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Tunisia

Tunis, the medina et the suuqs

Porte de France

At the end of the Avenue Habib Bourguiba and the colonial quarter, enter the medina through Bab el bahr ( meaning 'Gate to the sea' in Arabic), also called 'Porte de France'.

In this labyrinth of suuqs and mosques, leave the main streets and their traps for tourists to discover one of the Arab world's most beautiful medina: muezzin's prayers, mausoleums with magnificent stucco and ceramics, hot springs or hammam, archways...

The stunning architecture mixes Turkish, Andalusian, and European influences.

Minaret of the main mosque

 

 

 

In the heart of the medina, the main mosque, the Zitouna ( olive tree in Arabic) shelters real treasures. Its yard can be visited every morning, except fridays. 

 

 

 

dome of the main mosque

You may visit the terraces of most shops, overlooking the minarets and the roofs of the medina and the lake of Tunis.

Merchands will display their carpets while you get down but it is worth a few minutes of patience! Anyway, purchase is by no means compulsory...

Have a rest in Café M'Rabat and its twisted red and green columns. It is a cool and peaceful place amidst the bustle of the suuq.

 

Café M'Rabet

There are at least 10 suuqs divided into trades and arranged around the main mosque: the most noble such as perfumes, wools, cloth and fabrics or jewells are located near it.

Further away, dyeing, copper works and oriental slippers can be found. What a perfectly planned chaos!

In the old days, heavy doors shut the quarters of the medina in the evening as a safety measure for Tunis'inhabitants.

Suuq of Tunis

The suuq is heaven for people who enjoy haggling.

Yet be careful, stallholders are master bargainers! If you want to know the right price for ceramics or a jewell, visit first the shops of the colonial town, or drop in on the antiquary's shop of Ed-Dar museum.

He arranged an outstanding house dating back to the 15th century.

Magnificent pieces of earthenware are on display and the view from the terrace is really breathtaking

The making of « red hats»

Artisan de chéchia

The Chechias, these red hats so typical of Tunisia, come from the West.

In the 17th century, migrants from Andalucia introduced this craft in Tunis.

For centuries, the Tunisian capital has exported these woollen hats more or less everywhere in the Muslim Mediterranean countries : Turkey, Egypt, Balkan countries...

In the 18th century, the Tunisian chechia was a real industry employing as many people as 15 000 workers, producing nearly half a million hats.

Chechias were originally used as a means to hold the turban. It wasn't necessarily red. Each country had its own colour. Libyans for instance liked it black. It is well known that Tunisians prefer red hats.

Nowadays, Tunisian men still wear the chechia for special events, together with European clothes. As to civil servants, it is compulsory for them to wear it on the 16th of March, Traditions Celebration day.

This provides good reasons for satisfaction to the producers of the red hats, the"chaouachis"! The Chechia suuq is one of the most genuine of Tunis. If you are lucky, you could see the "chaouachis" at work!

Fabio Benedetti-Valentini © Azurever.com 

 

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