Cycling to the Sahara: Beards and the Shabaab

For the sake of my future security on this trip I think I need to grow a big manly beard. You know, the kind that big manly adventurers are wont to port.

This is not because I feel that I am deserving of the adventurer’s big manly beard, nor in fact do I mean to suggest that I am currently engaged on a big manly beardy adventure. Far from it: the sun is shining and the roads are flat. No, the reason I am desirous of a big manly adventure beard is because today I was the subject of sexual advances from a shabaab on a moped who thought I was a woman.

Undeterred despite being disabused of this fact – had he not seen my leg hair? – the desperate youth went on to suggest that man-on-man sex was better anyway. I politely declined this further invitation, whereupon he stole my walkman from my top pocket. Slightly distressed, I appealed to his better nature, whereupon he stole the bag from my front basket and drove off.

I feel that none of this would have happened had I been sporting a big manly beard. This impudent youth would never have dared rob a real beard – a beard that spoke of death-match wrestles with grizzly bears, a beard that hinted at dark days hacking through tarantula-infested jungles, a beard that sung songs of violent tempests and nightmarish sandstorms overcome by sheer force of will and beardy fortitude.

In this moment of desolation, as I watched my camera, books, passport and typewriter disappear down a hill, I cursed my razor and howled bloody vengeance on all fresh-faced highwaymen on mopeds.

Before I let this tale get too dramatic, I should point out that the shameful youth only drove a little way down the hill, before turning around and handing me back my bag and walkman. ‘I’m just playing with you,’ he said with a cackle. Playing or no, I think a beard would have helped avoid this unsettling occasion in the first place.

What helped me recover was the nice old man in a van who stopped up the road, turned around, checked that I was okay, then proceeded to tail me up the hill for a mile or so just to make sure.

So the truth is that Tunisians are still awesomely friendly. The problem comes when this awesome friendliness meets rambunctuous testosterone frustrations in the shabaab, who smile even as they torment you.

But what harm was done by this little escapade? None that I can see, only lessons. I learnt how vulnerable I really am on a bicycle. I learnt that perhaps I should tie down my bag to the basket. I learnt to appreciate how much I am relying on the unremmitting kindness, relentless patience and righteous morality of every person I meet, everywhere I go.

I also got a nice little story and isn’t that the purpose of life, to collect nice little stories?

Bir Mroua: A story in itself. Yes, that is a blue supermouse.

5 thoughts on “Cycling to the Sahara: Beards and the Shabaab”

  1. I am sorry for this incident.
    The statue is the mascot “Labib” for an environmental campaign. It represents a fennec (or fox) that lives in Sahara.

  2. Thanks 🙂

    As I say in the blog post, Tunisians are still awesome and no harm was done!

    Thanks for reading and I hope to be back in beautiful Tunisia soon 🙂

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