Medina of Tunis
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Roofs of the Medina
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Criteria||ii, iii, v|
|Inscription||1979 (3rd Session)|
Founded in 698 around the original core of the Zitouna Mosque, the Medina of Tunis developed its urban fabric throughout the Middle Ages. The main axis was between the mosque and the centre of government to the west in the kasbah. To the east this same main road extended to the Bab el Bhar. Expansions to the north and south divided the main Medina into two suburbs north (Bab Souika) and south (Bab El Jazira).
Before the Almohad Caliphate, other cities such as Mahdia and Kairouan had served as capitals. Under Almohad rule, Tunis became the capital of Ifriqiya, and under the Hafsid period it developed into a religious, intellectual and economic center. It was during the Hafsid period that the Medina as we now know it took on its essential form. It gradually acquired a number of buildings and monuments combining the styles of Ifriqiya, Andalusian and Oriental influences, but also borrowing some of the columns and capitals of Roman and Byzantine monuments.
Social and urban structure
With an area of 270 hectares (plus 29 hectares for the district of the kasbah) and over 100,000 inhabitants (109,725 1984), the Medina has one-tenth of the population of Tunis and a sixth of the urbanized area of the agglomeration.
The planning of the Medina of Tunis has the distinction of not obeying geometrical layouts nor formal compositions (grid, lines, etc.).
The complex organization of the urban fabrics has fueled an entire colonial literature where the dangerous Medina, anarchic and chaotic seemed the territory of ambush. yet, studies started in the 1930s with the arrival of first ethnologists, who revealed that the articulation of the Medina areas is not random, houses are built with a sociocultural way, codified according to complex types of human relationships. Many publications have detailed the development of the Medina model and system of prioritization of public and private spaces, residential and commercial, sacred and profane.
we can raise the axes north-south and East-West comparable to a Roman cardo and decumanus (Sidi Ben Arous, Jemaa Zitouna and Pasha Streets) that intersect at the court of Zitouna mosque, house of prayer and studies. we distinguish the main streets; the secondary streets ( equipment of the district) and the deadlocks (mews) sometimes entire private spots reserved for women. The built environment is generally characterized by the juxtaposition of large plots (600 m2) and the joint ownership.
the concept of public space is ambiguous in the Medina where the streets are considered as the extension of houses and subject to social tags. the notion of individual ownership is low and displays the souks often spill on the highway. This idea is reinforced by the area of a shop (about 3 m2) and bedroom (10 m2).
In the case of domestic architecture, the most they set back from the shops, the more they value. the concept of withdrawal and privacy is paramount. The late introduction of the sewer system induces a flow of waste water through the streets of the Medina. houses and noble places are always located before or in the high district (Ward of the Kasbah). The terraces of the Medina are also an important place of social life, idea illustrated by the film Halfaouine by Férid Boughedir. The rituals and dating schedules provide an informal mix.
Nowadays, every district retains its culture and rivalries can be strong. Thus, the northern suburb supports the football club Espérance Sportive de Tunis while the southern side is the district of the rival Club Africain.The Medina has also witnessed a social segmentation: the districts of Tourbet el Bey and the kasbah are wealthier, with a population of judges and politicians while Pasha street is the military and the bourgeoisie (merchants and notables).
The Muradid dynasty were great builders in the Medina. Hammouda Pasha (1631-1666) was responsible for the construction of many souks in the Medina, as well as many palaces, including the Dar Hammouda Pacha and the predecessor of the modern Dar El Bey. In 1655, he had Ottoman architects build the Hammouda Pacha Mosque in the Turkish style, with an elegant octagonal minaret, below which he constructed his family mausoleum. His son Murad II Bey (1666-1675) built the Mouradia Madrasah, dedicated to the Maliki school of Islamic law. Murad's son Mohamed Bey El Mouradi (1686-1696) built several monuments in Tunis including the (Sidi Mahrez Mosque), modelled on the mosques of Istanbul with a great central dome.
In the time of Muhammad III as-Sadiq (1859-1882) the walls of the Medina were in such bad repair that in some places they threatened to collapse. In 1865 he began demolishing them, along with a number of the Medina's historic gates - Bab Cartagena, Bab Souika, Bab Bnet and Bab El Jazira.
The Medina contains most of the great mosques of the capital, which were all built before the French protectorate.
The main Zitouna Mosque was built in 732 in the heart of the Medina and then rebuilt in 864. It was also for a long time an important place of culture and knowledge, acting as home to the Zitouna University until the independence of Tunisia. It still hosts ceremonies marking the main dates of the Muslim calendar that are regularly attended by the President of the Republic.
The Kasbah Mosque built between 1231 and 1235, was the second mosque to be built in the Medina, intended for the rulers themselves, who lived in the nearby Kasbah. It is distinguished especially by the dome in stalactites preceding the mihrab and by its minaret that recalls that of the Koutoubia of Marrakech and is the highest in the Medina.
The Youssef Dey Mosque functioned first as an oratory before becoming a mosque in 1631, and is the first mosque of the Ottoman-Turkish period. The Hammouda-Pacha mosque, built in 1655, was the second mosque of the Hanefite rite built in Tunis while the Sidi Mahrez mosque is the largest mosque of this type in the country. Built from 1692 to 1697, it is Ottoman-inspired and recalls some Istanbul mosques such as the Blue Mosque (erected between 1609 and 1616) and the Yeni Valide (completed in 1663). The El Jedid Mosque, built by the founder of the Hussein dynasty Hussein the Ist Bey between 1723 and 1727, has, like the Youssef Dey and Hammouda-Pacha mosques, an Ottoman-inspired octagonal minaret.
- http://www.persee.fr/doc/etaf_0768-2352_1967_mon_1_1 p.31 accessed 1/5/2017
- http://www.persee.fr/doc/etaf_0768-2352_1967_mon_1_1 p.31
- Ibn Abi Dhiaf, op. cit, p. 43
- Ibn Abi Dhiaf, Présent des hommes de notre temps. Chroniques des rois de Tunis et du pacte fondamental, vol. II, éd. Maison tunisienne de l'édition, Tunis, 1990, p. 55
- Georges Pillement, La Tunisie inconnue, ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 1972, p.66
- Tourbet El Bey (Association de sauvegarde de la médina de Tunis)
- Adel Latrech, « Promenade dans les tourbas de Tunis », La Presse de Tunisie, 28 août 2010
- http://www.discoverislamicart.org/dynasty.php?id=14& accessed 1/5/2017