Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shopping in Tunis

The problem with living in Africa: manufacturers (of anything) show no signs of remorse selling substandard merchandise to people who can't defend themselves in the so-called "Third World." My sewing machine bobbins (plastic) reminded me of this painful reality as the ones I recently bought from Singer break apart after being wound two or three times. Really substandard. So I had to go to the Singer store to buy the largest quantity I could get. They only had sixteen bobbins left--that will have to hold me for awhile.
Then I walked up the street,
past the "Place de l'Indépendance,"
which now looks like this (some independence, huh?),
and on to the Rue Charles de Gaulle, a busy downtown street 
where my favorite notions shop is located.
The sign proclaims "articles de Paris," suggesting high quality imported products (and rather high prices), and the neatly arranged windows show all kinds of tempting notions and goodies.  
Like most shops in Tunis, the space is limited, however, the owners keep it well organized and clean. Not very many customers however.
This is where I find my milliner's needles and my favorite Thiriez cotton thread (French made). I needed the purple and brown, but obviously couldn't resist the dazzle of the other colors.
 Then I walked a couple more blocks, noticed an interesting old door along the way,
and arrived at the shop where I buy batt. This shop is the opposite of 
my favorite notions shop, and a total adventure!
One can't miss the batting. The owner uses it to stop cars from parking in front
 and blocking access to his tiny shop. 
Ali Baba's cavern comes to mind.
This very narrow shop has a high ceiling, a back room, and a narrow ladder to a mezzanine storage area. Miraculously, the owner knows exactly where everything is stored. Despite space constraints, a continual flow of customers crowd in. 

                And to finish off a good day, I found a shop that sharpens knives 
                                           and (more importantly) scissors. 
With the exception of the large Singer scissors on the left, these were my mom's. The black-handled scissors are made by Wiss and still going strong after 50 years of use. When I got home, I tested them all out on a piece of white scrap fabric and realized I had been using dull scissors for the last 25 years.


All in all, it was an excellent day.

40 comments:

Bouts Choisis said...

Happy New Year - I hope you have a lovely and PEACEFUL 2013.Those pictures of barbed wire certainly make you think ... Keep safe!
That Aladdin's cave looks like fun! I bet you can find pretty well anything in there!

Debbie said...

What a shopping adventure....the comparison of the 2 shops is very insightful. Quite revealing of personality of owners I would think too. And the thread colors are fabulous. Thanks for sharing your world...I need to be more appreciative in mind.

Mary said...

What a fascinating post! Thanks for letting us peek into your world. And what a treasure to have so many of your mother's scissors.

Radka said...

Thank you for taking us with you on your shopping trip, how interesting!
Happy new year!

O'Quilts said...

Ooooo, me thinks that Ali Baba and I could spend a good day together! I have the same scissors!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Your shops look so interesting and I have to admit I would love to spend an entire day in Ali Baba's cavern - just think of the treasures to be discovered!

deanna7trees said...

i so enjoyed this sunday morning adventure of shopping and sightseeing. there are some stores like you show in the new york city garment district...so many things to see that my eyes get confused. stay safe and wishing for peaceful times.

Bonnie Hull said...

wow Nadia...a far cry from Commercial Street...fascinating. Do you speak in French in the shops?

Connie Rose said...

I love the shopping tour...and those shops! It's good that you can find everything you need within relatively close range.
Re: scissors -- I've have oodles of pair, mostly Fiskars, but the pair I love the best are old stainless steel ones that still cut better than the best Fiskars -- although the steel ones could stand being sharpened.

Mo Crow said...

what a fascinating tour of your town Nadia & a great collection of scissors!

conny's quilts said...

Thank you for this fascinating tour through your favorite shops. When you need some metal bobbins please email me and I can sent you some from the Netherlands. (when it is just the ordinairy round one)

Nancy said...

So interesting to see shops so different from those here in SoCal. I have my grandmother's pinking shears, which definitely need to be sharpened :) Also odd because I don't remember her as much of a sewer!

MulticoloredPieces said...

I usually speak French in the shops although I can vaguely get by with my market Arabic if necessary, Bonnie. And Fiskars really don't cut it, do they, Connie? (pun intended). Thanks so much for your offer, Connie, however, I need a very specific plastic bobbin, which I can find at the Singer store here, thankfully. If the size has the slightest variation, it simply won't work.

And thank you, all, for the encouraging comments. I had fun writing this post because it reminded me that living in this country is still an adventure to me every day.

bohemiannie! art said...

Fascinating pictures and narrative! I live in Barranquilla and many of your photos remind me of here! I've gotten wary about taking my camera out it public though...unless I have my hubby to guard my back.

