As I enter Arafet Ben Marzou’s new “office” at the top floor of an apartment building facing the lakes in Tunis, I am met with a very familiar feeling: that silicon valley, young brains, start-up feel. Only this time it is “ à la Tunisienne”, and I have to say, I prefer it.
Instead of leather armchairs there are traditional woven klims, the computer I see at the corner of the room is not an Apple, there are two open tents and two muddy bikes in the room, I can hear the Adhan (call to prayer), and I am not offered coke or coffee but a freshly made “citronnade”.
And so this is the office area where after his infamous yearlong cycle around the world, Arafet is cooking up a new project and has founded Exploralis. His vision and objective is to attract a “normal” citizen to review and experience social, environmental and cultural issues in Tunisia.
Arafet believes that “The process of attracting the normal citizen needs to generate a buzz and interest, which can be done by linking three factors: the environment , social and scientific with the media with adventure and passion,” he tells Green Prophet.
This recipe is the secret to Exploralis- a levitating initiative, which was baptized this month in its first adventure, a kayak crossing Tunisia’s biggest river: Medjerda.
This crossing was undertaken by Arafet and ornithologist-biodiversity expert Ridha Ouni where, for 17 days, water samples (analyzed by the mobile laboratory of the minister of the environment), interviews and visual documentation were collected all along the river.
The adventure was interspersed with meeting young students and government offcials with the objective of highlighting river related issues like pollution, social concerns for those dependent on Medjerda’s water and the local eco-tourism potential.
Exploralis’s aim is to create a documentary and scientific research behind every “adventure” as way to sensitize Tunisia on its socio-environmental assets (see trailer below).
With glimmering eyes Arafet gives hope for Tunisia’s eco-conscious future: “In my surrealist vision I see Exploralis as an organism that creates scientific research, documentation and curiosity while sharing beauty”.
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Images taken by Arafet Ben Merzou