Tunis Medina (World Heritage)

The richest city in the Islamic world from the 12th to the 16th centuries still has around 700 listed buildings. These include the Great Mosque Djama es-Situna from the 8th century as well as the El-Ksar Mosque, the Sidi-Jusef Mosque, which was groundbreaking for later Turkish mosques with its octagonal, green-tiled minaret, as well as the palaces of the Bey Hammouda and Dar Husain.

Tunis Medina: Facts

Official title: Medina of Tunis
Cultural monument Old town, i.a. with the olive tree mosque with the minaret raised to 44 m in the 19th century, with the El Ksar mosque, the Sidi Youssef mosque (1616) together with Medersa, the grave mosque for Sidi Mahrez, the patron saint of Tunis, with the saint Cross Church (1662), the four-aisled dyers mosque in the dyers quarter and the palaces of Bey Hammouda and Dar Hussein
continent Africa
country Tunisia
location Tunis, 10 km from the Mediterranean Sea
appointment 1979
meaning the richest city in the Islamic world between the 12th and 16th centuries with 700 monuments worth seeing

Medina of Tunis: history

698 Conquest of Carthage by troops of Hassan ben Nomane, rise of Tunis and beginning of Islamization
732 first mention of the olive tree mosque (Djama Es-Zitouna)
894 Residence of the Aghlabid Ibrahim II.
1270 Siege by troops of Louis the Saint
1276 Construction of a new city wall and the New Gate (Bab el-Djedid)
1535 Entry of Charles V
1574-1705 Turkish rule and construction of the Hammouda Pasha mosque
1881-1957 Rule of the French colonial power

Pearl of the Orient

When the young painter August Macke visited the medina of Tunisia’s capital with his friends Paul Klee and Louis Moillet during his “Tunis trip” in 1914, he was so fascinated that he described it in his diary as the “corporeality of the fairy tale”. From the roof terrace of the traditional Café Mrabet in the middle of the Turkish souk there is a wonderful view of this “fairy tale”, which with its mosques, mausoleums, souks, palaces, houses and madrasas is one of the most beautiful oriental old towns in the country – and it is also the largest. The gleaming, green-tiled minaret of the Sidi Youssef Mosque and the elegant octagonal minaret of the Hammouda Pasha Mosque from the 17th century are great eye-catchers in the sea of ​​houses. Century and the minaret of the El-Ksar Mosque crowned with a lantern top and four golden spheres. In the north-east of the medina, the venerable olive tree mosque, founded in 732 and expanded into a university complex between the 13th and 15th centuries, has its sky-high appearance. According to legend, it owes its name to a miraculous olive tree that is said to have once stood here. The house of God is the religious center of Islamic Tunis and, after the Sidi Okba Mosque in Kairouan, the holiest place in Tunisia according to itypeusa. Admittedly, “infidels” are not allowed to enter the prayer room with its forest of 184 columns, but its arcaded courtyard alone, with arches resting on marble columns from Carthage, is worth a visit. During the French colonial era, the imposing city wall that once enclosed the medina was torn down.

Anyone who lets themselves into the market and business district of the medina with all their senses, this dim labyrinth of intersecting, meandering and intertwining souks, which is partly covered by brick vaults, believes that you have lost your way in a buzzing beehive. The souks are a mixture of colors, smells and sounds of the Orient. Even though a large part of the range of goods is now heavily geared towards tourists, you will find traditional artisan alleys, especially around the olive tree mosque, separated into individual “traditional” trades: the Souk ech-Chechia, where men with crossed legs are relaxed and devoted to customers wait for their red felt caps; the Souk el-Attarine, the realm of the spice and perfume merchants with the scents of musk, rose ambra, cloves and incense; the Souk el-Berka, the former slave market with the glittering, filigree goods of artful goldsmiths. The stone faces of many houses in the medina, whose architecture, following Islamic tradition, conforms to its own set of rules, appear repellent and uninviting. For example, the entrance, which is set back from the street to a dead end, and the bent corridor behind the thick, brass-studded doors are supposed to prevent strangers from catching a glimpse of the private area. If you want to convince yourself of how lavishly decorated and playful, how light and airy it can look inside an Arab town house, your curiosity will be satisfied in the folklore museum, the Dar Ben Abdallah from 1796.

The graceful garden of the old Dar Othman palace from the 17th century is a welcome oasis to pause and relax. Nearby is the Tourbet el-Bey, the sandstone, domed mausoleum of the Husseinite princes with a lush, colorful marble lining, which is probably owed to Italian artisans. The sarcophagi of the Beys – recognizable by the stone turbans at the head end – are, by the way, far more magnificent than those of their wives.

Tunis Medina (World Heritage)