By Celine C. Erickson, AAFSW President
The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) and WtoW under the auspice of Her Excellency Hanene Tajouri Bessassi Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia hosted a special Tunisian cultural evening, on Friday, November 11, at the Tunisian Residence, in Washington, DC.
On this beautiful fall evening, Ambassador Bessassi, and her family, opened her home to over one hundred delighted AAFSA and WtoW’s members and guests. Appointed by President Saied as Tunisia’s envoy to the US in October 2021—only a few weeks after he dismissed her predecessor without explanation—Tajouri Bessassi is the first woman ever to run her country’s Washington embassy. On her first tour as the Ambassador of Tunisia to the United States, Ambassador Bessassi was delighted to host this cultural event giving the guests a unique opportunity to learn and appreciate the traditions and the gastronomy of this beautiful country.
Located in upper Northwest Washington, in a secluded wooded area, the residence’s architecture and furnishing felt as if we had been transported on a magic Tunisian carpet to the very country itself. The reception unfolded flawlessly starting guests mingling on the terrasse, enjoying the mild weather. Ambassador Bessassi then invited his friends, staff and guests to join her to the spacious reception area for an introduction and some background history of Tunisia.
Her Excellency thanked Sheila Switzer, AAFSW’s Program Chair for organizing this event. Then the Ambassador shared her love and respect for her country: “Tunisia is a nation characterized by exceptional tolerance and hospitality influenced by diverse neighboring civilizations over the centuries, including the Phoenician, Roman, Berber, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish, and French, which have all shaped the culture and character of Tunisians”.
Ambassador Bessassi reiterated how much her countrymen value the special relationship with the United States. The Tunisian American relations go back to the 18th century. The first bilateral agreement “of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation” was signed on 27 August 1797. Following the independence of Tunisia, the United States was, on 17 May 1956, the first big power to recognize the sovereignty of Tunisia. Her Excellency recognized the continued US partnership and international support for democracy, which she described as the “unique destiny of the Tunisian people.”
Afterwards, the guests sampled a sumptuous and authentic buffet dinner, carefully composed by her Excellency’s Chef Rachid, of Tunisian delicacies, including a delicious Couscous dinner, one of the staple foods of the Maghreb (western North Africa). A live performance of traditional Tunisian music followed, and guests danced the night away.”
We hope to see you all on December 16th for AAFSW’s Holiday Party!