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What is Tunisia’s ‘cultural cave’ and how is it helping local artists?

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What is Tunisia’s ‘cultural cave’ and how is it helping local artists?
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A natural cave filled with modern paintings and artwork installations is amongst Tunisia’s hidden cultural treasures.

Located in Tunisia’s Dahmani commune, an hour’s drive away from the capital Tunis, the ‘cultural cave’ was envisioned by Ammar, a painter who, in 1993, decided to use his life savings to turn a 30-meter-deep cave into a cultural hub.

Now aged 60, Ammar wishes to use the space to preserve the local artistic community.

Ammar explains the idea behind the ‘cultural cave’

“I wanted to protect my fellow artists so I created this cave as a refuge or shelter for them,” he explains. “I want to protect them from extinction - it’s an ironic expression, but it’s true.”

The art-filled cave attracts about five thousand visitors a year according to the regional commission of Tourism in Dahmani.

Ammar’s ‘cultural cave’ attracts visitors and artists looking for inspiration

The visitors are mostly Tunisians who are looking to explore this unique art gallery and also a nearby famed well, built around a Tunisian remake of Shakespeare’s epic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

This legend, known as ‘Maysar and Marconda’, is a well-known tale in the local community, based on a sorrowful love story.

Both the cultural and historical aspects of this setting inspire many regional artists in their creations, from painters, to authors and filmmakers.

Novelist Farouk Bahri finds Ammar's cave to be the ideal workspace to unleash his creativity.

“I came here with a friend for the weekend and I fell in love with the place and its atmosphere,” he says, “For 4 years I came most of the time in the weekends to spend time with Ammar and work for hours in this place”.

By bringing artists together in this space, Ammar aims to further develop creative expression in Dahmani, hoping that one day local creators will display their work on a global stage.

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