Tunisia’s president has become a surprise champion of Arabic calligraphy in his country, shining a light on the artistic tradition as Arab states lobby for its recognition by UNESCO.

President Kais Saied sparked both admiration and mockery on social media when images emerged of hand-written presidential letters on official paper not long after he took office in October last year.

An academic with a keen interest in the art form, Saied had studied with well-known Tunisian calligrapher Omar Jomni.

To prove that Saied had penned the documents himself, the presidency released a video showing him writing in a guest book.

The president “writes official correspondence in maghrebi script and private letters in diwani”, Jomni said, referring to two forms of Arabic calligraphy.

Maghrebi script is a form of the older, angular style of Kufic calligraphy, while diwani is a more ornamental Ottoman style popular for poetry.

The president’s “recognition” of

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