Warm sunlight is shining on the whitewashed houses of Sidi Bou Said when we start our exploration of this village to the northeast of Tunis. It soon becomes clear that it is a popular destination: the main street is swarming with (mostly Tunisian) visitors, salesmen try to lure us into their shops, so we decide to dive into the small side streets. As is often the case, we immediately find ourselves in empty streets and alleys, without the hassle, and can focus on the beauty of this village. What makes Sidi Bou Said stand out, are the blue windows and doors, contrasting nicely with the white walls. Inevitably, you think of Greece when seeing this colour combination: a Mediterranean feel. The iron balustrade, the wooden panels of the windows, the arched doors: all of them are painted in the same blue.
Sidi Bou Said is an old village: it already existed as Jabar el-Menar when Sufi wali Abu Said al-Baji moved here, established a sanctuary, and was eventually buried here. The village was renamed Sidi Bou Said in his honour. It is home to artisans and writers, both Tunisian and foreign. It was only in the 1920s that the village was painted in white and blue. This blue needs to be maintained, and we see a man dressed in a bright red uniform, paint a door in blue. A woman sticks her head out of a blue-panelled window. It is evident that the white is maintained, too: it looks new, we do not see a house where the whites are fading into grey. We walk up the hill, resisting the calls for salesmen in the shops, climbing up a small square with a mosque instead, where we see the sun sinking towards the horizon.
We reach a viewpoint, from which we see the coastline towards Carthage and Tunis, and walk meander through the small side streets, enjoying the blue doors and windows, the iron bars covering the windows, the wooden panels of the balconies. The sun is casting warm winter light, and always longer shadows, projecting the curved iron bars on the white walls. When there is almost no light left in the streets, it is time to find ourselves a roof terrace where we install ourselves to watch the sun reach the horizon. It is amazingly quiet on the terrace, where most people are smoking shisha, and many leave before the sun is really down. When the huge orange ball reaches the horizon, we find we are almost alone to enjoy the spectacle. In the distance, we see the skyline of Tunis, of which Sidi Bou Said is a suburb, but it feels so different, it is easy to believe this is just a pretty village on the Mediterranean.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sidi Bou Said (Tunisia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sidi Bou Said. Read more about this site.