Thank you to Minister of Culture Dr. Mohamed Zine El Abidine for your kind invitation to attend this ceremony and share this project with you. And thank you also to Governor Hamdi for your warm hospitality in this significant and historic city. Finally, I want to give my thanks to Mr. Faouzi Mahfoudh, General Director of the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the Director and staff of the Raqqada National Museum of Islamic Art in Kairouan, for your partnership with us in implementing this project to improve your ability to preserve and display these beautiful and important manuscripts and artifacts.
The United States is invested in supporting Tunisia. This not only includes helping Tunisia serve and secure its citizens and the many visitors and tourists who come to Tunisia each year. It also includes helping Tunisia secure its heritage. Growth in the tourism industry is vital to Tunisia’s economic development, and – following the country’s visible success in improving security for citizens and visitors – diversification of that industry is now key to its growth. And in a democracy, knowledge of your past informs discussion on your present and future. That makes Tunisia’s cultural heritage and history one of its most crucial resources, and makes Tunisia an excellent tourist destination.
We know that the city of Kairouan and the Raqqada museum have an enormous impact on Tunisia’s efforts to promote cultural tourism and consequently to its economic development. And we know that the culture and history the city and museum houses has an enormous impact on the knowledge and identity of Tunisia’s citizens. It also represents an important part of our collective human heritage and history. We hope, therefore, that our donation of $146,000 to purchase sixteen pieces of preservation equipment for the Raqqada National Museum will help preserve and protect these manuscripts and allow them to be properly catalogued and safely displayed, making them accessible to citizens, researchers, and tourists alike.
While we support cultural heritage development and tourism diversification in Kairouan, we are also aware that the citizens of Kairouan have other concerns, too, and we are partnering with the Tunisian government at all levels to help address them.
Kairouan is a primary partner and hub for USAID’s new TADAEEM program that focuses on improving service delivery and enabling a long-term decentralization process. The TADAEEM project will be working with the new mayor and city council to improve services to citizens — such as garbage collection or paving — in Kairouan the capital, as well as other municipalities in the governorate, including Bouhajla, Echibika, El Alaa, El Oueslatia, and Haffouz.
The United States supports Kairouan and Tunisia and is grateful for the Tunisian contribution to our collective humanity. Thank you again for allowing me to be with you here today.
The U.S. Embassy will surely be back to Kairouan again soon in support of initiatives to advance Tunisia’s development and democracy goals – goals that are shared by the United States of America.