This was supposed to be an account of day 2 in Tajerouine – the day I was shown around the countryside around the town and the day I was supposed to experience a couscous dinner in a Tunisian family. Instead I write this on day 3.
Yesterday started out great, Hatem picked me up with his motorbike and we explored the countryside. I was back in the hotel shortly after noon for a tea. I was just about to go to my room to rest a bit, when I noticed that the atmosphere on the street changed. There were fewer people walking around, and everyone who did walked in the same direction, towards the town center. Soon the first helicopter arrived and not much later a couple of army trucks drove past. The guy from the reception locked shut the place from the outside, locking me in in the process. I packed my stuff in case something serious was going on and I had to leave in a hurry. Then I was eager to see what was happening and tried to get to the roof by climbing outside windows facing the inner courtyard and onto terraces, but couldn’t reach it.
In the afternoon Hatem picked me up again and I could see what was going on. I didn’t quite understand what the reason for all the excitement was, though. The army had positioned itself outside the town hall and what seemed like half the town was standing all around the place. The mood seemed to be a wee bit tense but not aggressive.
Later we picked up another friend of Hatem’s and drove around in his car. Half past 4pm we had some tea at some road-side shop and drove to a river to walk around there. I felt a bit tired and stumbled along.
The next thing I remember is waking up in my hotel room the next morning – that is, today – at 11am when Hatem knocked at the door. Yesterday we’d agreed to meet at 10am to drive to Sbeitla, a town some 90km away with some noteworthy Roman ruins.
I noticed more or less immediately that something was wrong. I couldn’t find my phone, and about USD 100 and EUR 50 were missing, too. Also, the memory card from my camera as well as one(!) of the two AA batteries from my camera were gone. I still had my credit cards and passports, as well as the Tunisian money.
The only explanation I have for the loss of memory of the previous evening and the loss of my belongings is that someone had put something nasty into my tea right before we set out to that river. Retrospectively, the whole situation was a bit strange and now that I think about it, the tea was kind of forced on me. I should have paid more attention. Interestingly, the prime suspect in this case was now in the hotel lobby waiting for me.
I didn’t think confronting him directly would get me anywhere. So I tried to find out somewhat discreetly what had happened last night. He said I had been more or less normal and when they dropped me off at the hotel after the excursion to the river I wanted to stop at the tea house next door for some coffee, and they had left me there. The hotel staff said I had been drunk and didn’t care much about my being robbed.
There’s no point in going to the police. There is no police. We’ve driven past the burned down police station a couple of times. The army is the only power in the country. All they can do is prevent fights between the police and civilians, and make way for the fire fighters, but they don’t care about tourists being robbed. Actually, there’s not much of a difference to Germany here. Reporting a phone, or a bike, for that matter, as stolen doesn’t usually help in recovering these things.
I told Hatem I’d be willing to buy my phone back in case he found out what had happened or who considered himself the new owner of my phone. I don’t know if I got to him. I never got it back.
Later we visited his friend’s school. o.O