Wednesday, February 28, 2018


I'd been apprehensive about the guesthouse I'd booked in Tunis. Not because I mistrusted the photos on the booking site, and not because I thought something was wrong with it, but because I generally prefer the anonymity of a hotel to the intimacy of residing in a stranger's habitat. I don't even like staying with friends, for the most part, so bed and breakfast situations can be awkward.

The host—Khaoula—was a smart young Tunisian woman with a background in interior design. Slim with a pixie cut, she seemed too green to be so invested in restoring 18th century architecture in the Tunis medina, but here she was, dedicated to preserving the past and building a community. Tunis was the heart of the Arab Spring. Perhaps I should not have been surprised.

El Patio guesthouse reminded me of a gorgeous riad I'd once stayed at in Fez, though that had ultimately been quirky as I'd been the only inhabitant. (Some other guests had cancelled, I believe.) Every detail had been attended to, every bit of decor carefully considered. I snapped a few photos—the small decorative tiles on the windowsill, the corresponding medallion in the top center of the same window box—these were clever additions.

Khaoula took me from the foyer (where we both removed our shoes as I pretended not to see the holes in my socks) to the parlor, where she provided me with a receipt for my pre-booking and gave me a few details about the medina.

"Where can I get dinner?" My main question was, of course, about food.

She walked me to Bab Menara, the nearest medina gate, and told me to walk up a stone street and take a right.

I did so, immediately taking the wrong right. I ended up in a hotel, where I had some expensive but delicious couscous. After I paid the bill, I asked the doorman for directions.

He escorted me back through the alleys of the medina to El Patio, where he rang the bell. "Khaoula is a friend of mine. I haven't seen her for a while."

They chatted at the door while I went up to my room to collapse from my long day of traveling from Djerba via El Jem.


William Kendall said...

That headboard is unlike anything I've seen before.

Marie Javins said...

I suspect the host made it herself in her shop across the alley.

Linda said...

It looks great. I like the tiles too.