When my taxi takes me from the airport, we get stuck in traffic, and Tunis seems like a modern city, with lots of people and newish architecture. Then, he steers his car through a gate, and we enter narrow streets. He finally stops when he cannot drive further, and we walk the last bit to my hotel. My travel partner arrived before, and we walk the deserted streets of the medina in search of a restaurant - we find a beautiful place in an old building where we have a good meal. We will walk the streets of the medina for a couple of days, on our way to elsewhere, or just because we want to explore more of this fascinating old town. The medina is not small, no street is straight, yet getting lost is virtually impossible, so we roam the alleys without an exact plan, just following our instinct.
We discover small shops, good places for breakfast, corners with remarkable houses, a covered souq where beams of sunlight fall through holes in the roof, winding alleys with arches, wooden balconies with peeling paint. An older guy enthusiastically offers to take us to a rooftop view, stopping by an old house with rich ornaments which supposedly is open only today, until others chase him away and take us up for views that are underwhelming. There are more people offering to take us to rooftops, but we decline as politely as we can. We walk past mosques big and small, dive into side alleys, discover many old houses (Dar) with names, some beautifully decorated outside, and venture into courtyards behind walls, that give us an impression of what lies behind all the closed doors and walls we see.
Occasionally, we touch the busy streets of modern-day Tunis, where we return to the old medina, away from the traffic-burdened streets, to those streets where only narrow cars, or motorbikes can pass. Or even better, those alleys too narrow even for any vehicles, where cats roam the garbage containers, where we see the occasional inhabitant returning home, and where we often are alone with the silence of this old quarter of Tunis. In all, there are around 700 historic monuments in this 7th century medina, which acquired World Heritage status back in 1979. And every time, when walking the medina in the evening or early morning, we are surprised how quiet it is, and how we have all those attractive streets and alleys for ourselves. Well, apart from the many cats, of course.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tunis medina (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 Tunis medina. Read more about this site.