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Standing near the shrine of the Sufi saint Sidi Boughanem in western Tunisia, Karim points to the earth below his feet.
“There are stairs under the ground,” he said. “We started digging, but we had to stop because someone called the police.”
At the foot of a mountain covered with Roman villas and antique olive oil factories, the shrine sits atop buried structures and catacombs that date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Archaeological sites such as this one in the region of Kasserine are often looted or damaged during illegal night-time excavations by people looking for goods to sell, said Karim, a local historian from the nearby town of Foussana.
Then there are farmers who stumble across antiques by accident while planting crops, he added, and other people who go digging on their own land in the hope of finding artifacts they can sell.
Karim takes part in these digs out of curiosity. But his colleagues are hunting for treasures, he said.
“There are multiple groups (that do this),” said Karim, whose name has been changed for his safety.
“It is happening almost on a daily basis.”
The looting of archaeological sites is a longstanding problem in Tunisia, said Yasser Jrad, head of the seized objects department at the National Heritage Institute (INP).
Objects of significant historical and cultural value often end up on the European market and in the homes of Tunisia’s rich and powerful, he explained.
The issue was brought into the spotlight in 2011, when Tunisia’s ousted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, currently exiled in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in the first of several trials for a range of crimes, including possession of archaeological artifacts.In 2017, the Tunisian authorities seized a rare 15th-century Torah scroll that they thought was being smuggled to Europe.
More recently, in March customs seized 600 antique coins dating from the 2nd century from a car in the coastal town of Sfax.
Figures from the INP, which is tasked with protecting and recording the country’s artefacts, show that the team has received more than 25,000 recovered archaeological items since the 2011 uprising.
Today, the INP gets more than double the number of reports for Kasserine than it did before the uprising, said Mohamed Ben Nejma, head of the region for the institute, adding that the instability and chaos of conflict often provides a window for archaeological looting.
But he also attributed the increase in recovered objects to the fact that the authorities are getting more serious about tackling the illicit antiquities trade.
“It might have been partly to do with state interests,” said Jrad.
“Especially, since we discovered pieces stolen from our (national) sites in the houses of Ben Ali and his family.”
The western region of Kasserine, where the shrine of Sidi Boughanem is located, is one of the most marginalized parts of the country — with government figures showing about one in four people unemployed, far higher than the 15% unemployment rate for the country as a whole.
It is also one of the most archaeologically rich. There are four major sites located in an area of 8,000 square kilometers (3,000 square miles), and the land is peppered with architectural ruins and antique stones.
Bigger sites are guarded around the clock, according to the INP, while less significant sites have security guards during the day. But the sheer number of small sites makes it impossible to keep an eye on all of them, said Nejma.
Ridha Shili, an expert in national heritage promotion with the University of Tunis, said it is the lack of proper excavation projects and cultural investment in general that leaves the Kasserine region open to looting.
“It is kind of a virgin region,” said Shili, pointing out that his hometown of Thala alone has about 350 archaeological sites.
“The state prefers for (these sites) to remain hidden because we don’t have the means to protect them,” he said.
When a new site is discovered, instead of guarding it or moving the artifacts to somewhere secure, “the state documents it, they take photos and then they put the earth back over it,” Shili added.
As she surveys sites around Foussana for her research, Wafa Mouelhi, an archaeology masters student at the University of Tunis, takes pictures whenever she sees that someone has been digging.
“You see holes, you notice with the placement of stones that someone has been there,” she said. “People are looking for statues or gold and jewelry.”
Mouelhi and other residents inform the local authorities about illegal excavations. In January, she caught someone from the town attempting to dig up a mosaic and ceramics from a Roman site that contains a church.
‘Everything is stolen from us’
Matthew Hobson of the UK-based Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project, said multiple factors need to be taken into account when it comes to protecting heritage sites from theft, which is often driven by poverty and political instability.
“There are economic reasons (for looting),” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Tunis. “The blame should not be put on the people who are trying to get by day-to-day, but the persons who are furnishing these collections.”
Unlike in Libya or Egypt, the antiquities trade in Tunisia is fairly small and disorganized, according to a local policeman, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his job.
“It’s just pocket money, people sell things for less than they are worth,” he said.
Abdelbaki Idoudi, a civil servant from Foussena, said the country’s unprotected artifacts are fair game and that citizens have the right to benefit from rogue archaeological digs.
“The state left all of (the artifacts) and doesn’t look after them,” he said. “I’m for the practice because people can profit, it can help people get some money from their (heritage).”
