Poseidon’s Treasure: Colors of the Mediterranean

Story by guest blogger Paula Swenson. Photos Copyright © Paula Swenson.

FOR THE PAST six months I have been fortunate indeed to live about 50 meters from the sea in Tunisia on the north coast of Africa. Directly below Italy on your map, Tunisia is on the northernmost bump of the African continent, part of what is known as the Maghreb.

Maghreb comes from the Arabic word for Occidental and refers to the western part of North Africa. Somewhat isolated from the rest of the continent by the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert, the people of this region have had cultural and trade ties to Europe since the time of the Phoenicians.

Most of its 1300 km coastline faces east, making dawn a long, subtly shifting affair as the sunlight begins to reflect off the sea long before it actually crests the horizon. This is the view I enjoy from my studio as I write and paint each day.


The view from my desk, predawn time

The ancient peoples of the Mediterranean believed Poseidon—or Neptune, or their local version of the King of the Sea—held a vast storehouse of treasure beneath the waves, and it’s really no wonder . . . the water was the color of Chinese jade yesterday as I swam in the Gulf of Hammamet in South Mediterranean Sea. Today it is bands of sapphire and aquamarine.


Bands of sapphire and aquamarine

Sometimes in the hours of dawn and dusk the sea shines amethyst or rose quartz; very occasionally it shimmers golden topaz or brilliant ruby.


Lemony sun rises over a lavender sea

One hazy dawn recently is was liquified silver and just last week the blue topaz waters were bisected by a band of gold as the sun rose languidly through the clouds.


Liquid silver sea


Band of gold

The sea here is the center of life—provider of jobs, of salt and fish, playground for locals and tourists, Mother Nature’s air conditioner—as winds both gently waft and boldly bluster across sugary, golden sand and clear warm water.


Frothy waves and white beaches

A typical day by the beautiful sea starts with a slow glow gradually filling the sky with light for nearly an hour before the sun climbs out of the sea.

The morning sea is usually calm as glass, or very slightly ruffled, and empty to the farthest horizon. It gently laps the shore as long-legged waterbirds and morning larks trace a complex calligraphy in the sky with their swooping and soaring. Urban roosters provide punctuation to the ceaseless songbirds and sighing sea as the first fishermen appear in small boats and along the shore.


Early morning fishermen

The day grows brighter and ever warmer and people of all ages filter down to the shore: squealing, giggling children, mamas and grandmamas, teens and tourists. The sea is soon filled with bobbing heads and splashing limbs as boys climb on one anothers’ shoulders to dive into the sparkly sea. Beach stands do a lively business in the very freshest juice.


Left: Juice from fresh oranges by the sea | Right: Beach full of tiny treasures

By mid-afternoon most days the wind has wakened, bringing frothy white waves, sailboats, sailboards and kite-boarders.



Pirate ships (of the touristic variety) ply our waters and provide joyful outings for locals as well as tourists.


Modern day pirates take the tourists’ cash

Some days there are horses, whose owners bring them for a roll in the sand and a dip in the cooling waters. Other days sheep and goats come to graze.


Left: Horse on his way to the beach for a roll in the sand and a refreshing swim
Right: A sheep enjoying some green grass

When evening comes the wind often quiets again while the sky and sea are bathed in reflected sunset glow.

Rosy reflected sunset glow

Rosy reflected sunset glow

As night falls, flickering lights appear halfway to the horizon—not a far shore but a fleet of sardine fishers working by lantern light, as did their father and grandfathers before them, their lanterns glittering like diamonds in the warm black velvet night.

Paula Swenson

Paula Swenson


PAULA SWENSON is a semi-nomadic artist who uses both images and words to explore and express the world around her. Paula recently spent a year living in the North African country of Tunisia. After that she moved to Bursa, Turkey. You can see more of Paula’s work at



  1. Wow, Paula, through your amazing combination of words and photos this wonderful day on the beach truly came to life!
    It is no secret I love the beach, so I may be slightly biased. However, my gosh, I’d LOVE to live in a place like this!

    • It was an amazing and inspiring place to live and work each day, absorbing the energy of that beautiful, ever-changing sea.
      Glad I was able to bring it to life for you:-)

  2. Hi Paula,
    A wonderful article, to go with your wonderful photos.
    Lucky you to be able to live in a beautiful place like this. Even for just a little while.
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • I’ve been lucky to live in many amazing places, Betsy, and I’m so happy to be able to share them with others in this way.

  3. Beautiful! I had to stop in and visit when Milli said you were writing about Tunisia! Thanks for such a gorgeous painting you drew with your words (and the images, too!).

  4. Eloquent, fantastic and real – all in one.

  5. Oh my! What a wonderful way with words you have, so vivid, just like the colours in those photos.
    Such an inspirational place to live, I look forward to more.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Jo x

  6. Paula,

    Your beautiful photos prove that the ancients’ belief in the storehouse of treasures beneath the sea was well-founded. Your eloquent descriptions uncover the richness of life, activities and people above the sea as well.

    How wonderful it is that we can enjoy Tunisia with you in this way. Thank you.

  7. Judith Shaw says:


  8. Paula,
    There’s no question what a picture is worth right? Your colors of the Mediterranean are worth their weight in gems! Golden,citrine evening skies, ruby and amethyst sunsets, turquoise seas and sapphire skies such gems you have shared with us! Thanks for the stay on the coast of Africa!
    Roz Wilson

  9. Another terrific article with images Paula! Love how you tell a story with images and words.

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