Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, has a compact and easy to explore the centre on foot, with many shops and markets.
Perhaps the best known and most visited by tourists is the Bardo Museum, which contains the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics. Along Habib Bourguiba Avenue you will find cafes and restaurants in a continental style.
The history of Tunis dates back to the early years of Carthage and begins to appear on Roman maps during the First Punic War. It was destroyed later in 146 BC and rebuilt by the remaining Romans. However, Tunis only began to matter with the arrival of the first Arabs in the 7th century.
Hassan ibn Numan thought the city had a good defensive position and decided to develop the site by erecting the Medina on a high bank next to the salt lake. The Great Mosque, which was the most significant construction on the site, took place in 732 AD.
Since then Tunis has become one of the main scientific, cultural and religious centers of North Africa.
It became an Arab metropolis in the Hafcida dynasty (1228-1574) with trade flourishing between Europe and Africa, and in the 13th century, the Hafcidas made the city their capital. Fortifications were then erected by the Ottoman Turks (1580-1705) as well as numerous mosques and palaces.
By the 19th century the population became too numerous to remain within the city walls and the French drained part of the surrounding marshland to expand the city.
European architecture became evident in this new part of the city with wide avenues coexisting two worlds where on one side the district is almost unchanged from medieval times, and on the other a modern continental style metropolis.
The western part of Tunis is occupied by the Medina full of old palaces, mosques and souks. To the east, where Ville Nouvelle is located, you’ll find the National Theatre, Art Deco houses, cinemas, a train station, cafes and bustling bars.
The old Medina of Tunis with more than a thousand years of life is classified by UNESCO as World Heritage and consists of narrow alleys, mosques, oriental markets and courtyards with mysterious and colorful entrances that give access to old palaces and wealthy houses.
Bab el-Bahr marks the symbolic border between the old and new quarter of Tunis and the Ville Nouvelle, built by the French during the colonial era. This arch that stands on Place de la Victorie was once the eastern entrance to the wall surrounding Medina.
Bab el-Bahr means “Gate of the Sea” in Arabic and owes its name to its proximity to the sea. In the 19th century, the waters next to Tunis almost hit the walls of the Medina, but today the banks are about 1.5 km away as the French drained much of the land so that the city could expand.
As Ville Nouvelle thrived, Bab el-Bahr became the link between the two worlds and a symbol of progress and the new era. When the French stayed in Tunis, they called it the French Gate, but after Tunisia regained its independence the name returned to the original.
Situated near Tunis, the Bardo Museum is now in what was an old palace belonging to the Hussainid Beis.
This museum has a huge collection of Roman mosaics dating from the 2nd-4th centuries AD that adorned the homes of the wealthiest citizens of Roman Africa. In addition to priceless mosaics, there are also numerous items from other periods such as tiles, masked funerary ponics, Greek bronze statues, and Islamic tiles.
The Great Souk
The souk is a place where people go shopping, negotiate and meet friends. According to Muslim tradition, trade is the sweetest of occupations. The medieval Arab scholar Algazel considered trade to be a preparation for the rewards of the next world.
The Medina of Tunis has over twenty souks. The largest is contiguous to the Great Mosque forming a huge colorful and lively market. Two terms with the meaning “market” compete with each other in the Muslim world: bazaar (Persian) and souk (Arabic).
For centuries the souks have had a distinctive and cohesive character, based on the traditions of the Eastern and Mediterranean nations, with clearly identified locations for the various goods. From the beginning, this was a place where goods were exchanged and financial transactions were carried out, is also the center of social life.
Location of Tunis, Tunisia
Google Maps Coordinates: 36.790904,10.190770 | Tunis on Google Maps
GPS Coordinates: 36°47’27.3″N 10°11’26.8″E
Bab el Bahr, also known as “Port de France”, “Sea Gate” or “Sea Door” in Tunis
Google Maps Coordinates: 36.799105,10.175491 | Bab el Bahr on Google Maps
GPS Coordinates: 36°47’56.8″N 10°10’31.8″E
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