Medina of Tunis
The Medina of Tunis was one of the most important Islamic cities. It contains some 700 monuments, including palaces, mosques, mausoleums, madrasas and fountains dating from the Almohad and the Hafsid periods.
These ancient buildings include:
- The Great Mosque (including the Muslim University and library)
- Aghlabid Ez-Zitouna Mosque ("Mosque of the Olive") built in 723 by Obeid Allah Ibn-al-Habhab to celebrate the new capital.
- The Dar-al-Bey, or Bey's Palace, comprises architecture and decoration from many different styles and periods and is believed to stand on the remains of a Roman theatre as well as the tenth century palace of Ziadib-Allah II al Aghlab.
With an area of 270 hectares (over 29 hectares for the Kasbah) and more than 100,000 people, the Medina comprises one-tenth of the population of Tunis.
The old town of Tunis is one of the best medinas one can visit in the whole Arab world - and certainly one of the most accessible. It may not be overly spectacular, but it gives you a good impression of Arab history and culture - and it is definitely cleaner than, say, Cairo. A nice cup of tea and some haggling in the bazaar make for an enjoyable day.
The Medina of Tunis is perhaps the best Medina in the country, whilst the sites are nothing spectacular, and you can walk straight past them if you do not keep an eye out!, but the atmosphere of the labyrinthine streets is great!
The main way through is just an endless stream of shop keepers trying to sell you souvenirs, but if you duck off down some side alleys and get to some other markets you will start to see more of the real Tunis. It takes some time to really get acclimatised to Medina life but once you do it is great!
The central mosque I found to be a little disappointing especially as, not being a Muslim I had to pay just to walk through the gate to a very small viewing area to see a courtyard that was being renovated.
The best thing to do is just to get in and wander aimlessly, buy things from the vendors; especially the Barbary Figs (Prickly Pears!) they are sold on carts the whole way around the medina and they cost 100mils. (About ,08 € cents) and they even get peeled for you, go into a tea room and just sit with the locals who are ridiculously friendly, then go off and barter for some souvenirs.
Tip: if you want some roof top views many of the shops have terraces which you can go up to but don’t expect to get away to quickly when you come down to quickly as you will at least have to look at the carpets and pipes (at special price for you because they like you) or alternatively use a camera in front of the main mosque and within a few moments you will have some one showing you around with a few stops at their ‘brothers’ perfume shops, It is all part of the fun though!
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Full name: Medina of Tunis
1979 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 19 connections. Show all
- Ottoman Empire
- Republic of Genoa
- Sieges and Battles During the 8th Crusade (1270)
- Slavery The "Souk el Berka" was the site of the Tunis Slave Market which sold the (white) Christian victims of Barbary Coast Piracy. This didn't cease until the mid 19th Century. It is estimated that from the 16th Century over 1 million Europeans, mainly from the Mediterranean, but also from as far north as Ireland and Iceland were captured by the Barbary Pirates and sold into slavery in N Africa/Ottoman empire
- The Crusades
- Umayyad Caliphate Great (Olive Tree) Mosque of Tunis
- Ibn Khaldun Born and educated in Tunis and started working as a calligrapher for the ruler c1350. Tunis has erected a statue commemorating this "son of the city" but situated outside the medina in the Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
Religion and Belief
- Mosque The Great Mosque and the Aghlabid Ez-Zitouna Mosque ("Mosque of the Olive"), built in 723
- Built in the 10th century "Criterion (iii): As an important city and the capital of different dynasties (from the Banu Khurassan, to the Husseinits), the Medina of Tunis bears outstanding witness to the civilizations of Ifriqiya (essentially from the 10th century)." (OUV statement 2010)
WHS on Other Lists
- U.S. Ambassadors Fund Preservation of the Photographic Collections of the Association for the Protection of the Medina of Tunis (2005), Restoration of the 19th-Century Ben Moussa Kuttab in the Medina of Tunis (2005)
World Heritage Process
- Minor modifications after inscription 2010 - buffer zone