Sfax, UNESCO’s 2016 Capital of Arab Culture, is the gateway to the Tunisia’s south. Unlike Fez, Marrakesh and Casablanca, tourists don’t visit Sfax in large numbers but those who do always find it interesting. Many tourists who visit Sfax usually consider the city’s medina to be the most authentic medina in Tunisia. If you’ve ever seen the film; “The English Patient” then you would have caught a glimpse of this celebrated medina. The Souq des Etoffes at the medina was used as the setting for the Cairo market in the film.
A tour of the medina begins at the entrance. There are six entrances but Bab Diwan is the nicest, you can’t help but notice the large defensive ramparts there. Inside is a medina with an imposing Grande Mosquée and its 9th-century minaret. The mosque dominates the centre, and it has souqs around it.
The great Mosque Roof and its minaret by Leaderzakzouk
The residential districts are home to nice houses, which are examples of strong Andalusian influence—the Dar Jallouli is one of such houses. Dar Jallouli was originally a courtyard home. It now houses a museum that exhibits materials reflective of the history and culture of the people in the medina. A visit to this museum is one of the ways visitors get to know how residents have lived in the area over the centuries.
Dar Jellouli by Engaging Cultures Travel.
Also notable is Funduq des Forgerons. Although much of it has changed in character, Funduq des Forgerons still functions as the city’s Forgerons’ (blacksmiths) and merchants’ base. In the past, you’ll see blacksmith at work here, also the courtyard was where a traveller’s animal was kept while the traveller lodges in one of the rooms above. For a good view of the courtyard, climb the building to the first floor and look down.
Funduq des Forgerons by Engaging Cultures Travel.
The colourful Souq des Etoffes could be a nice next stop. Here, you’ll find a variety of traditional clothing and rugs. The prices are good and it is recommended that you buy one as a souvenir.
Souq Des Etoffes by Engaging Cultures Travel.
Spice has always played key roles in world history. It was a part of why the Europeans ‘discovered’ America. In Tunisia, spices are still important today as they were many years ago. A visit to Sfax medina will definitely bring you in contact with many spice shops and you can use the opportunity to find out the individual value of each spice.
One of the main values of these spices is that they provide flavour for food. You’ll only appreciate this value by tasting some of the traditional meals in Sfax. You can start with a coffee or mint tea, before settling down with any of the Lablabi, Marka and couscous or the popular Lafif Bread too.
Photo credit: Lablabi by Drmaik (granted under the GNU Free Documentation License)
Feature Photo credit:
Sfax Medina by Dennis Jarvis
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