory bricks but must be faced with these traditional bricks.  Just as we were leaving a horse delivered a load of dead palm fronds to fire the kiln.  So we got a chance to see the team of the horse and driver complete their part of the process as well. 

From there we went to town and picked up two caleches - carriages - for a ride through the oasis.  It is very large and there a number of palm plantations located here.  We stop to visit one and learn all about how they fertilize the female palms with the single male palm that is located on the plantation.  How the flowers are tied together in bundles and nine months later – voila! dates!  
After the sharecropper who works the plantation scaled the palm tree in bare feet, he gave a demonstration of the fertilization process.  There are many crops grown on the plantation as the palms provide the shade needed for fruit trees and they provide shade for grains etc… the whole thing depends upon the palms as the heat of the Sahara would overwhelm the other crops if they didn’t have the palms for protection. 

After we left by horse drawn carriages – we visited the palm museum and date factory where we sampled exquisite date based spreads.  Everyone liked something different in the choices, some lemon and some orange and others chocolate.  Not surprisingly I loved the caramel date spread.  Seriously good!!! So Phil is getting a present from the Sahara (not a surprise but still I know he will enjoy the gift)

Then we went to town to tour the medina and then do a bit of shopping for those who want to buy souvenirs.  There were many picturesque shops in town.  We head to lunch at the Terrain de Golf (golf course) where we have an excellent Tunisian Salad, followed by turkey and lamb brochettes and then dates and oranges for dessert.  We tell Mohamed we are not feeling well – we do this one by one and he becomes more concerned and starts to replan the rest of the day.  Then we laugh and teach him about April Fool’s day.  We are leaving the park where the golf course is located and run across the local swimming hole.  

After lunch an historical museum in a wonderful old house that has been restored to accuracy as well as showing various social rituals (wedding outfits) school children, cooking etc all en tableau.  We head back to the hotel for a brief rest before going out for our Arabian soiree tonight.  By the way I should mention that the food for dinner last night was very good with wonderful salads and some excellent desserts and that breakfast was super as well. 

Yesterday in order to post I had to use Mohamed’s computer so I will limit the photos but have lots to show about another interesting day. 

Well we got home in time to write up about our evening journey.  We headed out of town to a private home on a date plantation out in the desert.  There we were greeted with wine and toured the compound and met the cook.  She demonstrated how to make the brique appetizer and we saw what was for dinner.  Then we toured the grounds of the place and saw all the guest rooms.  They run a little side business of a boutique resort kind of place with lovely cabins and a spa style hot pool and massage rooms.  There were several rooms that could serve as restaurants as well.  We headed towards the rooms where we would have our meal and entertainment.  

The first musician was a lute player.  He was followed by a three musician band and after a few selections from them, they were joined by a belly dancer.  Then the lute player returned and shortly thereafter we had dinner.  A fabulous soup and the brique and flat bread and a meat and couscous dish.  Dates and mint tea for dessert.  Followed by more belly dancing and lute playing and general merriment.  All but Max danced at some point – having been dragged up to the center of the room.  Jennifer and Howard were the most enthusiastic performers and I do have some video to back it up.

When we left to return to town but while we were still in the desert we could see amazing stars.  Two nights from now we will be sleeping in the desert and I hope it will be brighter there than here.  Of course once we got back to town we couldn’t see them as well. 

Tomorrow we head on four wheel drive vehicles to mountain oases towns – three in all and then when we return we get ready for our desert camp adventure.  So stay tuned….

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