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May 2, 2014 | A week in Tunisia

The original plan was for us to try to drive the Editourmobil throughout the tour, as we have done previously. During the planning phase, I checked regularly with the Foreign Office website for the most up to date news and it quickly became clear that it would not be advisable for me to cross Tunisia and Algeria as an individual traveller in a private vehicle. In certain places, the situation is unclear, for example in the border areas. So I decided to fly there.
Right up to the last minute it was nerve-wracking waiting to see if my Algerian visa would appear. Then the thunderbolt: it wasn’t going to arrive on time. Another rapid change of plan: Algeria will have to wait for the moment. So, flight cancellation, flight transfer, and here we go for a week in Tunis.

On Monday afternoon I arrive at my hotel, which is located in Les Berges du Lac, near the lake of Tunis. It has recently opened and I feel immediately at home. The first evening I spend organising the schedule for the next few days. Despite the fact that I had started early on arranging the appointments, confirmation comes through in bits and bobs, necessitating numerous telephone calls and emails in Tunis. Tomorrow I meet my first interviewee, the Green Line company.

It's Tuesday morning and I meet up with Mr Baghdadi in the hotel lobby. There follows an in-depth discussion of the recycling system in Tunisia, as well as Green Line's contribution in the field of PET recycling and the hot washing process. The discussions continue in the factory area and a tour through the premises of the company.

All-in-one hall: Sorting and crushing of the PET bottles at Green Line

To conclude our tour, Mr Baghdadi invites me to dinner in La Marsa, north of Tunis. The restaurant is situated by the beach offering a wonderful prospect over the turquoise sea. A seafood platter to start, followed by a main course of fillet steak, washed down with the famous local beer, Celtia, brewed by SFBT, Tunisia’s largest bottler and a Coca Cola licensee. Over the meal we continue discussing developments in the PET market and the opportunities for recycled PET. In the evening I chill out at the hotel.

Wednesday I have an appointment with the preform manufacturer La Preforme located about 50 km south of the city. Thanks to the city traffic, the taxi journey takes well over an hour. Mr Mohamed El Mouldi bids me a friendly welcome in his office. Prior to confirming our interview, it was apparent that Mr El Mouldi had only a little English, so imagine my surprise when the interview proceeded without any language barriers. La Preforme is part of the SFBT group and produces preforms exclusively for its soft drinks division. In addition, La Preforme also manufactures crown corks. At the conclusion of our interview Mr El Mouldi kindly arranges for one of his staff to drive me back to the hotel, where I write up my visit reports and confirm my appointment with Sogedes for tomorrow.

It's Thursday and, I must say to my surprise, it is a public holiday. I was not aware that May 1 is considered as a public holiday in this country. I was consequently all the more pleased that the Belkhir brothers from the recycler Sogedes nevertheless found the time to see me, although the meeting had to be hastily re-arranged at my hotel due to the factory shutdown. It is an interesting discussion, especially in regard to the development in the plastics recycling field in Tunisia and how the various “spokes in the wheel” hang together. We part with a handshake and the suggestion that we might meet up for dinner that evening. Sadly this does not come to pass because I’m not able to get hold of the pair by telephone or email. With the evening to myself, and having already dined at the hotel, I decide to take a taxi to sample once more the delights of la Marsa whichgarners rave reviews on the internet. Once again, I am not disappointed, the food and wine are delicious. The evening also confirms just how small the world is. The partner of the restaurant chef works for SAP in Tunis and therefore knows the Heidelberg area (where our publishing house is based) very well indeed (the SAP headquarters are in Walldorf, just a few kilometres from Heidelberg). Back at the hotel, I quickly fall into bed, because my next appointment tomorrow with Omega Maghreb is at 8:00.

It's Friday and my last day of interviews before departure has just begun. Since it is still very early I skip breakfast and make do with just a cappuccino while I wait in the hotel lobby for Mr Nessim Mami, who picks me up there shortly after 8:00 am. First we drive to the office in the city centre for a preliminary in-depth discussion on the Tunisian PET market. Omega Maghreb manufactures closures and preforms, but also has a recycling unit producing PET flakes. One of his staff then drives me to the industrial zone, where all three divisions are located, some 60kms away near the town of Zaghouan, past the remains of the Roman aqueduct, which once supplied Carthage with water. After about an hour and a half’s drive, I finally get to see the three production lines. I take a few photos, and finally enjoy an espresso in a little Tunisian café, originally built as a meeting place for the workers, and then I am back on the road. I have an early flight tomorrow at 8 so I will need to get up at 5 in the morning. I catch up on my reports and then call it a day.

In Omega Maghreb's PET preform production "Sipa"

Tunisia and its PET market and associated businesses were impressive. I 'm looking forward to the next meetings on the Go to Brau Beviale Tour 2014.