TUNIS, April 24 (Xinhua) -- China is helping Tunisia construct a building for its diplomatic academy under the Belt and Road Initiative's framework, and the project is exciting the head of the academy as the building's groundbreaking ceremony approaches.
"They are coming true. This project and my dream are both coming true," said Mondher Dhraief, director general of the Tunisian diplomatic academy.
The academy is affiliated to the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the 22-year-old institution is still housed in rented offices in the capital city of Tunis, and offers only simple facilities.
"We have always been wishing to construct a new building for our academy," Dhraief told Xinhua.
In February 2018, China and Tunisia inked an agreement to construct a new building for the academy. Five months later, a team of designers from the Shanghai-based East China Urban Architectural Design & Research Institute (UDI) went to Tunisia for a trip. They also brought with them two draft plans.
But neither of the plans satisfied the Tunisian side, said Sun Xiaoheng, who led the team.
"Our initial plan was to build a neat and simple complex with traditional Tunisian architectural elements," said Sun, noting that the blueprint was for a relatively low-rise complex.
The Tunisian side, however, preferred a more futuristic style, hoping that the auditorium, the core part of the complex, could be massive and tall.
Several rounds of negotiations were held and modifications were made.
"When we were in Tunisia, the designers kept working, and our colleagues in Shanghai provided us with technical support despite the time difference," said Sun, a senior architect with the UDI who has been in the profession for over 10 years.
The Tunisian representatives and architects also worked day and night -- even during Eid al-Adha, a holy Muslim holiday. Mondher Gharssallah, director of buildings of the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, even drew drafts himself to better express the Tunisian side's idea.
The two sides finally decided to put the auditorium in the front part of the complex and add a dome above it. By making its entrance and exit embrace the city streets directly, the auditorium will welcome guests through an open gate, said Sun.
The final design is a perfect assimilation.
"It reflects the mutual wills, the Tunisian will to build and the Chinese will to help," said Dhraief.
The diplomatic academy, to be built near the headquarters of the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will have five floors and an underground car park.
The complex, covering an area of 2 hectares, will upgrade the academy's teaching environment and provide venues for diplomatic activities.
"This project is very important given its role in training Tunisian diplomatic talents with international standards," Dhraief told Xinhua in an earlier interview.
It is also expected to offer training opportunities for diplomats from Arab and African countries.
The DUI and its mother company Arcplus Group have been participating in several international construction projects under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative in countries like Kuwait, India, Trinidad and Tobago and Finland.
The groundbreaking ceremony is slated for May 3, Diplomatic Day in Tunisia. The construction of the complex is expected to take about two years.