Carthage really needs a day to explore but Sidi Bou Said is a great place to spend the later part of the afternoon walking around and enjoying a sunset meal above the marina. Both places are about 10 min a part on the Metro and 40 min or so from Tunis Marine Station.
Keep in mind the map of Carthage in the LP book is challenging (or crap as some Brits that we ran into there described it) but still usable. Carthage has about 6 stops on the Metro and 3rd or 4th are great places to get off and start exploring. We got off at Dermech but Hannibal (the next stop) will work as well
At the beginning of recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century BC. In the 6th century BC, Carthage rose to power, but it was conquered by Rome (2nd century BC), and the region became one of the granaries of Rome. It was held by the Vandals (5th century AD) and Byzantines (6th century). In the 7th century it was conquered by Arab Muslims, who founded Al Qayrawan. Successive Muslim dynasties ruled, interrupted by Berber rebellions. The reigns of the Aghlabids (9th century) and of the Zirids (from 972), Berber followers of the Fatimids, were especially prosperous. When the Zirids angered the Fatimids in Cairo (1050), the latter sent in the Banu Hilal to ravage Tunisia. The coasts were held briefly by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs of Morocco. They were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids (c.1230–1574), under whom Tunisia prospered. In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but these were recovered for Islam by the Ottoman Empire. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957. In the late 16th Century the coast became a pirate stronghold (see: Barbary States). It was made a French protectorate on May 12, 1881.
Located about half way along Avenue Habib Bourguiba stands this Clock Tower and fountains in the middle of a busy roundabout known as Place du 7 Novembre 1987. The "place" is named after President Zine el-Abidine ben Ali seized power in a bloodless coup from the elderly president and Tunisia's first ruler Habib Bourguiba.
This large garden is located just to the west of the Republique tram station to the north of Ville Nouvelle. The garden was built in 1957 and bears the name of Habib Thameur, a hero of the independence of Tunisia and politician. The garden was built on the site of an old Jewish cemetery which was moved to the Borgel neighbourhood.
This mosque, located a few hundred metres north of the Medina, was built in 1812 using imported Italian building materials like marble, columns and wrought iron railings. The end result was a building which does not look much different from a stylish palazzo. The minaret atop the mosque however, was not finished until 1970.
This building houses the tomb of Tunis' patron saint who saved the city after it was captured by Abu Yazd in AD 944. There were several women and children within the building when I visited and it looked as though I shouldn't have been there and indeed one woman sort of gestered that it could be women only to me so I walked out. Opposite is a mosque dedicated to the saint which was built in 1692.
The Ottoman sovereign Youssef Dey brought novelty to the religious life of Tunis by building this mosque in 1616. It was indeed the first mosque dedicated to the practice of the Muslim Hanefite rite of the Ottoman Turks, while the Arabic Tunis inhabitants used to practice the Muslim Malekite rite. It was also the first mosque in Tunis to possess an octagonal-shaped minaret. It was also the first one to be associated with the mausoleum of its founder, Youssef Dey, who was buried with his family in the shade of the mosque.
This is the blacksmiths street and is located at the southern end of the Medina near Bab Jedid. Here you can find metal workers and guys working looms by hand in small units lining both sides of this small street.
Othman Dey, who ruled from 1598 to 1610, built this magnificent palace in the early 17th century. It became a barracks warehouse in the 19th century and then the house of the Tunis Bey’s Prime Minister. This building is now listed as a historical monument and distinguishes itself by its Hafsid-style façade and its huge white and black marble entrance door. The interior features a nice courtyard garden. Entrance is free.
A Medersa is a school for the study of the Quran. There are several surrounding the Zaytuna Mosque in the Medina. This one has a narrow passageway entrance which I walked through and was met by a chap who showed me around. It was built in 1752 by Ali Pasha and now houses an artisans school.
The National Library or Bibliothèque nationale de Tunisie was built initially built as a barracks and prison in 1810 and is located in the Medina near the Zaytuna Mosque. The National Library was established in 1885 and was transferred here in 1910 and was raised to the status of National Library when Tunisia gained independence in 1956. It contains 23,000 manuscripts dating from the 10th century.
The Zaytuna Mosque (meaning 'olive tree') or Great Mosque lies at the centre of the Medina and was built in the 8th century by its founder, Hassan Ibn Nooman, a conqueror of Byzantine Carthage. The first mosque of this site was built in AD 734 but this was later rebuilt in the 9th century by the Aghlabids. In fact there an inscription still exists on the dome in front of the mihrab with the date of AD 864. The central prayer hall features some 184 columns from Roman Carthage while there are European influences dotted around the mosque in the form of brickwork. Originally, the mosque didn't have a minaret but instead had two towers in the corners before the present minaret was built in the 19th century. You're able to enter inside the mosque but only to view the courtyard.
Open: 8am - Noon Sat-Thur. Admission: TD2.
This statue is located outside the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul in Place de L'Independance and is dedicated to Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406). He was a social scientist, historian, economist, philospoher, statesman and Islamic scholar and is viewed as a father of modern economics. He was born in Tunis into an upper-class Andalusian family.
The wonderful looking Art Nouveau style National Theatre is located near the Cafe de Paris on the southern side of Avenue Habib Bourguiba. It was built in 1902 and is said to like a cake with icing sugar or a meringue due to its facade.
The old town of Kairouan has fascinated many artists. It derives from the tight network of little streets, passageways, archways and fluted cupolas with a mellow whiteness, all blending in beneath the protection of the Great Mosque with its majestic minaret.
The souqs are dedicated to commerce, divided up according to trades and are a constant buzz of activity. Close by in the silent little alleyways between long which walls interspersed with pale blue doors female silhouettes hurry past wrapped in immaculate veils, sometimes passing groups of happy shouting children. All around these historic neighbourhoods the light brick crenulated ramparts punctuated by towers and bastions, succeed in giving the old town the venerable appearance of standing outside of time.
Kairouan is a fascinating and welcoming secret of Tunisia and with that one of the jewels of Tunisian heritage. The former capita of the Aghlabid emirs nestles far from the shoreline in an austere region of steppes. The city is rich in historical memories and remarkable monuments.
The city is also the forth holiest Muslim sight in the Islamic world, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. A few years ago non-Muslims needed a special permit to visit Kairouan.
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