So where do the middle class holiday during half term? Countries neighbouring war zones seem out of favour – and thus our guess is that the bland masses are holed up in some god awful complex in Cyprus complaining that the taramasalata isn’t as creamy as waitrose.
We sensibly chose Tunisia. a simple three hour flight from old blighty and weather guaranteed in the 25 to 30 degrees bracket. Perfect planning regarding hotels and a confirmed booking in January was followed the next day by news of a revolution in Tunisia and the development of the Arab Spring. Insured to the hilt we bade our time and when the foreign office gave the all clear we travelled to shitty Gatwick for a stale french fry or three and then to fly. An empty 737 was certainly comfortable but not enormously reassuring.
Tunisia customs was a remarkably lax affair – certainly not a place on high alert – although it is worth noting that pencil annotations will be rejected and a family of five (three of which seem bewitched) are sent to the back of a very long queue.
Onwards and upwards to the hotel and a week in the comfort of ‘The Residence’. A grand entrance and a cheeky beer and we were welcomed with warmth and sincerity, The custom of a palm to the heart when saying hello is one of my favourite local idiosyncrasies. The suite has the marble overkill that it common throughout much of the middle east and Africa – cool in the mornings and evening but grating when small children have dragged sand through the rooms.\
What we slowly realised was that we were certainly the only English people here – but one of very few people in the hotel, Our fellow guests were made up of a french family who looked like they accounted for much of the profits of Presidente butter, a large section of the Libyan government and most of the North African CIA. OK – so these were;t the Libyans who were resolutely standing firm against the American/French/NATO offensive. These were the ones looking to do a deal on their future – while basking in the warm sun of beachside Tunis, The spooks were standing by all protocol with their suits and dark glasses. And into the melee came a middle class family from Wandsworth – blind to the fears that had caused others to cancel the half term break.
The hotel was richer for the mix and a manager later confirmed to us that at this time of the year the Englihs facilities make up over 60% of guests, Had we therefore been negligent in considering the safety of our children. fortunately with two days to go it looks like we made the right decision – although I do admit that this could have gone badly wrong for us.
So the Arab Spring has caused holiday makers to stay away and uthe effect of this on the hotel itself, the people who make money around the hotel, the babysitters, the taxis etc etc has been catastrophic. The Tunisian people – who months before had removed a very unpopular and long entrenched leader with jubilation and hope for the future, are now feeling the pinch. To make matters worse Libya looks increasingly unstable and therefore it is unlikely that confidence will return to the region soon – but please note that areas in turmoil need the confidence (blind or not) of Western holidaymakers to help rebuild their economies and political systems. Our decision to come was not based on any lofty ideals but I would certainly consider this in the future,Google+