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Zaitounah Museum new addition to Tunisian heritage

KUN0012 4 GEN 0378 KUWAIT /KUNA-LJK7 CUL-TUNISIA-MUSEUM Zaitounah Museum new addition to Tunisian heritage By Naceur M'tir SOUSSE, Tunisia, July 12 (KUNA) -- The Zaitounah (olive) Museum which was opened recently in the eastern city of Sousse is considered a new addition to the Tunisian cultural heritage due to the pivotal role the olive tree plays in the lives of Tunisians and the population of the Medieterranean region. The two-storey building is bulit accoring to the ancient Islamic architecture and depicts the various historic stages through which the olive tree has gone in Tunisia thousands of years ago. Visitors of the museum will see life-size photos and designs of people and tools used in the planting of olive trees, harvesting, cleaning and storage of olives before extracting oil from it. The museum, the first of its kind, also shows visitors a complete picture of the role of olive oil and its daily uses, be that in diets or in treatment. On motives behind establishing this museum, its rector Aly Gadira told KUNA that the oilve tree is not only a source of economic wealth, but also a symbol of peace and vital part of the Tunisian society since ancient times. Gadira said that it also aims at preserving the heritage of this "blessed" tree for future generations, noting that this tree remained steadfast before the various civilizations which ruled Tunisia over some 3000 years like the Berbers, Phoenicians, Byzantines, Arabs, Spaniards and Turks. He said that the most ancient documented sources available report that the olive tree was brought into Palestine from Armenia 4000 BC and then taken by the Phoenicians to Greece and later to North Africa, particularly Tunisia. Since the ancient times, olive oil was the choice of the elite and notables in Tunisia and other countries of the region. It was used in religious rituals, as a massage oil, producing perfumes and for other medical purposes. According to the latest figures, there are an estimated 55 million olive trees stretching from the country's north to south and covering an area of nearly 1.6 million hectares or 30 percent of Tunisia's farmlands. Tunisia is the world's second largest producer and exporter of olive oil after EU states, mainly Italy and Spain. (end) nm.aj KUNA 121133 Jul 04NNNN