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Published on 27 May 2011
As Tunisia recovers from revolutionary upheaval, officials hope the country's ancient artefacts can be a springboard to attract visitors and renew youths' interest in their history
Interim Culture Minister Azzedine Bach Chaouch last week announced new measures to safeguard Tunisia's archaeological patrimony.
Tunisian officials are launching renewed efforts aimed at preserving the country's ancient treasures while at the same time educating the next generation on the nation's rich history.
As part of those efforts, the culture ministry chose International Museum Day (May 18th) to celebrate Tunisia's antiquities. Two events were held simultaneously in Sfax and at the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
The choice of Sfax for the launch of the celebration reflected a real will to give back to the region its place in the memory of Tunisia and its role in the cultural system, Interim Culture Minister Azzedine Bach Chaouch said. The minister also announced the foundation of a museum of traditions and folklore and another for maritime heritage in the southern city.
Meanwhile in Tunis, Education Minister Taieb Baccouch joined other officials to mark the occasion, including international experts from the International Council of Museums and Mohamed El Aziz Achour, Director-General of the Arab League Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ALESCO). The Bardo Museum event showcased extensive renovation works that were launched in 2009.
The occasion also served to highlight the recovery of stolen archaeological artefacts. The culture minister said that, since February, over three quarters of the stolen pieces were recovered, including some that were smuggled outside the country.
It is hard to imagine how much was robbed from the national Tunisian heritage, Bach Chaocuh said. He alleged that the thieves would have not gone as far as they did without the help of officials from the former regime. He claimed they made available vehicles for transporting the archaeological pieces and unique statues to the villas and ostentatious palaces of the ousted president's family-in-law. The minister said vehicles were used as cover to get through checkpoints.
In early February, Bach Chaouch formed a specialised committee within the culture ministry to investigate stolen historic items. He explained that he had previous experience in tracking down lost artefacts while working with UNESCO where he successfully retrieved Cambodian treasures with help from Interpol. He added that he intends to ask Interpol to help Tunisia retrieve its antiquities.
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