Before Easter holidays
I took part in a colloquium in Tozeur
about the Oriental woman
in French and Francophone Painting and Literature.
About the city of Tozeur I knew no more
than the song by Franco Battiato and Alice,
“I treni di Tozeur”.
I had imagined myself reaching there
by train from the capital,
but eventually I booked a flight from Tunis,
where I had stayed a night hosted in “dar ya”,
which means grandmother’s house,
a name that made my eyes watery
– since my grandmother’s house is now empty
without her.

The national flight in a small airplane
made a short stop in Gafsa.
At the arrival in Tozeur,
the director of the colloquium
was waiting for other passengers and me,
and we were taken to our accommodation,
a luxurious resort with a pristine swimming pool.
I met other participants of the colloquium
and in my room there was a painting
with Indian women looking at a mirror.
What a suitable place to continue working
on my talk about the representation of Indian women
to Pierre Loti during his trips to India.
Loti had been my companion during my master studies
and a subject of my publications thereafter.

The two days of the colloquium were intense
and full of fruitful conversations,
new meetings and savouries.
In the breaks between talk sessions we had the chance
to taste the best dates filled with butter or cheese,
sweets and refreshing drinks with lemon and pudina.
The last day, after the scientific event, we explored the desert.
On the road from Tozeur we came across dromedaries,
oasis and fennec foxes. Just before the sunset
we reached Ong Djemel, setting for Mos Spa
in the saga of Star Wars.
Silence, abandoned machines, unused rockets
and even the strong wind covering our skin
with soft sand contributed to recreate
we could be in another planet.

In the city of Tozeur, sphinxes have male heads
and the houses of the medina are built
with small bricks in mysterious shapes.
Here a palm tree, there a snake,
also triangles or chains
to symbolise protection and life.
Next to the dry city, forests of palm trees
give colour and sap.
After new friendships and some farewells,
I came back to “dar ya”
in the medina of Tunis.
I had one extra day before coming back to Spain,
so I took a train, for less than one dinar,
to the town of Sidi Bou Said,
where I had a tea with pine nuts.
Near the old city of Carthage,
names like Hannibal, Salammbô,
Phaedra and Scheherazade
live together with Luke Skywalker
in a mythical mosaic of history and culture.

 

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García is a predoctoral researcher at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Her areas of interest and research are Comparative Literature, Travel Literature, Multiculturalism, Geocriticism, Imagology, Orientalism, Postcolonialism and Language Teaching. Her PhD is on the image of India for English-speaking and French-speaking female author travellers.

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