To mark the end of 2012, a somewhat bumpy year for Tunisia’s political transition, the Tunisian Ministry of Finance organized a spectacular event: a public auction and sale of goods and trinkets nationalized from Ben Ali’s private palace in Sidi Dhrif, a palatial home overlooking the Bay of Tunis and the idyllic sea side town of Sidi Bou Said. Simply named Confiscation, the event was widely advertised around Tunisia with a website showcasing objects to be sold off to Tunisia’s public beginning on 23 December 2012. To display the confiscated objects ranging from interior décor, a luxury car collection, and designer clothing, handbags and shoes formerly worn by Tunisia’s notorious former first lady, Leila Trabelsi, the organizers opted for the Espace Cléopâtra in the wealthy touristic zone of Gammarth in Northern Tunis. Those interested in viewing the confiscated collection or purchasing luxury ex-dictatorial paraphernalia are required to purchase tickets online, at thirty Tunisian dinars (approximately twenty U.S. dollars), or just below ten percent of an average monthly Tunisian salary.
Additionally, visitors must purchase tickets by Tunisian credit card, a payment method exclusive to Tunisia’s upper income brackets. The venue itself mirrored the goods displayed – an ostentatious and gaudy exhibition hall adorned with hieroglyphs, embellished with golden representations of pharaonic Egypt. The exhibition was divided into four sections: (1) Ben Ali’s and Sakhr El Materi’s extravagant luxury car and boat collection constituting the entrance, (2) flashy home décor including gold, silver, and crystal statues along with Ben Ali’s and Leila Trabelsi’s exclusive jewelry, (3) finely woven silk carpets and traditionally crafted Tunisian furniture, and (4) Leila’s dazzling designer fashion collection resembling Saks 5th Avenue’s first floor in NYC. Confiscation was indeed awesome, not only for its utmost bizarreexposition, but also for the diverse sentiments and critiques the event attracted from Tunisian citizens.