Hilton Hotels in Tunisia Gave me a project to put up modern photography in their new modern hotel. It is an interesting country with a great history. A small country squeezed between Algeria on the west and Libya on the east and a northern coast line on the Mediterranean Sea.
Tunisia is a North African country whose culture dates to antiquity. In the capital, Tunis, the palatial Bardo Museum presents archaeological exhibits from Roman mosaics to Islamic art. The city’s medina quarter encompasses the massive Al-Zaytuna Mosque and a thriving ancient souk. To the east, the ancient Carthage site features the Antonine baths and other ruins, plus artifacts at the Carthage National Museum.
The current history is a revolution, after a savage terror attack in Tunis targeted the one country that has delivered on the promise of the Arab Spring by producing a real—and surprisingly liberal—democracy. In every other Arab country swept by mass pro-democracy protests in 2011 and 2012, hopes have been cruelly dashed. Egypt struggles under a military-dominated dictatorship. Syria is mired in a civil war, and now Libya and more recently Yemen are sliding in the same direction. Democratic protests in Bahrain were brutally crushed by troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors, and nowhere else did protests reach a scale that seriously challenged autocracy.
Does the March 18 Tunis attack—which as of the latest count had taken at least 23 lives—signal that Tunisia will be the next (and final) Arab Spring state to be swallowed by violence and repression?
No. The attack was shocking and will further damage the country’s ailing tourism industry, which accounted for 7 percent of the entire economy prior to the last few years of political turbulence. But Tunisia remains full of promise. Alone among the Arab Spring states, it has achieved a remarkable level of political compromise among secular parties and the principal Islamist party, Ennahda. This has been due in no small measure to the leadership of Ennahda founder Rachid Ghannouchi, who has, at every crucial turn on the sometimes troubled path from dictatorship, embraced flexibility and moderation and promoted the vision, as he put it in a March 20 statement celebrating the country’s 59th anniversary of independence, of “a republic of freedom, democracy, and social justice.” The Tunisia minister is asking for help from the UK to help fight against the the ISIS influences.
In marked contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda agreed early last year to a remarkably secular constitution, which firmly embraces religious freedom and equality of women while rejecting language (common in many Arab constitutions) identifying Islam as a principal source of law. And when the country fell into political crisis and deadlock in 2013 following of assinations of two liberal leaders, Ennahda agreed to surrender power to a politically neutral caretaker government that steered the country through the successful 2014 elections. The result has been the freest and fairest elections in the modern history of the Arab world, and levels of freedom, openness, and pluralism that are unknown in the rest of the Arab world.
I was very surprised to get this project. I did a lot of investigating to check out the company who wanted the images they had found on my blog. They stunned me with the size they needed. 72 inches square for one and 32 inches of the rest.
The images was an Infrared images taken with a modified Canon 1DSMK2. It is not a very big file but I knew how to do it. Then there was how to get the image to them and how was I to get paid?
They were very communicative and it was easy to work out the details. I trusted them and sent only the final electronic files so they could get the prints made in London.
The project lasted three months before they finally put up the images. They paid me through a PayPal account and all went well They just sent me some iPhone images of the installation so I could see the presentation. I am impressed.
What do you think? Let me know and if you have questions I will do my best to answer them.