Chased down by the police in Tunisia


So there I was… minding my own business… yea usually when a story starts like this, someone always calls bullshit but I swear what I am about to tell you is 100% the absolute truth. This story begins in the airport waiting for a gentleman from Germany to arrive. You see, I (along with a Tunisian driver and his sister) was here to welcome and escort this man from the airport to meet up with a group that was going on a spiritual retreat tour through the Sahara with Charles Kunow. When the man arrives around midnight, he is all smiles and rainbows and happy to be there which I found refreshing after the crazy long day that had just passed.

We help him with his luggage and begin at midnight our three hour drive to meet the rest of the group. All is going well, the driver is good, the road is relatively smooth and free from any traffic, and all the stars are out in full shine. Ahhhh just kick back and relax I think – everything is under control- Jurgun is here, we are on the way -your job is done. So I do just that. Only it does not last for long as we make a turn onto a road where there is a police truck driving at about 30km an hour when the limit is 90km. What happens next I still will probably never understand.

All of a sudden our driver stomps on the gas and passes the police truck and the other truck that we could now see was also driving very slowly in front of the police. No problem I think – the limit is 90km and they were doing 30 so we are good. But there is one problem that does start to concern me. Our driver does not stop accelerating after passing the cops. As I watch the odometer from the backseat I see it pass 90, then 110, and it keeps going. I tap the driver on his shoulder and say “Hey man- you know that was the cops back there right?” He does not reply and I wonder if he even understands me – after all he speaks only French and Arabic. So I turn to his sister who does speak a little English and I ask her- “Is there something I am not aware of here? Because if you pass the cops like that in America – they definitely are coming after you.” She shrugs her shoulders and again, I am wondering if she understands me either.

Peering over the shoulder of the driver I see that we have now reached 160km which is getting close to being double the speed limit on this road. And then I turn to look out the back window because I know they have to be coming. And they definitely were. As I watch the distant lights get closer and closer, I keep tapping the driver on the shoulder saying “Hey man- the cops are coming! You really should slow down yea?” He ignores my pleas and keeps the pedal to the floor. Oh shit I think – when they do catch us, if they are anything like the police in America we are in trouble big time.


Tunisian PoliceAfter about 10 minutes, they finally do catch up to us as we reach a series of speed bumps in the road that compel our driver to slow down. The men in the police truck start screaming from beside for us to pull over- I think that’s what they were saying anyway- who knows really- I still don’t speak Arabic. Either way, as we pulled to the shoulder of the street the police truck  pulls in a angle in front of our car blocking us from the paved road and the officer in the passenger seat jumps out of the car with the biggest damn machine gun I have ever seen pointed in my direction. Of shit oh shit oh shit I am thinking, and I just want to kick our driver in the head when he does something I find very peculiar.


He starts yelling to the police only one word repeatedly. “American! American! American!” This makes me slink even lower into the back seat as I have no idea why he’s pointing out that indeed, there is an American in the car. As my mind wonders what might happen next,  the police quickly point their hand cannons at the ground with such speed it almost seemed like they never had them pointed at us to begin with.

Tunisian Police

The onslaught of Arabic continues as the driver gets out of the car and opens the trunk. The police are apparently satisfied with what they find back there, and after exchanging a few more (what sounded like) angry words with our driver, it appears that we are free to go. So I decide to pop off a couple of photos real quick as this will make an interesting story for the blog I think. Bad idea. After taking two very quick photos, the police start yelling in Arabic again at me and at the driver. The sister explains in her broken English that I must delete the photos and the driver asks for my Samsung. I explain to them that the battery has died (which indeed it had) and that we could not delete the photos right now. But the truth is, I had no intention of deleting the photos anyway. This was a very strange experience for me and I wanted to write about it later – with the photos as proof. As we drive away slowly I am consumed with thoughts on why the policemen had that reaction to an American being in the car and changed their behavior so quickly. It made me wonder if they were afraid? If it was respect? Or was it something more…

Traveling the rest of the way to the hotel to meet the group was done in silence and with the driver on his best behavior. I still am not sure what to think about this incident of the reaction of the police- I do know that if we were in America though, this story would probably have ended much differently…

What are your thoughts on the reaction of the policemen? Have you had any crazy experience that left you with more questions and answers? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.


4 Comments on “Chased down by the police in Tunisia

  1. For the police it was clear a car trying to escape some troublemakers. And yes they check for wappens because they want to keep the country calm .. and it was clear to them ther is something to be checked … and the reaction – they also want to keep the country calm for tourist so we as tourist they respect and so foreigners being involved told them maybe everything is ok just someone speeding … and yes the driver was doing all to provoke them … why ever …

  2. Your driver’s behavior was out of order. Not only did it cause you guys undue stress, but also unnecessarily distracted the police from their duties into following you and checking you out, had they not followed you and done that it would have been irresponsible from their side to let a vehicle speed past and at double the speed-limit… and had you guys been behaving co-operatively, with normal respectable/respecting conduct and without suspicious manouvers there would have been no drama like that. The number of occasions that I have had the chance to observe the way the new police-force in Tunisia works has had me raise my hat a few times. The effort they put into being professional and at same time polite and even reasonably friendly is quite admirable indeed, and in comparison to the obnoxious attitudes that were a normality from the police-officers ‘running the show’ prior to the 2011 revolution, I really think the least the public, whether Tunisian or foreigners passing through, can do is collaborate by not causing unnecessary scenes that tax their attention from more important matters.

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