Thursday, October 30, 2008

During the lull at our air base in Tunisia I took a jeep and two fellow soldiers to visit the holy Moslem city of Kairouan, about 20 miles away. As we entered the city we surprised two young Moslem girls outside the walls who had dropped their veils. Frightened, they dropped to the ground and hid their faces. We drove on into the city and in front of the holy mosque we enountered a handicapped guide who spoke English. The mosque was large enough to accomodate several thousands worshipers and was lighted with thousands of oil lamps which burned day and night. Our guide told us the mosque contained the beard of the prophet, Mohammed. (This was later contradicted in Pakistan, showing a split in the religion.) He guided us up the stairs to the sanctuary. The priest was no where in sight but a man and his young son were sitting in spiritual contemplation on the floor. I nodded at this man and he nodded back. Then we returned to the square. Our guide directed us to the rug merchant, whose name was Mohammed Bey. Almost every man was named Mohammed something or other. Next to the rug merchant's office was a large warehouse containing thousands of hand woven rugs, many of them made of camels hair and wool. I was introduced to the TV table before the arrival of TV. A servant set up a folding table and put a metal tray on top. Then I was served a strong coffee which I managed to strain through my teeth. Mohammed Bey then showed us many beautiful rugs, some of them large enough to fill a hotel lobby. Although we were isolated at the base, we did receive mail and were allowed to reply and to send packages. I finally chose a rug that would fit inside the shipping rules. We returned to the base and I shipped my rug home.

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