Searching for the perfect authentic souvenir on any trip can be a fun endeavor. In many countries it can be hard to find a truly authentic and original token of your exploration and adventure. However, in Tunisia, purchasing an authentic souvenir is not that difficult.
Coming home with an item to remember your trip can be a motivation for purchasing any souvenir. But getting an authentic Tunisian souvenir can be a chance to engage culture more deeply. You can come away with a meaningful interaction.
Authentic souvenirs start with authentic people
On a recent trip to Nabeul I had the goal of finding a local manufacturer of dinnerware. The region is known for crafting pottery from clay extracted in the mountains in the North of Tunisia, near Tabarka.
Even though you can find pottery throughout the country, I wanted to find a location with a greater variety of colors and products made on site.
This led a friend and me to a shop called L’Artisan. It was recommended by a local guide. As you walk into the shop there seems to be an endless supply of all their products. There are varied colors, patterns, shapes and sizes of all forms of sets for dining, coffee and even potting plants.
Along with all the variety in the shop I found the most important factor to me: a craftsman working at a wheel within the shop!
Sami has worked turning pottery for years, having learned the trade from his father. He can turn out 200 similar bowls in one day. At the same time Sami turns the clay, other employees paint, glaze and fire the pottery. They sell all their products at the same location and 9 others throughout the city of Nabeul.
A wonderful facet of travel in Tunisia is that this is not a rare occasion. When you travel throughout the country, you visit souqs (markets) and you observe the sounds, sights and even smells of authentic people, artisans, working their craft.
Authentic souvenirs come from Tunisia’s authentic retailers
When you roam markets and souks in Tunisia you find goods actually made in the country. Like any tourist area, you will find Bob Marley magnets and random trinkets from other parts of Africa, but the majority of shops pride themselves on selling local goods.
If you are traveling without a guide to help communicate with vendors, some items in Tunisia are given official tags from the government or at the least have artisan stamps or markings to link them back to a manufacture. Look for signatures, stamps and official tags on all your favorite selections, particularly rugs, olive wood home goods and pottery.
Authentic purchasing experiences help souvenirs capture the story of your adventure
Stories are amazing, and a token that is connected to a story can live on a shelf and start conversations for years to come. When those stories share the lives of the craftspeople with your friends, your adventure has touched an important nerve.
To know others’ stories and share them with your own community adds more value than most everything else. For me and my family, knowing Sami’s story is very valuable. Remembering it when we use our serving bowl takes it from a dish to a memory. It also helps us remember this very human element of our souvenir buying experience.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the types of authentic souvenirs available in Tunisia and the best places to buy them!