Saturday, 28 July 2012

Fabulous Holiday!!! New Thoughts for Characters of another Culture.

I have just returned from a fabulous holiday in North Africa full of the joys of character, culture and plots overflowing from my head. I'd love to write a romantic novel with a hero from this new land and culture, where I found the young men absolutely charming and good natured, despite the fact that it was Ramadan, and they had been starved of food, water all day in the heat of the Tunisian sun, and sex in a married relationship.

Cultures are fascinating and educational. And I am curious as to what makes peoples of various parts of the world tick. Of course every culture has good and bad. But to find such politeness and charm all in one place from almost ... no....everyone, is quite something. They weren't all happy, of course, but still polite, and certainly appeared a genuine people. Yes, they wanted you to buy their goods in the medinas, and yes, they did their best to encourage you to part with some cash, but all was negotiable. Mostly, you could barter, they expected it and encouraged you to. They tried to entice you to at least look at their beautifully made leather goods, clothes, ornaments. But they were friendly with it, even when visitors ignored them and walked away. "Smile", they would say. "Looking is free". "Asda price" !!! Yes, that was surprising.

I had read on various internet sites that it was difficult for Western visitors in an Arab country when it is the time of Ramadan, and that worried me a bit. But it was a good time to go. I learnt a lot.

Something I learnt about Ramadan, is that not everyone has to do it. People exempt are children, the elderly people, the sick, anyone with a long standing medical problem like diabetics, pregnant women, and people doing a job where it is very difficult to fast from 3.30 am to sunset - around 8pm. So it is not unreasonable. But those strong and healthy and past puberty, are encouraged to fast mainly for their own wellbeing. They pray 5 times a day during Ramadhan, and still work and live a normal life. They must also think of others, and do good for other people.  Those people who are exempt from fasting are encouraged to do extra in the way of helping others. 

I wonder if this caused the extra good aura I felt amongst the Tunisians last week. To be amongst people who are calm, friendly, and trying to do good, for religious reason as well as their own, is quite an experience. Of course there was something for them to look forward to after a full day of fasting. After dark, there was much joy and merriment everywhere too. Feasting, singing and dancing, drums and music everywhere. Little sleep was had, if you tried to sleep through it.

Tunisia was a French colony, and therefore Tunisians speak fluent French as well as Arabic. The populations is also 99% Muslim, so that Arab/French mixture is sure to make a wonderful hero whether it is Ramadan or not. What with the heat of the days, the wonderful sunsets, the sultry evenings, and the beautiful haunting sounds of their music, it is certainly worth me taking this idea further.

I'd surely return to Tunisia another time. The food is also quite something, and the smells of fresh ground spices in the market places allure me, just thinking about it.

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