Others, such as Ayoub Sayhi, a 22-year-old amateur filmmaker from Thala, called on the government to do more to care for the country’s ancient objects.
To Sayhi, the looting of Kasserine’s antiquities was just another symptom of what he saw as the state’s neglect of the region.
“(My film) is to get the government to do something about this region because it is poor even though it is rich in natural resources,” he said. “Everything is stolen from us, both in the day and in the night.” (VOA)
By Prerana Agarwal Saxena
In all the wedding excitement, it's easy to overlook the impact a wedding has on the environment. While everyone is making their big fat Indian wedding dreams come true, they are also adding their carbon footprint and undue energy consumption. Modern couples are now looking for ways to have a wedding with a sustainably conscious mindset. It's become about incorporating less waste, locally sourced and seasonal food, natural materials over the use of plastic. Mindful wedding planning and decor includes the use of recycled paper and goods along with eco-friendly venue needs. Check out this quick guide to achieve a sustainably conscious wedding without compromising on luxury:
Choose locally sourced material to uplift artisans
Sustainable can be luxurious too, incorporate some native flavour into the decor and theme. With the use of locally sourced materials and local artisans coming into play, the wedding instantly becomes sustainable. Include the work of local vendors ensure minimal packaging requirements, thus saving on unnecessary plastic and lamination. It also decreases the need for transporting elements from other cities and hence lowers the carbon footprint. For instance, at one of our weddings, we made use of sand art for a setup in Jodhpur. This helped promote local work while also being environmentally friendly with zero wastage of other materials. In another instance from Rajasthan, the traditional glass-blown technique was used to build decor items while giving a cultural touch to the destination wedding.
Sustainable can be luxurious too, incorporate some native flavour into the decor and theme. | Photo by Jason Coudriet on Unsplash
Say yes to recycling
One should be mindful and avoid the use of plastic and other non-recyclable materials in decor wherever possible. It can be a small step such as making a conscious switch from plastic water bottles to copper jugs or glass bottles. Also use artificial floral decor thus minimising the wastage produced from real flowers. This recyclable decor is then donated to various NGOs, further ensuring sustainable use of resources. Such steps, however small they might be, keep the environment free from the release of any additional carbon footprint.
One should be mindful and avoid the use of plastic and other non-recyclable materials in decor wherever possible. | Photo by Ravin Rau on Unsplash
Go for zero-waste wedding decor
Make use of fabric as it enhances the elegance of the wedding while being sustainable. Include vibrant colours apt to the theme of the wedding and bring in bright sprightliness with breathable fabrics. Ensure to include LED lights for lighting. They can be incorporated as string lights or be used on passageways with innovative decor items. They also help conserve energy and bring in soulful energy for nighttime decor. Choose virtual invitations, keeping up with the digital times. Make a conscious choice of plated dinner menus rather than a buffet as they allow less wastage of food and ensure enough food for guests in attendance.
LEDs can be incorporated as string lights or be used on passageways with innovative decor items. | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Include Sustainable Gifting
Gift sustainable wedding favours -- gifts that grow. Offering a plant or a succulent, is a great idea. One can also gift recycled organic fabrics and cutlery or zero-waste kitchen and bathroom essentials to use in their homes as some distinct gifting options.
Gift sustainable wedding favours -- gifts that grow. | Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash
Acting in the best interest of the environment and the society, Theme Weavers Designs has started a social cause, Weaving Hope, where a part of their earnings along with food and decor are donated to social communities. Royal Rendezvous, is an event started by us to put India on the Global Map, inviting international wedding planners to India to experience the rich culture and heritage, also employing and displaying the work of local artisans to this international audience.
By applying the values of sustainability, you can reduce the energy consumed and the resources used as much as possible. Go ahead and have a luxurious zero-waste wedding and navigate into the world of green living! (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Luxurious , Gift, sustainable, wedding favours, gifts that grow. Gifting, recycling, locally sourced, material. zero-waste
The Tamil Nadu health department has administered 16,43,879 lakh doses of vaccine in the second mega vaccination camp organised by it. The state public health department in a statement on Sunday said that this has taken the total vaccination to one crore since the beginning of September till date. The vaccination was administered from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. and the compiled data was made available late at night.
The health department officials also said that as the state has almost exhausted its quota of vaccines, there would not be any vaccines on Monday. Regular vaccination will resume after the vaccine supplies arrive from New Delhi, officials said. The state health department had expected to vaccinate 15 lakh people on Sunday in 18,824 centres spread across primary health centres, anganwadis, noon meal centres, government hospitals, schools and some auditoriums.
