Photographer's Note

Ok, I know this is a bit of a tourist snapshot, but perhaps you like it for its colors and the documental value.

It was shot in the ksar of Medenine, which was subject of my last post of Tunisia.

It displays some of the more popular tourist oriented handicraft sold in Tunisia. Going from the foreground to the background, we have the painted snakes made of little cylinders of wood attached by a thread, something that you can see also in Morocco and Egypt; the "magic camels", which are pots supposedly made in Djerba, with an intricate internal design that doesn't allow the liquid flowing from the top even when they are upside down; the other painted ceramic artifacts, most of them originally from Nabeul, in the North, close to the beach resort of Hammamet, but others probably imported from Morocco (namely those on the left); the tiles with the "hand of Fatima" (see note below); the drums or tablas; and finally, on the top left, the "desert or sand roses".

The latter are much tipically Tunisian. They are crystals of gypsum (calcium sulphate). The gypsum is normally white, but because these crystals are formed in the sand dunes of the Sahara, they trap sand inside them, so they get that brown color that makes them look like petrified sand. They come in all sizes, from the tiny ones with diameters of only 2 or 3 cms to the rather huge ones with volumes aproaching one cubic meter.

The "hand of Fatima" is a powerful amulet to bring good luck and against the "evil eye", a kind of enchantment that brings bad luck, a rather common superstition all over the Mediterranean. "Officially" it's the representation of the favourite daughter of the Prophet Moahmmed, Fatima, its five fingers representing the five points of the pentagram star of Islam, which in turn represents the five pillars of Faith and the five daily prayers, but many claim that it is a pre-Islam symbol, maybe of the Cartaginean/Phoenician godess Tanit. Hands of Fatima and stylised fishes (another charm against the evil eye) are seen all over, most notably on doors and walls. For what I saw and read, Tunisians (and Moroccans also) are quite superstitious and I am not sure if all those charms and the de facto adoration of saints isn't a bit contradictory with strict Islam.

I never knew what that yellow sun face means, but I suspect that it must be another charm with some misterious powers.

This is my 4th post of Tunisian handicraft. You can look for the other ones in this TE travelogue.

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Additional Photos by Jose Pires (stego) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4422 W: 612 N: 7301] (24132)
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