in april 2007 we went on a weeklong trip to tunisia – stunning country. it’s got history (going back to the 2nd century BC – does hannibal/carthage ring a bell?), it’s got the mediterranean sea, the lake of tunis, and then it’s got the sahara desert filled with lush green oases (if you don’t believe me, read this ny times article on “how green is the desert“). not bad for a relatively small country (area = 63,000 sq miles) with a population of 10 million.
why did we just up and go to tunisia, many have asked. simple answer: i have a friend there. his name is badi ben mabrouk and he’s tunisian. i met him when i was 15 (he was 16) for a week, in turkey. what were we doing in turkey? the turkish government had organized an international competition to celebrate the creation of modern turkey by its founder mustafa kemal ataturk.
i wrote a lengthy poem in french (it’s called “le lever du soleil” and you can check it out by going to my writings page) and badi wrote one in arabic. all the winners were invited to turkey as state guests for a week. there were winners from france, great britain, belgium, tunisia and of course pakistan. we went to ankara, istanbul, izmir, and buyukada (one of the princes’ islands in the sea of marmara). we met governors and government officials. we sang on turkish radio and were covered by turkey’s most popular newspapers. we even got gold medals from the turkish prime minister (bulend ulusu in those days). we gorged on turkish food, luxuriated in turkey’s natural beauty and her rich history and culture, and we made friends for life. or at least i made a friend for life. badi and i wrote to each other for over 20 years – this was before the advent of email. over time we both graduated – i got an MBA, he bacame a corporate lawyer. we both got married. we both had kids. we swapped pictures. we upgraded to email. it was time for us to meet again – life is too short to hesitate.
and you know what, that was the best thing we ever did! my family loved badi. he has grown into an absolutely charming man. he’s soft spoken and warm and generous to a fault. he has 2 beautiful sons and a wonderful extended family. like he said, “la tunisie c’est pas l’etranger – vous etes avec moi”. that’s truly how it felt – very comfortable and cozy and safe. it warms my heart to think about it…