Monday, March 15, 2010

Tunisia: The Arrival

Having landed in Tunis and begun my emersion in Tunisian culture and hospitality, you can't help but feel the deep sense of pride and warmth of the Tunisian people. I'm going to like here.

Last night, Lémia CHEKAR THABET (center photo), General Director of Packtec (Tunisian Packaging Technical Centre), an agency within the Tunisian Ministry and Technology, hosted the participants of the 100% Tunisian Olive Oil trade mission with a relaxed, informal reception at the Ramada Plaza Resort. This provided a "parfait" opportunity to spark the knowing of my fellow pilgrims on this olive oil mission and the Packtec team (photo). The entourage includes folks from France, Germany and, of course, a bunch of curious Americans. These trips are always filled with wonderful surprises and unexpected learning. For example, Philippe Juglar, a French agro business consultant, gave us an impromptu coffee tasting lesson. Did you know that the aromas on the nose for coffee have no correlation with the taste on the palate? The learning has only begun.

After one night of wonderful Tunisian food, I must remind myself of my core mantra, “moderate portions, Bill.” As for wine, we were treated to Chateau Saint Augustin’s portfolio including a salmon colored dry Rosé (Princesse Elissa), a blanc (Cesar Auguste) and a red (L’Imperial Magnus). All were delightful and easy drinking. I was excited to learn that a renowned Tunisian chef will accompany us on our journey this week. Stay tuned for some culinary treats and highlights.

Today we will learn about the history of Tunisian olive oil through visits to archeological sites at Thuburbo Majas and Ksar Ezzit Domain (www.ksar-ezzit). The Phoencians first planted olive trees in Tunisian 3000 years ago. We will see some trees older than dirt (well, almost) and an ancient underground mill. And late this afternoon, this band of olive oil brethren travels to the ancient city of Kairouan where we will be treated to dinner and evening entertaining at the Kashbah Hotel

Can’t wait!

Now time for a walk on the beach before disembarking at 8 a.m.

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