Carol said...

Wow Nadia, what an adventure. Thanks for taking me along on your shopping trip. I had to take a second look to make sure I did not miss anything. Happy New Year!!!

Nina Marie said...

believe it or not - the Ali Baba's cave reminds me of a place in a small town in upstate NY - you walk in and it looks just like that - and goes back really far! one big fire trap and heaven on earth! thanks so much for the eye candy!

Ms. said...

"Place de l'Indépendance" WAS AN ALARMING VISION--NOTHING QUITE LIKE RAZOR WIRE TO STATE AN INTENTION! OTHER THAN THAT...WONDERFUL NOTIONS AND FABULOUS GLEANING! MAY YOUR YEAR BE AS BOUNTIFUL!!

Caroline Heinrichs said...

Thanks for the look inside your shopping opportunities. Nothing like a wire fence to get you in the mood, but at least the shooting has stopped?
Carli

Vivian said...

I'm fascinated by the comparison between the two shops. And nothing demonstrates the importance of batting in our lives quite like using it to guide the parking of cars.
I hope your new year will be peaceful and productive, filled with joy and arms full of finished projects.

Muddling Through said...

I do most of my shopping online. Your way looks lots more adventurous!

Carole said...

What an experience it is just to go shopping! Talk about amazing shops, scenery, and scissor collection you have, Nadia. I didn't realize how dull my knives were until we bought a sharpening rod. What a difference!
I hope you have many, many "excellent days" in 2013!

susan christensen said...

Excellent fun, shopping with you! Thanks for the adventure, and happy new year. xxoo, sus

Linda said...

I have the same pair of black handled Wiss scissors, also given to me by my mom, ca. 1970. I also need to have mine sharpened, thanks for the reminder! Happy New Year!

Poppyprint said...

Thank you for that glimpse into your shopping world. Wow, I will never complain about my LQS again!

Alice said...

Greetings! A fascinating post! I will visit often, and hope you'll visit my 3 blogs, too!

Merilyn said...

What a great day in town!!!! I just loved that tiny narrow shop that looked like Ali Baba's, I could lose myself in there for a couple of days LOL!!!!
Wonderful photos of the city streets, funny I never thought of cities where you live, but I guess there has to be some sort of metropolis!!! Just love those old carved blue doors too!!!! Nice post!!!!!

blandina said...

I loved this post, and even more I would like to go shopping in Tunis with you one day!

Quilteuse Forever said...

Quand je vois tes photos j'entends presque le bruit des klaxons ! Ah les petites boutiques, qu'elles soient méthodiquement rangées ou en bazar, deviennent malheureusement rarissimes en France... Nous avons la maladie des grandes surfaces franchisées et aseptisées...
Merci Nadia pour ce post au parfum de nostalgie... si on fait abstraction des barbelés.
Bises,
Katell

Michele said...

Really interesting to see where you shop! Thanks for sharing :-)

Happy Scrappy said...

Ha ha true dat..nothing beats the pleasure of a new blade or a sharpened pair of shears

shirley said...

I like the aladdins cave shop, but the other is so neat. Thank you for sharing your shopping excursion. You live in a very interesting place.

KathyfromDC said...

I am very impressed with your shopping acumen. I am in Tunis and find it hard to get past the tourist spots and find things of value. You have obviously spent a lot of time. I wonder if you have seen a source for hammam towels, which is something my friends asked me to look for.

MulticoloredPieces said...

For the towels, I might suggest the "rue de la Casbah" which is the right-hand street going up into the Medina from the Porte de France. Also, if you poke around in the shops on rue Mohamed Ali (the road right in front of the Porte de France) you might find the towels there. That's where there are several notions shops, etc. If you'd like, send me an email and I might have more ideas (multicoloredpieces@gmail.com).

diannajessie said...

What a fantastic walk through your part of town, I felt like I was on the adventurous day with you. Thank you:)

Fabraholic said...

Just holler if I can get you anything!

JennyPennyPoppy said...

Loved joining you on your walk and your pictures are superb. One certainly wouldn't see batting used to stop anyone from parking in from of their shop in this part of the world :)

Salsy said...

Great shopping trip thanks Nadia. Happy New Year!

CREATIVE MIND said...

Waooi Nadia..what an interesting post you share.. and about shopping.. that's really good..Have a great successful year...

ann said...

What a wonderful look into your environs than ou soooo much.

Tonya Ricucci said...

I had to keep double-checking - amazing how much these photos look like Paris. same building colors and construction. and the ironwork animals... cool. hope these bobbins work for you!