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Ruins And Life Of Tunis

Posted on November 21, 2009 | Fascinating CitiesNo Comment



Being the capital city of the Tunisian Republic, Tunis also qualifies as the commercial and entertainment center of the country. Historical ruins, like that of Carthage, the museums in the city, the mosques and the median, all speak of the rich history of Tunis that can be traced back to the 2nd Millennium BC.

A number of mosques, mausoleums, medina and madarsas not only speak of the religious culture of the city, they also exemplify fine architectural styles.

Here are some prominent sites of Tunis

1.The Carthage

Originally a city of Phoenician trade, Carthage was ruined in 146 BC under the Romans and flourished again in under the rule of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and established itself as one of the great ports of the Roman Mediterranean.

It is centrally located on a peninsula and is a major religious site, which served as an early center of Christianity in about 200 AD and a number of churches and mosaics substantiate this. The ruins of temples here also show that the inhabitants of this place worshipped Gods like Tanit and Ba’al Hammon.

Among other things, the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre and the Antonine Baths, the largest of its kind built by Romans in the country are the highlights for tourists here.

For a bird-eye view of the Carthage city, get on to the Bysra hill close by and do visit the St Louis Cathedral on your way
up. The Cathedral was built by the French in 1890 to commemorate the 13th century Saint King who died in the city.  It is now used for public functions.

2.Museums in and around Tunis

Dar Ben Abdallah or the Musee du Partrimoine Traditionnel is a beautiful 17th century palace turned into a museum and is named after its former owner at Rue Sidi Kassem, a popular medina street. It is a folk music reflecting the medieval history of the Islamic world.

Dar Ben Abdallah Museum

The museum has two distinct sections – one depicting family life with main events and rituals and other to show city’s public life such as mosques, markets and cafes. Entrance made of rich ceramic panels among other things, the Room of childhood that exhibit costumes for the newborn, dolls etc, the Room of the 19th century that show the daily activities and costumes of women, The Room of Marriage, Room de I’homme, the open air kitchen and the portico at the entrance with a number of potteries wood and copper utensils etc on display complete the museum.

Another one, the National Bardo Museum converted to one in 1888, was originally a 13th century palace and served as the official residence of Husseinite. It is located in the west of the city center. The mosaic collections from the pre-historic, Punic, Roman, early Christian and Islamic periods are truly enchanting. While the Punic exhibits include Hannibal collections such as masks, amulets and jewellery, the Roman relics and statues from Carthage, Dougga and Soussa are also on display here. There is a room dedicated to fresco displays from across Tunisia and the world.

Apart from its collections, it also displays fine Arab-Muslim architecture.

3.Medina

Enlisted as a World Heritage Site since 1979, the medina is in the heart of Tunis and has about 700 monuments tunisia medinaincluding mosques, madrasas and hammams. The souks in its alleys and lanes make it a lively place. It covers about 677 acres of the city and marvelously exemplifies 10th – 18th century North African urban planning.  Getting lost is actually the way to discover the medina.

In the center of Medina is the Zitouna Mosque founded in 732 AD. The Place du Government or the present Prime Minister’s palace too is in medina and it used to be the Guest Palace of the 18th century Husseinid Beys. The Aziza Othman Hospital functioning since the 18th century too is worth a watch. Some 17th century medina houses you must take a look at include the house of Ibn Khaldun, and that of Dar Othman, pirate turned politician. Other sites to visit in medina are the Tourbet al-Bey and the Dar Ben Abdullah museum.

The Tourbet al-Bey is a magnificent 17th century mausoleum and is the largest in Tunis.

4.The 3 medersas of Tunis

The 3 medersas in medina include the Medersa Achouria, Medersa Bachia and Medersa Slimania. Medersa Achouria is the biggest of the three. Medersa Bachia built in 1752 by Ali Pasha also houses the tomb of Ali Pasha in its interior. Pillars and a green dome adorn the place. Medersa Slimania houses three adjacent Koranic schools and was again founded by Ali Pasha in 1756.

These medersas were constructed as accommodations for students and has a prayer room as well.

5.Colonial Houses in Tunis

The colonial houses of the city’s heart amidst the modern day buildings are reminiscence of the French colonial era.  The Ville Noueville or the new city is a French charm here. The national theatre on Avenue Bourguiba is a good example of Colonial Houses at Tunis.

Colonial Houses in Tunis

6.La Goulette port

The La Goulette port is a major trading center of the city with small houses, restaurants and other places. It is connected to the city by a canal that’s 10.5 kilometers long. It’s proximity to Lake Tunis and Gulf of Tunis makes it a well-known resort and is lined up with reasonably priced sea-food and other restaurants. Among other attractions of this place is the Kasbah fortress established in 1335 built by Charles I of Spain, which was later seized by the Ottoman Turks in the year 1574.

7.Zitouna Mosque

Zitouna Mosque or the Mosque of Olive Tree, in the medina is a landmark of the city and interestingly, was originally a site of a Christian monk. Covering over 5 000 square meters, it dates back to the 732 AD and many features were added to it in the mid 9th century and again in the 19th century. The minaret of the mosques stands 44 meters high. The courtyard too has impressive architecture. The galleries around the courtyard have unique religious records and paintings. It flourished as an Islamic University since the 13th century.

Other attractions of the city include the Habib Bourguiba avenue, a street lined with tress, banks, shops, restaurants and cafés along with the Grand Art Nouveau Municipal Theatre and the 19th century  Cathedral de St Vincent de Paul. A little away from the city is the French laid 18th century Belvedere Park with a lake and a small zoo as well.

zitouna mosque tunis

8.Excursions from Tunis

Some great places are worth making an excursion to from the city of Tunis such as Hammamet, Monastir, Nabeaul, Sfax and Sousee. Hammamet attracts tourists with its beaches, water sports, shopping centres and a good nightlife. The Roman ruins of Pupput, Sebastian’s villa and Sidi Bou Said are some of the historical sites here.

Monastir reflects fine architecture and tradition of the North African country of Tunisia. The grand cemetery, Bourguiba Mosque, Mausoleum and Ribat are some of the attractions of this place.

Nabeul in the north east of Tunisia is known for its Archaeological Museum, pottery work, ceramics, stone work and perfumes.

Sfax is an industrial hub and has attractions like museums and Kerkennah Islands.

Some major places of interests for tourists in Sousse are the Sousse Archaeological Museum, Sousse and Catacombs among others.

The city is pretty easy to get around by yourself, though the hotels and some of the tour operators here do arrange for guided tours in and around the city. The attractions in this picturesque town speak of a long and eventful past marked by different rulers like the Arab, Christians, French and Romans. To say it in simple words, the ruins of this city of Tunis are in fact the life of Tunis.

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