Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for January 21st, 2010

The Medina of Tunis

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 21st January, 2010

Tunis is one of the lowest-key capitals of North Africa and all the more pleasant for it. Like many other cities of the Maghreb, it has an old Arab quarter or medina, as well as a New Town, built during the French colonial period. The two could not be more unlike. The winding alleyways of the Medina, lined with merchants selling their wares, all seem to lead eventually to the great Zaitouna or Olive Tree Mosque, a serene and tranquil haven in the middle of all the bustle. The New Town has a reassuringly easy-to-navigate grid pattern of streets and boulevards, and both railway stations and suburban bus stations are centrally located.

I’ve always enjoyed coming to Tunis on lecturing and journalistic assignments. Things work, in general, and the people are welcoming. It’s odd that not all that many tourists seem to pass through here — especially not in winter — as they prefer Tunisia’s beach resorts instead. But they are missing a lot. The Tunis Medina has rightly been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site: It even has one glorious mansion-turned-hotel, the Dar El Médina, reminiscent of some of the riads of Marrakech. I’m sure there will be more before too long.


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