5 Best Towns To Visit In Tunisia, Africa


Tunisia is famous for its beautiful towns built around an ancient Medina quarter, towered over by minarets and looking out over the Mediterranean. You'll find some of the best preserved architecture of the early Islamic era in Tunisia, in mosques and palaces that incorporate intricate Arabic calligraphy and Koranic verses on their patterned façades. Places like Dougga and Ghar al Milh hold picturesque crumbling ruins from earlier and later periods to be explored. Here is our guide to 5 of the most beautiful places in Tunisia.

* Kairouan 

Founded by the Arabs in the year 670, Kairouan in Arabic means 'military camp'.
It was a staging post for the Arabs during the conquests of northern Africa and Spain. During the 9th century, it became home to rulers of North Africa, the Aghlabid dynasty, and under them, Kairouan became a great center of learning and prosperity. Magnificent palaces, libraries, gardens and mosques were built, along with vast water basins that still exist today. The centerpiece of modern Kairouan is the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba with its beautiful columns made from porphyry and marble taken from the ruins of Carthage. There are smaller mosques too, including the Mosque of the Three Gates with its façade incorporating decorative calligraphy. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is regarded by many Muslims as the fourth holiest site in Islam.

* Hammamet 

Hammamet lies on the Mediterranean coast in north Tunisia, a popular tourist resort famed for its endless beaches and wonderfully preserved medina. The town has passed through many different hands - Punic, Roman, Islamic, Spanish, Turkish and French, each leaving their own architectural legacy. The seawalls date back to the 13th century, the medina to the 15th and many of the elegant whitewashed houses were built in the era of French rule. Hammamet has attracted plenty of discerning visitors over the years, including Sophia Loren, Winston Churchill and Andre Gide. Most famously it was painted by the great Paul Klee, whose 'Hammamet with Its Mosque' of 1914 hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

* Sfax 

Sfax was built on the ruins of two Roman towns on the east coast, as a port from which olive oil grown inland could be transported all over the Mediterranean. It was fought over for centuries by the Normans from Sicily, the Spanish and later became a base for Barbary pirates. Today there is a real French feel to parts of Sfax with wide boulevards and avenues, though the medina is regarded as the best preserved in Tunisia. You'll find labyrinthine alleys winding their way through souks, past the Great Mosque modeled on that at Kairouan, the Borj Ennar or 'Tower of the Fires', and the ancient Kasbah. Despite feeling somewhat haphazard the medina is in fact intricately planned, with souks selling religious incense closest to the mosque and those selling mundane items like leather on the outside for passing caravans.

* Dougga 

You won't find anyone living in Dougga; it's a town of ruins, and the best preserved Roman town in North Africa according to UNESCO. Unlike Carthage which has largely been built over, Dougga lies far from encroaching urbanism in north Tunisia, allowing it to decay naturally to form ruins every bit as picturesque as Paestum or Delphi across the Mediterranean. There are remains of pre-Roman monuments, triumphal arches still standing, and much of a theater that could once have seated most of the inhabitants of the town. The remains of 11 temples have been found, including the excellently preserved Capitol with its portico and pediment still erect. Many of the mosaics that once adorned the villas of Dougga can be seen in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.

* Sousse 

On the Gulf of Hammamet, Sousse looks out on the Mediterranean and is enclosed on the landward side by swathes of olive groves. The ancient medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a favorite site for filmmakers, having featured in the Indiana Jones movies as a substitute for Cairo. Long coastal defenses nestle next to indolently swaying palm trees, and towers and battlements, mosques and souks combine in one of finest examples of North African military coastal architecture. The minarets of the Great and Bou Ftata Mosques soar over courtyards and face the watch towers of the Kasbah and the Ribat, a unique military fortress once manned by holy men.

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