Berlin and Djerba: a tale of two cities!

Berlin and Djerba need tourists for their economy, but in both places there are objections to the behaviour of these tourists: debauchery in Berlin and bikinis in Djerba!

Last Saturday, 14 January, just a year after the Arab Spring started in Tunisia, the paper "Le Matin" printed various commentaries from their readers in response to the claims of islamists that tourists should not be allowed to wear bikinis or drink alcohol. This would clearly cause a large reduction in the number of tourists, especially from Western Europe, who want to get a tan on sunny beaches during the day and then party in the evening.

On the same day the Times Weekend magazine supplement carried a report by one of their correspondents who had just visited Djerba and found himself virtually alone on the beaches, the golf course and at the ancient munuments.

The day after that (Sunday 15 January) the Sunday Times International Culture supplement had an article on the thriving weekend club life in Berlin, which attracts up to 20,000 visitors each weekend. According to the article, these visitors come mainly from Britain and other Europen countries, and many of them fly in on cheap easyJet flights, with the objective of sampling the many night clubs which are making Berlin the club capital of Europe.

Put like that, it does not sound particularly bad. However, a description of the open sexual activities in some (many?) of these clubs) leaves nothing to the imagination: a lot of people would find it completely unacceptable (even in this modern permissive age).The article then suggests that with the looming economic clouds over Europe, including Germany (even though it still has the coveted AAA status), this orgiastic frenzy is reminiscent of the decadence of the Weimar republic of the 1920s and early 1930s.

This is where one can start to see some historic parallels. The Weimar republic came to an end with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, initially as a result of democratic elections. However, as Hitler progressively gained control, such elections became less and less likely (dictators only need to win one election). In Tunisia, as was said in a special report in last night's TSR1 news programme (téléjournal at 7h30 pm), the first free elections have taken place, but there are fears that the winners could turn towards a militant islamism, with a legal system based upon Sharia law and what many people would see as oppression of women.

It is quite possible that the future of the Arab Spring in North Africa is poised upon a knife edge. The Tunisian election has given hope, and we in Western Europe cannot argue against the right of Tunisians to vote for who they want. We can, however, be worried when we see that other countries in that region are showing distress signs: Egypt seems still to be in the hands of the military, Libya is not moving as we hoped, whilst Syria is still a mess and Iran is a non-elected theocracy making warlike threats of what might happen if their progress towards making an atomic bomb is thwarted. If things there keep getting worse then all hell could break loose!

So maybe we should hope that

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