When I was a child growing up in the United Arab Emirates, the local souk (Arabic for marketplace) was one of the places we frequented as a family—not only was it a great shopping destination, the souk was where we could see the best of Arabian culture and hospitality. So when I learnt that the French Institute Alliance Francaise in New York was setting up a Tunisian souk as part of their World Nomads Tunisia initiative, I was more than a little excited to see what they had to offer.
While Tunisia may be better known today as the country whose Jasmine Revolution sparked the Arab Spring in 2011, this exhibition aims to throw light on this tiny Arab nation’s rich cultural heritage. Mohamed Malouche, president of the Tunisian American Young Professionals, said that the souk showcases handicrafts created by over 30 Tunisian artisans. From handmade rugs to colourful glassware, visitors to the souk are able to see (and purchase) several different kinds of original Tunisian artwork.
Adding to the traditional feel of the market are the sweet Tunisian pastries and mint tea that the souk offers to all its visitors. The organizers of the event are patient and gracious, responding to queries ranging from the state of Tunisia today to the variety of crafts available at the souk. “The souk’s really a way to showcase the diversity of handicrafts, and the manual work that goes into it,” Malouche said. “But, at the end of the day, it is also to promote the image of the country in the United States.”
Today is the last day of the Tunisian souk at the Tinker Auditorium (Entrance at 55 East 59th Street). Don’t miss this chance to get a glimpse of Tunisian culture—the event is free to the public and runs from 5.30 pm to 8 pm. Also check out the other events being planned as part of FIAF’s World Nomads Tunisia initiative.
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