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Tunisia's new 'entertainment city'

The 'Cite de la Culture', a huge cultural complex, is now open to the public

The Cite de la Culture is a huge cultural complex in the centre of Tunis. Tunis with over 2.7 million inhabitants is the capital city of Tunisia. After 16 years of construction, it opened its doors to the public at the end of March.

The huge building complex is described as a 'mix of pharaoh's palace and Dubai shopping centre'. It has even a 65 metre high tower with a blue-green mirrored glass ball on top from which one can catch a view of the ancient city.

This cultural complex includes two cinemas, an opera house and two theatre as well as a concert hall that can house 1 800 visitors. There is a museum of contemporary art and several production studios for filmmakers and musicians can also be found on this site.

The foundations for the building were laid already in 2003, during the reign of former dictator Zine Abidine Ben Ali. However, the building process was delayed by the 'Arab Spring'- revolution as well as economic problems and further frequent protests of the population against the government.

There are only around a dozen cinemas in the entire country, so the 54-million-US-dollar/39 million GBP-project with its marble floor and huge halls, is seen as a luxury by most people, but the construction is defended by many artists and the current Tunisian president.

"Culture is not a luxury. It's the essence of life for every free and ambitious society," Beji Caid Essebsi, President of Tunisia 

Nevertheless, some people are concerned that the Cite de la Culture could become a ghost complex. This means that not sufficient visitors will come to the center once the initial interest has died down.

Hardly anybody in Tunisia goes to cinemas and only few people attend cultural events - especially outside the capital city. But there is big hope that the culture scene is starting to change now.

Tunisia is a country in northwestern Africa with 11.5 million inhabitants. The population is to the major part Muslim (98%). Islam is declared in the constitution as the official state religion. The country held its first democratic elections in 2014.

image: Simon Kremer/dpa


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