When I arrived in Tunis two months ago, Dar Ben Gacem was my home for the first week. My family and I stayed there whilst we were flat hunting for me, and after long days pounding the streets of Tunis, returning to Dar Ben Gacem was always like stepping back into a world of calm. Once the heavy wooden door closes behind you, you’re free to make yourself at home around the Dar. We spent mornings having leisurely breakfasts in the courtyard, and evenings playing chess in the pavilion on the roof terrace.
Eight weeks of Arabic lessons later, a friend in my class’s family came to visit her for her birthday weekend. They too were staying at Dar Ben Gacem, so they invited ten of us to have dinner and spend the evening there. It was lovely to go back, and this time, as I lead the group through the cobbled streets of the medina, it really did feel like I was – to excuse the cliché – returning home.
Everybody agreed the dinner was excellent. We ate in the dining room, which opens out onto the tiled courtyard. The food was served family style in big dishes in the middle of the table, so we all helped each other to piles of fish couscous, beautifully fresh salads, and a selection of other traditional Tunisian dishes. Everything was made by local ladies in the medina, so it really did feel as if we were sitting down to a meal like a traditional family. It was the perfect way for everybody to come together and get a taste of what life could have been like in the original Dar.
For dessert we ventured upstairs to the seating area on the roof. We spent the rest of the evening there chatting away, drinking mint tea. The best thing about having dinner at Dar Ben Gacem was the freedom we had. We could nose around all of the treasures the hotel has to offer, and you really have the pick of the bunch when it comes to choosing where to spend your time. Being at Dar Ben Gacem meant it was a far more intimate and relaxed evening than it would have been at any restaurant.