Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

A Perfectly Tunisian Scene

Tunisian Scene
Tunisian citizens talk about politics as they read the newspaper a day after Tunisia’s first free presidential elections since the 2011 revolution, at a cafe in central Tunis on November 24, 2014. FADEL SENNA/ AFP.

Hakim Marzouki

The “geniuses” with whom I sit in the neighborhood café every morning have innovative explanations and solutions for the difficulties, crises, problems, epidemics, and disasters that are emerging, inside and abroad, starting from Corona vaccines, through economic hardship to the ship stuck in the Suez Canal.

Everyone takes their place with their eyes fixed on the TV screen in the café. They do not let a piece of news pass without commenting on it at length, along with some tension, which may amount to screaming and exchanging accusations of misunderstanding, misjudgment, and even ignorance and stupidity.

For example, one of the marine experts appears on the screen talking about the Suez ship crisis. He says that freeing it may take some time, as it is not easy to find a solution for a giant cargo ship of this size. However, Salah, the driver of the municipality tractor has to comment. He accused that expert of stupidity and lack of experience. For Salah, if the captain moved back a little bit, then turned to the left, then broke to the right and increased the Gearbox, he would solve the problem in a few minutes.

Another piece of news appears in the news ticker stating that Covid-19 vaccines will be available in the coming weeks. The waiter Mongi questions its effectiveness. Mahmoud, who is devoted to solving the crosswords, adds that the whole matter is based on a rumor or nothing more than a cosmic conspiracy. After that, Mahmoud asks for help to get a word consisting of eight letters, beginning with the letter “P”, synonymous with Epidemic.

The TV channel stops at a commercial break, and the waiter quickly gives bills or asks who wants another drink. Some people get distracted by looking at the newspaper, side talks, commenting on the advertised product on the screen, or even flirting with the advertisement girl.

The broadcast returns to a sports program so that each of my “genius” friends becomes an unambiguous sports analyst, blaming the coach and the players and cursing his team’s rivals, using vulgar phrases.

The waiter changes the television to a local station. People in the café start insulting all of the politicians, parliamentarians, actors, and broadcasters who appear on it, in light of a “democratic pandemic” that struck the country in 2011 after years of suppression, thirst, and muzzling.

But often one of them lowers his voice suddenly, and gestures with his finger to his friends, asking them to be silent whenever a call comes, and he may have to go out in front of the café door to delude his wife that he is at work or on the way to work.

The embarrassing call-taker returns to his seat while muttering insults and complaints and asks the comrades for a reminder of the topic he was talking about. After that, he returns to talk.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

user placeholder
written by
All Dima articles