Bardo: World Class Museum in Tunisia

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If you have a list of things to do before you die, seeing the Bardo Museum in Tunis should be on it. On 15 March 2015, the TechWomen Tunisia Delegation visited the Bardo Museum as part of our orientation day before formal meetings started. Three days later, the Bardo sadly became famous for being the scene of a violent attack. I hope that this post contributes to understanding the Bardo as a world-class museum, a must-see destination on any educated person’s bucket list, rather than just another location for terrorism.

We saw one of the most famous ancient Roman mosaics of Tunisia before we got to the Bardo. The delegation paid homage to 2,841 US World War II military casualties buried at the North African American Cemetery and Memorial (Carthage, Tunis). In the reception area is the King of the Sea Poseidon in a seahorse chariot, over two plaques in English and Arabic saying:

Presented by Habib Bourguiba, First President of the Republic of Tunisia, to G. Lewis Jones, First American Ambassador to Tunisia (1956-1959) on the occasion of the latter’s departure.  Ambassador Jones in turn presented this exceptional work of art to the North Africa American Cemetery on the condition that it remain always in Tunisia.

One of the many charms of Tunisia is its remarkably well-educated population. Over and over during our trip to Tunisia, we heard tributes to First Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba for his wise leadership and reforms 1957-1987, which included (according to Wikipedia) “…female emancipation, public education, family planning, a modern, state-run healthcare system, a campaign to improve literacy, administrative, financial and economic organization….” The importance of Tunisia in history seems to be part of civic consciousness there. Reproductions of ancient Roman mosaics are common civic decorations – including a large Poseidon on the bottom of our hotel swimming pool and reproductions of Bardo tresaures on the walls of the Tunis airport. Mosaic panels are popular souvenirs in the local shops.

Entering the antiquities side of the Bardo Museum last week, the TechWomen were surprised to find ourselves walking on ancient mosaics – put to their original use as floor coverings. A depiction of two nude male boxers (complete with a spray of blood – just like in a video game!) gave us warning that we were entering a place of different sensibilities than modern Tunis. The Bardo features Christian mosaics as well as many celebrating the Roman pantheon. My favorite mosaic shows Venus being crowned by two well-developed female centaurs. Many Bardo mosaics present food-related themes – featuring fish, fishing, and hunting scenes (maybe originally installed in dining rooms?).

I was delighted to be followed by three little girls who, seeing me looking at two large statues wrapped in tarps, gently moved the fabric off of the stone faces so that we could see who was inside. It is worth a trip to North Africa just to visit the Bardo Museum!

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Camels and Crafts in Tunisia

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When the TechWomen Tunisia Delegation was not touring, or eating, or meeting with remarkable STEM women and girls, we did some shopping and camel riding.  The 16 March Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) – Entrepreneurship and Social Media Training included a reception with craft vendors.  After the sad and scary Bardo Museum attack on 18 March 2015 in Tunis caused an early end of our formal Delegation meetings, most of the Silicon Valley delegates stayed very close to the hotel before our flights home. Luckily, there were camel rides on the beach and a Carrefour market and small shops nearby.  At the Carrefour, we bought Tunisian honey, olive oil, harissa spice, and other delicacies. I also found some date candy and date syrup at the Tunis airport, so I was able to bring small gifts home.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Tunisia Delegation – Short but Excellent

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The TechWomen Tunisia Delegation ended early due to the violence at the Bardo Museum in Tunis on 18 March 2015. Twenty-four delegates from California’s Silicon Valley, plus four IIE San Francisco staff, our Washington DC representative from the US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the forteen TechWomen Fellows from Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria and Tunisia were sad for the families of those killed, and for the people of Tunisia.  Some of us took pictures on 19 March holding a sign saying “We Love You Tunisia – We Will Be Back”.