The health department officials also said that as the state has almost exhausted its quota of vaccines, there would not be any vaccines on Monday. | Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash
Of the 16,43,879 people who were inoculated, a total of 10,85,097 received their first dose and 5,58,782 their second dose of vaccine, the statement said, A total of 9,66,568 people in the age group of 18-44 were vaccinated on Sunday and vaccines were administered on 5,02,578 people aged between 45- 59 in the mega vaccine camps.
State health minister Ma Subramanian, who inaugurated the vaccination at Pollachi, also visited the centres in six districts -- Coimbatore, Erode, Namakkal, Tiruppur, Dharmapuri and Salem. The state government, according to the health minister, is to receive the next allotment of vaccines on September 21. Minister while speaking to IANS said, "We will be receiving the next allotment of vaccines on September 21 itself and we will resume vaccinations immediately. The state has already touched one crore vaccine-mark in the month of September till date." (IANS/MBI)
Keywords: COVID, vaccine, vaccination camp, Tamil Nadu, India, vaccinated, mega camp
Festivals are just around the corner and while you brainstorm about OOTDs (outfit of the day), don't forget the right makeup. Hanisha Kapoor, COO, ArchiesBeauty.com shares makeup trends experimented by these Bollywood divas throughout 2021 for inspiration. While some stuck to the classics, others mixed it up... take a look:
The Classic Red Lip
We don't see a future where classic red lips go out of fashion. The right way to achieve this celebrity look is to focus on accentuating your lips and keeping the rest of the face minimal. Give your lips a good scrub to plump them, moisturize and follow it up with a red lip liner to define the shape of your lips. Now go on with the perfect shade of red and finish your look with a slick of eyeliner, minimal concealer, and foundation.
We don't see a future where classic red lips go out of fashion. | Photo by Ina Garbé on Unsplash
No Makeup Look
Deepika Padukon is the perfect example of a no-makeup look. This natural beauty does a wonderful job of achieving the minimal soft look by softly cover any dark spots or blemishes and highlighting features she's most proud of. To achieve this start with concealer and use small dots to brighten your darker areas like under eye, corner of the nose or upper lip, and any visible spots, and set it up with loose powder. Apply a soft pink lipstick, light blush, and mascara.
Deepika Padukon is the perfect example of a no-makeup look | Wikimedia Commons
This look shouts pink. When it comes to rosy looks, Janhavi Kapoor does a phenomenal job. Everyone should try a rosy look once in a while. As we are focusing on only one shade, this look is pretty easy to achieve. Bring out your favourite pink lipstick, favourite pink blush, and a matching shade of eye shadow. Start with the base - concealer, and foundation and set it up with loose powder. Follow it up with eyeshadow, lipstick, and blush. Remember to draw a line by not using any pink mascara, eyeliner, or a bold shade of lipstick, as this is meant to be soft on the eyes.
When it comes to rosy looks, Janhavi Kapoor does a phenomenal job. | Wikimedia Commons
Glass Skin Makeup
The glass skin makeup is inspired by Korean skincare. This look is slightly complex with an equal focus on skin before makeup, so slather on those moisturizing serums and creams to prep your skin first. Start with a highlighting primer, keep your foundation and concealer minimal to avoid looking cakey. Follow it up with soft blush & nude lips and lots and lots of highlighter. Use the highlighter on the main points of your face, like upper cheekbones, the centre of the forehead, the tip of the nose, cupid bone, and chin. If you are feeling a bit extra, don't hesitate to put some on your shoulders and collar bones. This celebrity makeup look makes your skin glow without the need for a spotlight.
The glass skin makeup is inspired by Korean skincare. | Photo by 邱 严 on Unsplash
Pop It Up
Put a zing to your party look with the pop of funky colour. This look is meant to get you in the mood of partying all night. This works with your eye makeup while keeping the rest of the face minimal. Start with the base - concealer, apply a bit extra on your eyelids to make the colour pop. Don't mind going the extra mile and colour blocking your eyes with complementary colours on eyelids and under the eye. Apply nude lipstick and a soft blush to balance your look.
This look is meant to get you in the mood of partying all night. | Pixabay
(Article originally published by N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Celebrity, makeup, Deepika, Jhanavi, Korean, Red Lipstick, Glass Makeup, Pop makeup