Sunday, February 06, 2011

Carthage needs saving (again)

In the history of the Greek, Roman and North African civilizations there are few places as important or as evocative as Carthage. In 1979 UNESCO recognized the global importance of the city and its archeological remains and named it a World Heritage Site. In 1985 the Tunisian government made the entire site a protected zone and prohibited building.

Two years later, the recently deposed dictator Ben Ali came to power in a bloodless coup. In the latter years of Ben Ali's rule, families close to the president were allowed to ignore the protected zone. They took priceless artifacts to decorate their homes, built villas on the protected land, took possession of historic buildings and built a luxury housing development known as Les Résidences de Carthage. On its web site the development touts its quiet location and proximity to Roman ruins.

In addition, a large Mosque named El Abidine (in honor of now ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali) with parking was constructed inside the protected zone. This Google Map shows the rough outline of the protected area and two large zones of construction (the housing development is towards the top right of the protected green area, and the mosque below and to the left).

Now the eminent archeologist who was instrumental in protecting Carthage and its ruins for 30 years until he retired in 2001 has launched an international campaign to try undo the damage caused during Ben Ali's final years.

The campaign takes the form of a petition which can be found at http://bit.ly/SaveCarthage. If you are interested in helping, please sign the petition and spread this URL as widely as possible.

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