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Mantecan strengthens ties between Tunisia, US

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Mantecan strengthens ties between Tunisia, US

Sami Guedoir – who has owned Century Furniture on the corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street for nearly 15 years – shows the proclamation he received from the Manteca City Council ea...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED March 6, 2009 4:53 a.m.
Sami Guedoir knows all about the benefits of cultural outreach.

As the chairman of the advisory board for the non-profit Tunisian Community Center, Guedoir – who has owned Century Furniture on the corner of Yosemite and Main Streets – has seen first-hand what can happen when the perceived differences between two communities erode away.

And he’s taken a little bit of Manteca with him back to his Tunisian hometown of Mahares for that very reason.

When renowned muralist David S. Gordon was in town painting the city’s first mural on the side of Century Furniture, Guedoir got the opportunity to build a relationship that would soon span the length of the world – inviting him back to commission a work for the city’s 16th annual International Festival of the Arts.

The Manteca City Council honored his work in the field earlier this week when they issued a proclamation recognizing Tunisian-American Day on May  7.

“That’s really what cultural outreach is all about,” Guedoir said of having the opportunity to share the beauty of the mural that adorns his business with the town of his youth. “It tells me that the world is very small, and if you forget the barrier, it’s really possible for us to live together in peace and harmony.”

Situated at the top of Africa only 80 miles away from Italy, Tunisia has been the center of many different cultures over its 3,000-plus year history. From the ancient city of Carthage to its large role as a staging area during the Second World War – and home to the defeat of “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel – the country has a long and interesting history, and attracts almost seven million tourists every year.

Through his work with the Tunisian Community Center, Guedoir is able to see programs like the Study-In-Tunisia Scholarship that sent Clemson student Grace Benton to spend a portion of her summer studying in what was a completely foreign land.

“Despite the cultural divide that, prior to going to Tunisia, seemed insurmountable to me, I was astounded how similar we all can be as global citizens – as human beings,” Benton wrote of her experiences.

In May, Guedoir will fly back to New York to attend the presentation of the Ibn Khaldun Award – the recipient of which best embodies the spirit of bridging the cultural gap between Tunisia and America – at Columbia University in New York. The event is centered on Tunisian-American Day.

After that he’ll return back to Manteca where he’ll go back to work in a place that he loves.

With almost 15 years of business ownership under his belt, Guedoir has become engrained in the fabric of the community and loves just about everything about where he lives – a city he described as “inclusionary and supportive.”

And while he has postcards from his native country lining the walls around his desk portraying the ancient ruins, sandy beaches, and desert oasis scenes that are abundant in the country, he also has an American flag sitting right in front of him as a constant reminder to the two places he loves most.

“Owning your own business – that’s really the biggest part of the American dream,” Guedoir said – adding home ownership into the category as well. “It also adds the responsibility to become an active member of the community.”

Guedoir lives in Manteca with his wife Nadia and their three boys – Amir, Anis, and Adib.
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