Tunisia 9 March: Gabes
The World Harmony Run team met in Tunis on March 7. A surprise was awaiting us at the airport - Bechir Elloumi, Secretary-General of the Tunisian Athletic Federation was there to give us each a warm welcome. He took special care of us, making sure we had everything we need before starting the run in the south of Tunisia the next day.
The Tunisian Athletic Federation generously sponsored our whole stay in the country: food, accommodation and even a rented van for us. On March 8, after picking up the last member of our team at the airport, we were ready to leave with two new members in our team - Moez Baklouti, president of the Tunisian Association for Sport Management and Achraf Mensi, our driver. Unfortunately, Bechir was unable to come with us because of other obligations but his big heart will accompany us all the way.
On our way to the south, we were blessed by a rainbow.
We tried to have some fun as well, so we did a little bit of desert skiing.
On our late arrival in Gabes, we had the pleasure of meeting Ezzedine Bechraoui, Vice-Director of the regional Office of Sport, who helped organise the run in Gabes area. We spent two nights in the "centre des sportifs", where we had the opportunity to meet young athletes and also some members of the Tunisian Scouts.
We spent the following day visiting the area with our dear friends Ezzedine, Abdel Mahfoudh and Hassen Ben Hassine. In Tunisia it does not take long to make friends. During the day, we visited the tomb of Saint Sidi Boulbaba, a companion of the prophet Mohammed who was sent from Mecca to Gabes to spread the message of Islam.
While running at midday, we were glad that we chose to come in early spring and not in the middle of the summer!
We also stopped in Matmata, a troglodyte village in the area. Just on the outskirts of the city, we had the chance to admire the view from a hill; from one side we could see faraway Gabes and the Mediterranean Sea and from the other, an endless horizon of dunes.
Some of the scenes in Star Wars were filmed in Matmata, in a cave that has since been transformed into a hotel.
Today there are still many villagers in Matmata living in those troglodyte houses.
In this area we also found some berbers. Berbers were the nomads of North Africa before the Roman invasions. Most of the tribes are now settled, except for the Touaregs.
As the landscape became progressively more sandy, some members of our team were getting more and more excited in anticipation of seeing the desert.
A few of us had our first rides on a camel - it was the case even for Ashraf, our Tunisian member.
The highlight of the day was our fortunate meeting in a restaurant in Douz with Mohamed Gammoudi, the first Arab and African to win an Olympic medal (Tokyo, 1964) and the first to win a Gold medal (1968, in the 5000 metre race). He is a four-time Olympic medallist. Mohamed wholeheartedly embraced our message of harmony as he himself believes that sport is a very good way to bring people together. He has participated in many international competitions to promote peace and to fight against hunger in the world.
His two daughters Nadia and Sabrine compete in rallies and Nadia is well-known in Tunisia as a rally champion. The "rally des papillonsâ, Nadiaâs association, organises a rally for women in the desert, and Nadia and Sabrine were in the middle of a competition which ends March 13, also the last day of the World Harmony Run in Tunisia.
As we head back to Gabes for the night, our hearts are already overwhelmed by the kindness, the warmth and the spontaneity of Tunisians.
Meriem Ait-Ouyahia (Algeria), Utpal Marshall (Canada), Ondrej Vesely (Czech Republic), Ashani Pluchino (France), Mario Komak and Rasto Ulicny (Slovakia), Vladimir Balatskyy (Ukraine), Moez Baklouti and Achraf Mensi (Tunisia)
Gallery: See more images!
Tunisia 10 March >|