The Central Market is a large covered market, located in the middle of downtown. Swarms of city-dwellers browse at the stands of meats, fish, and fruits & vegetables. Its surroundings are also full of food shops and life. If you are in the area, it will give you the opportunity to share the daily life of the people of Tunis, to grab spices and olives and to discover a building which is part of the commercial heritage of Tunis. Historically named Fondouk El Ghalla (the fruits caravanserai), it was built in 1891 and has just undergone extensive renovations. The Association de Sauvegarde de la Médina (the Association for the Preservation of the Medina) took part in the renovation of the central wooden market.
Various cultural events take place at the Acropolium of Carthage, settled in the former site of the Cathedral Saint-Louis which also hosted the Pères Blancs (White Fathers) missionaries until 1956. The French built the cathedral in 1884 and it was heavily renovated and restored in 1995. The cathedral was erected in tribute to French king Louis IX or "Saint Louis" who died in Carthage in 1270 while on a quest to rally the Hafsid ruler of Tunis to the cause of the Crusades and eventually fight in Egypt. But he died from an epidemic of dysentery before carrying out those plans. This big monument (60 x 30m) is in the Moorish-Byzantine style and stands on the Colline de Byrsa (Byrsa Hill), the birthplace of the Punic Carthage. The Octobre Musical festival takes place here every year, along with concerts of different kinds of music (jazz, Tunisian music) and rotating exhibits.
Dedicated to the eponymous saint, Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Paul was completed in 1897 and is a stunning historic edifice. A unique aspect of the building is its mix of Gothic, Moorish and Neo-Byzantine architectural styles. Some of the cathedral's highlights include the stained glass windows dating back to 1901 and the beautiful ceiling frescoes.
One of the most superlative mosques in the country, Al Zaytouna is an architectural marvel. Spread over an area of 5,000 square meters (1.2 acres), the mosque’s origins can be traced back to the 7th Century CE. The oldest mosque in the city, it was a prominent university for Islamic studies with illustrious alumni of scholars and poets like Ibn Arafa and Imam Mazari. The Arab sociologist and historian Ibn Khaldoun notably taught there in the 14th century. Inspired by the Great Mosque of Kairouan, it was remodeled several times over the centuries by the dynasties reigning in the city. While the great dome on the entrance of the prayer hall was built in the 10th century under the Zirid dynasty, the cisterns were brought by the Hafsids in the 13th century. The three-column gallery in the courtyard dates from the 17th century (the Ottoman period). During the 19th century, the Minaret (the mosque's main tower) was raised to reach 144 feet (44 meters) and remained the highest point in this city. The prayer hall, ornamented with 185 marble and granite columns, can accommodate up to 2000 people.
This gate is the classic starting point for visits to the Medina. Before the creation of the new city during the French Protectorate, a door in the rampart of the Medina opened to the lagoon, hence its name, Bab El Bhar meaning the door of the sea. The French tore it down in 1848 and built this little Triumphal arch named Porte de France (the French door), as the filling of the lagoon marked the beginning of the construction of the colonial city, between the medina and the Lake of Tunis. It recovered its original name in tribute to the end of the exile of Habib Bourguiba in 1955. During the Ottoman Tunis Regency, the area around the Bab el Bahr was devoted to the European caravanserais. Called funduks in the Maghreb, those trading buildings that supplied accommodation to the traders also hosted diplomatic representatives. The first one was French and opened in 1660 (at 5, Ancienne Douane Street). The former British embassy is located right on the Place de la Victoire, easily recognized by its big blue nailed door.
Medina is an old quarter in Tunis which consists of over 700 palaces, castles, mosques, and buildings which date back to several centuries ago. A walk-through will lead you through a labyrinth of charming streets with vendors calling out to sell you their goods. Some cafes in Medina offer rooftop spaces that give splendid vistas of the city. A visit to Tunis is incomplete without a visit to this gorgeous old quarter which gives an insight into Arabic history.
Situated on the Mediterranean Gulf, Tunis is the capital of the Tunisian Republic and is culturally very rich. It has some of the most important music institutions in the country. Tunisian and Arabic music has succeeded in fascinating tourists and music lovers from all over the world. Apart from music, this city is also a center of performing art and culture and often hosts Tunisian operas and ballets. Other major tourist attractions in this city include Mosque of Sidi Mahrez, Mausoleum of Aziza Othman, Dar Othman and Tourbet el Bey
The sparkling Place du Gouvernement (Plaza of the Government), with its rows of cropped trees and of lamp-posts, hosts the Prime Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. Since the Independence of the country, the Prime Ministry is settled in the Dar El Bey, also named Palais du Gouvernement (Palace of the Government), which was built in 1795 for the important guests of the Husseinite beys, replacing a former palace from the 17th Century. West of the Place du Gouvernement, the architecture becomes more modern with the Place de la Kasbah (the Kasbah Plaza). In the 13th Century, the Hafsid rulers who governed from the Kasbah hill built there the Mosque of the Kasbah, crowned with a beautiful square shaped minaret (at the entrance of the plaza, on the left). To the right, you can see the Sadiki College (at Sinan Pacha Street) which has trained many of the great figures of modern Tunisian history. It was established in 1897 in this neo-Moorish building also sporting a minaret. At the end of the plaza, behind the "7th of November monument", stands the Municipality building. - N.L.