A question I have been asked several times is about safety and terrorism in Tunisia. While there are extremists in the country, something which stuck out to me significantly is the Tounsi word for violent extremists: takfiir, which comes from the word kaafir, or infidel. Tunisians on the whole view violent extremists as inherently counter to Islam to the extent that it has become linguistically prominent. Children are raised knowing that violent extremism is fundamentally counter to their beliefs. It is also important to note that, while the U.S. Department of State has a travel alert for Tunisia, it is the same alert which they have issued for cities like London and Paris.
Safety measures abound here. Sidi Bou Said, the home of my program and a place commonly visited by tourists, has significant numbers of police patrolling. In fact, much like Oman, the most imminent need for vigilance is related to chaotic traffic.
The greatest effect of violent extremism on Tunisian society has been economic. 8% of the economy is based on tourism which has been significantly lessened in the past few months. Before March,, 10,000 people were visiting Sidi Bou Said from cruise ships per day. The significance of the impact to the economy of this town cannot be understated. As a result, I encourage visitors to Tunisia to keep coming, not to ignore this gem of a country.
Tomorrow we move in with our host families. I feel assured after just a few days in the country that this will continue to be a rich and rewarding experience.