This morning we are celebrating one of Tunisia’s greatest treasures – El Jem – as well as the strong and growing U.S.-Tunisian partnership on cultural heritage preservation. The El Jem grant is – in fact – the seventh Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation project in Tunisia. Some of you may remember that we launched a similar project at Oudhna last year. Other projects have been completed in the Medina of Tunis, Djerba, and Kasserine. All contribute to economic growth through tourism, and preserve and highlight Tunisia’s rich cultural heritage, which is an important strand of humanity’s cultural DNA.
Every American who comes to Tunisia is thrilled to see places – like Carthage – that we read about as children. American visitors are astounded by the history and grandeur of these sites. We applaud the Ministry of Tourism’s great work in increasing the number of tourists to Tunisia and in giving Tunisia’s archaeological sites the international status they deserve. We hope to see many more visitors – including Americans – at El Jem and throughout Tunisia in the coming years. Indeed, the Embassy has supported several programs aimed at increasing cultural tourism and will continue to do so.
I am so proud to launch this $413,313 (1.1 million TND) Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation project. Standing in this incredible structure – more than 1,700 years old in an era of 6 second Instagram stories – is something extraordinary. I look forward to seeing the restoration work progress in the coming years. I also look forward to expanding our cultural heritage cooperation to include not just preservation, but also joint efforts to stem the trafficking of Tunisia’s priceless antiquities.
Once again, thank you to the Ministry of Culture for your partnership, and thanks to all of you for being here. Enjoy the rest of the morning in splendid El Jem!