Salah Hannachi

by Vivienne Kenrick

From April 19 to 25 the Hilton Hotel Tokyo is hosting a culture and food promotion evocatively themed “Breeze From Tunisia.” Chefs from Hilton Tunis are presenting authentic Tunisian cuisine. At a gala luncheon April 22 a raffle will be held for tickets for the Japan-Tunisia World Cup match, and for airline tickets to Tunisia. The gala dinner April 22 will feature a spectacular jewelry fashion show produced by the eminent jewelry designer Kazuo Ogawa.

The Embassy of Tunisia is co-organizing the gala dinner. Ambassador Salah Hannachi said: “It was Tunisia who suggested that Japan and South Korea jointly host the soccer World Cup 2002 finals. What may have seemed like Solomon’s solution has become the symbol of an important reconciliation between two great East Asian nations, both good friends of Tunisia. We are proud to have contributed this symbol.”

Hannachi is very well-rounded in his interests and activities. As a boy at school in Tunisia, he favored mathematics. He took his degree in mathematics at the University of Tunis, and taught the subject for a year at a technical school. “Then,” he said, “it seemed to me that the U.S. was the place to know, the place I was looking for.” He went to Indiana University to gain his master’s degree in business administration. At Indiana he met Lynn, a French-language scholar.

Hannachi returned to the blue-and-white city of Tunis on the Mediterranean to become an assistant professor at the university. Six crucial years in New York followed. He earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University. He became adviser to Forbes magazine and to the Latin and Northern America Business Council. He became adviser to and instructor in the training programs of different high-level banks. He and Lynn married, and their son, Iskander, was born. Their daughter, Rym, was born later, in Tunisia after the family moved there expecting to stay.

For the next period, Hannachi realized his intentions of making his career as a university professor. Gradually, as his name became known and his merit recognized, government departments called him away. The Agency for the Promotion of Industry of Tunisia made him its general manager. He was named the government’s deputy minister for international cooperation and external investment. He directed the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies, and presided over ATLAS, a nongovernment organization for rural and urban development. In 1997 he was named ambassador to Japan, and in the following year to Australia additionally. For the last two years he has been honorary adviser to the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia.

However his associations change, Hannachi expects to continue his hobbies of walking, swimming, music, reading, history and art. Because of Japan, he has added to this list at least soccer and noh. He pounced on the opportunities offered by World Cup 2002. He said: “We are holding many cultural events in as many places in Japan as possible. The first is a cultural week in Tokyo. As well as the fashion show and Tunisian menus with wines, the week includes exhibitions of photographs and Tunisian artifacts, performances of vivid folk dances that recall the desert, hand painting commonly used by Berber women, and an aromatherapy seminar introducing Tunisian fragrances. At the gala dinner a Japanese music group will play a mix of traditional Japanese music and Arabic music. Preceding the dinner, at which Prince and Princess Takamado will be honored guests, there will be a noh sketch.”

The performance of the noh sketch is coproduced by noh master Naohiko Umewaka and the imaginative ambassador, Hannachi. Hannachi said: “The play concerns an encounter between a historical Japanese scholar and the Carthaginian general Hannibal, on the site of his first major battle after Hannibal crossed the Alps in 218 B.C. Umewaka will wear a costume designed by Hanae Mori and on loan from her. He will also wear a Tunisian-inspired piece of jewelry designed especially for this noh sketch by Kazuo Ogawa.”

Hannachi sees beyond the World Cup soccer matches. He said: “The World Cup should be a total sports event with lasting, sustainable effects. Since Tunisia qualified to play in the World Cup 2002, and was drawn to play the Japanese team in Japan, our job is made easier of making Tunisia known to the Japanese people, and Japan better known to the Tunisian people.”