Medina of Sousse
The Medina of Sousse is the most important example of military coastal architecture from the early period of Islam.
The city flourished from the 9th century, and the oldest buildings in the historic center such as the Ribat, the Bu Fatata Mosque and the Great Mosque date from this period. They show examples of Islamic art and construction techniques in its first period. Its ribat is the oldest and most typical of this type of fortifications that were constructed along the North African coastline. They combined military and religious functions.
Community Perspective: this medina attracts lots of tourists because of its location next to the holiday resort stretch of the Tunisian coast, resulting in a less genuine experience. The Archaeological Museum (Kasbah) with a vast display of mosaics is recommended for a visit.
Map of Medina of SousseLoad map
The Medina of Sousse is a beautiful example of a walled ancient city core (a medina) which characteristics are the narrow streets. There are beautiful, mainly blue with some yellow, coloured houses which reminded me a bit of the Spanish colonial houses I saw in Diamantina, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Completely different of course but somehow it reminded me.
I visited the archaeological museum first because it has the famous mosaic with the Medusa head. When I entered Sousse through the gate I walked straight down towards the souks. To my surprise most shops where closed, it was a Friday! Good or bad? To photograph the streets, it was perfect as it wasn’t crowded with just a few cats roaming the alleys. Of course, it means I didn’t really get the feeling of what’s happening during the working days. I simply followed the designated walking route with some detours here and there to just look in the alleys. Don’t forget the Dar Essid Museum and continue to the Ribat and the Grand Mosque.
I think I loved my extensive visit on Friday; half a day is enough. What I have read is very touristic every other single day. I also visited Sfax, which is bustling in an authentic way without tourists.
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Visit: April 2018. Sousse was certainly less touristy than I expected it to be, considering its position right in the all inclusive holiday zone of Tunisia. I assume it gets its fair share of tourists during high season, but mostly in form of tour groups. As individual travellers me and my son were the only western tourists during our morning visit. The highlights were the town wall and the fort (Riba) where you can climb all the towers to get a good view. I also enjoyed the Archaeological Museum (Kasbah) with a vast display of mosaics and the rather clean narrow streets of the old town. No hassling was going on, but this might have been caused by our (too) early arrival. I certainly liked Sousse more than the nearby boring Kairouan. Depending on how much you are interested in Arab cities, allow 3-5 hours to get a good overview.
I parked for free, close to the town walls. Parking anyway never turned out to be a a big problem in Tunisia, you just have to be a bit creative and leave you car where others do the same.
The town is close to the A1, so it’s easy accessed from Tunis. You might consider the area as a hub anyway as there are loads of hotels and 2 other WHS within easy reach.
Sousse is an important port and tourist centre on the central Tunisian coast. Its old town and fortress are very nice to explore, although I'm not sure they are so exceptional that they belong on the WH list. Maybe they are representative examples of architectural styles.
The Medina in Sousse is perhaps the nicest in the country to look at, and a cool feeling is given off by the white washed walls and blue medina doors. The Medina has more tourists than the other sites on the WHC list as it is next to the holiday resort stretch of the Tunisian coast, and this does mean that the atmosphere in the medina is not as genuine as in some of the other cities in the country and the quest for tourist money seems to have a more negative effect on shop owners!, but as any traveller knows that if you just go to some parts off the beaten track you will find a much more genuine picture of medina life.
The Ribat offers great views of the Medina especially the Mosque, and the Kasbah perched at the top of the medina has some stunning mosaics and you get a good look at perhaps the best Medina walls in the country!
Sousse is an easy place to visit due to it also being a beach resort and provides a great base to see some of the other UNESCO sites such as Kairouan and the Amphitheatre at El- Jem, also worth a trip is Monastir where the Ribat is stunning and doubles as Jerusalem in many films such as "Life of Brian"!
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