One of the most immediately noticable phenomenons in arabic countries such as Tunisia
is the culture surrounding the use of shisha
. A shisha is a large water pipe
with a glass jar base and a tall copper or steel filter
, usually soaked with a flavouring such as honey
, is packed into a bowl at the top, and burned with charcoals.
These large elaborately shaped pipes form the basis of cafe culture in every town and village you come across. Even the smallest coffee shop will have several of these, and for a small fee a waiter will load one up and place it down next to your table for you to pass round amongst yourselves. As long as you are male.
The only women you will see smoking in these cafes are tourists, and these are looked upon with a mixture of amusement and confusion by the male regulars. Women play a definite role in a Muslim country as wife and mother and these duties not include smoking shisha in cafes. It is a lot less common to see women out and about and when you do see them they are of course covered up. Shisha cafes are places where the men get together and socialise while the women supposedly stay at home and raise children.
The atmosphere is always buzzing and lively, with games being played and loud - though rarely violent - arguments breaking out frequently. Without a good grasp of Arabic my imagination would put words into the hubbub. I imagine business deals being sort amidst the board games, arguments between old friends and bonds forming between strangers. The mens social scene is so vibrant I couldn't help but wonder - what do the women do?