We were sorry that we could not continue our inspiring meetings with technical girls and women but it seemed wise to go home sooner than scheduled.  Before the tragic attack that lead to 21 deaths in one of the world’s great museums, we were able to tour (including an afternoon at the Bardo on 15 March), and connect with remarkable leaders in STEM:

Thanks to our TechWomen Fellows in Tunisia who made these meetings possible, including: Ameni Channoufi (Service Manager, PKI operations), Amel Ghoulia (Bioinformatician – Institut Pasteur de Tunis), Olfa Khelifi (Maya Organization President and Founder), and Ines Nasri (Owner, Web Power).  Due to the early end to the TechWomen Tunisia Delegation on 18 March, we were not able to participate in Tunisia Digital Day at Cite des Sciences in Tunis; however, some of the TechWomen who were scheduled to speak recorded messages for playback at the event on 19 March. I was happy to be able to distribute all 12 of the Notable Technical Women posters and 30 decks of cards to schools and educators in Tunisia (and Algeria) before I left. Other TechWomen delegates also left their educational materials. We will continue our communications with the impressive technical leaders of Tunisia now that we are home.

The Lufthansa strike made it very difficult to get home earlier. Many of us (finding that there was a two hour phone wait to try to arrange itinerary changes – if calls went through at all) abandoned our original flights and bought new tickets.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Wonderful Tunisian Food

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Since arriving in Tunis on Friday, I have had two excellent Tunisian meals (and too much disappointing hotel “food”). The first memorable meal was lunch at a small roadside restaurant where we ate grilled lamb and chicken spiced with rosemary, with a salad of roasted green peppers with olives, and Khobz Tabouna bread.

Last night, a group of us were lucky enough to be invited to dinner at the Tunis home of the gracious and generous TechWomen Alumna Ameni Channoufi who served us

  • green pepper salad with olives, egg, and tuna
  • fresh crusty baguette-shaped bread
  • mixed green salad with vegetables and meat
  • couscous with vegetables and lamb and egg and garbanzo beans and raisins
  • lamb frittata (called a tagine – but very different from the Moroccan dish of that name)
  • fruit and sweets
  • green tea with mint and pine nuts

Delicious! I am looking forward to tasting more lovely dishes during my week here with the TechWomen Delegation (but I am avoiding the tasty but very hot red harissa chili pepper paste).

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Touring with TechWomen Tunisia Delegation

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This week, I am a member of a TechWomen Delegation for the sixth time – having been on every delegation since the program started. It has been my honor and pleasure to visit Emerging Leaders in Morocco (2011), Jordan (2013 – with a side trip to Lebanon), Rwanda (2014), Morocco (2014), South Africa (2015), and now, Tunisia. As always, we travel with a U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs representative, in addition to Institute of International Education (IIE) staff. I begin my ten days in Tunisia with local tours, both informal and formal, to provide cultural context. Last weekend, we visited:

Dougga
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Sidi Bou Said
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North African American Cemetery and Memorial
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Carthage
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Bardo Museum
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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Mentoring Standard – A New Venture

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High quality mentoring changes lives. Until now there has been no clear way to measure mentoring and program effectiveness in an objective, comparable system, and there has been very little data published by mentoring programs. Mentoring Standard is a new venture with the vision to create an international norm and assessment of quality and achievement for both mentors and mentoring programs, with an associated system and process for accreditation and certification.

Kathy Jenks and I are Founders of Mentoring Standard. I announced this during my “Mentors and Role Models” talk earlier today as part of the Global Tech Women Voices – 2015 virtual conference. You can learn more about Mentoring Standard on our new website: mentoringstandard.com.  We look forward to your inquiries!

Thanks to Jessica Dickinson Goodman who designed and created the Mentoring Standard branding and website.

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Photo of Kathy Jenks Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson.
Photo of Katy Dickinson presenting in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa by Max Mogale

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More Photos of TechWomen with Cards

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Thanks to the honorees and supporters of the Notable Technical Women Project – particularly the amazing and talented TechWomen community! Here are new photos of TechWomen Director Arezoo Miot with a “TechWomen Emerging Leaders from Africa and the Middle East” deck in San Francisco, and four honorees in Lebanon holding their individual cards: Adla Chatila, Nisreen Deeb, Sukaina Al-Nasrawi (birthday girl!), and Maysoun Ibrahim.

More pictures of TechWomen honorees with their cards are on Notable Technical Women Project (27 February 2015).

Arezoo Miot, TechWomen 2015

Adla Chatila, Sukaina Al-Nasrawi, Nisreen Deeb, Maysoun Ibrahim, TechWomen 2015

Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson and Nisreen Deeb

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