Salam and Bonjour from Tunis! We arrived in Tunisia yesterday, with the 22 CBS students flying in from destinations near and far from prior winter break travels. For those of us who arrived earlier in the day, Chazen organized a tour to the visit the ruins of Ancient Carthage, just a few miles north of the modern city of Tunis.
The Empire of Carthage, founded as a Phoenician city-State in 814 BC, was significant both politically and as a trade hub amongst the ancient empires. It is notorious for warring with the Greeks and the Roman Republic, which culminated with the Punic wars, which were led by Hannibal, immortalized by Vergil’s Aeneid, and ultimately ended with the destruction of Carthage.
Following the tour of Ancient Carthage, we traveled to the summer vacation town of Sidi Bou Said, a 12 miles outside the city, for a welcome dinner. The town is known for uniform white buildings punctuated by azure doors and windows. Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, currently embroiled in a nationwide scandal, was a fellow diner at the seaside Dar Zarrouk restaurant.
Yesterday marked the 2nd anniversary of the Revolution. The country decided a few weeks ago to officially recognize January 14th as a holiday, and as such, most businesses closed in recognition. In order to avoid the demonstrations in the streets, populated by Tunisians off from work, our group enjoyed the morning meandering through Hammamet, a, popular resort town outside Tunis, whose population quadruples in the summer months. We explored the town’s medina (old city), browsing the souq (marketplace) for Tunisian handicrafts, and stopped for some mint tea, a traditional beverage, ubiquitous throughout the region, at a salon de the (café).
In the afternoon, the Mediterranean School of Business hosted us to meet with several individuals about the current state of Tunisia and foreign investment. We met with Cyril Grislain Karray, former Managing Director at McKinsey and current political activist in Tunisia (interview about his new book & his 2011 TEDx speech in French); Dr. Salah Hannchi CBS ’80, former Tunisian Ambassador to Australia and Japan; Neziha Berzouga, Offshoring Promotion Department Head at the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency; and Elias Bouricha the Tunisian country director for Predictix, an Atlanta-based software company. Our discussions started with high-level overviews of the foreign investment climate and surplus of highly educated human capital in Tunisia and culminated with Elias presenting the specific case study of his experience as a country director for the domestic offices of an American company.
On Tuesday, we began the day with a Media Panel which included Kamel Labidi Head of the National Independent Authority for Information and Communication (current English recommendations report); Chawki Chahed a Communications Officer with the African Development Bank; Zied Mhirsi, founder of the first English newspaper: Tunisia Live; Hasse Zargouni, the Founder and CEO of Sigma Conseil, a media marketing research firm, and Moncef Dhambri, a university professor, newspaper editor and freelance journalist. The panel touched upon the topics of Tunisia’s history of media censorship, current freedom of press and anti-censorship efforts, and media advertising and investment.
To sum up the historical (and arguably current) history of the country’s censorship, one of the panelists told us the following famous Tunisian joke: A newspaper decided to interview Americans (developed country), Ethiopians (less developed country) and Tunisians (somewhere in the middle) about their opinions on the shortage of meat. When the journalist asked the Americans about their opinions on the shortage of meat, the Americans responded “shortage…what do you mean ‘shortage’?” When the journalist asked the Ethiopians about their opinions on the shortage of meat, the Ethiopians responded “meat…what do you mean ‘meat’?” And when the journalist asked the Tunisians about their opinions on the shortage of meat, the Tunisians responded “opinions…what do you mean’opinions’?”
Until the next (freedom of press protected) post,
Yael Silverstein ‘13