Sousse is one of the oldest cities in Tunisia and its authentic medina is one of the finest examples of Arab architecture in the country. It was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List because it has preserved almost unchanged over the centuries. The medina gives the visitor the idea how the Arab towns from the first centuries looked like. Popular historical sights include the ribat castle, the central mosque and a historical museum in the Casbah with mosaics from the area’s many Roman villas.
Even the centuries after Islam’s wars of conquest, Sousse’s character has retained the solidly Arabian look and feel and its architecture still reflects a particular traditional way of life. The juxtaposed dwellings divided into quarters, as well as the winding alleys and narrow paths are a fast disappearing type of layout threatened by the modern life.
Sousse was an important commercial and military port during the 9th and 10th centuries. Due to piracy and other dangers Sousse was facing from the sea, the Medina needed a coastal defense system. That is why the Medina is surrounded with 2km long city walls and fortifications built in the year 859 using stone from ancient Roman buildings.
A charming little museum inside the city walls, Dar Esid – The Traditional Tunisian House, was the home of a long standing Tunisian family. The beautiful property is centered by an open courtyard from which all the rooms can be accessed. Bedrooms of the first and second wife and the children’s rooms are elegantly furnished, with some objects dating back over 200 years. The house has also its own a tower, which was used to watch the stars for the onset of Ramadan – and from which nowadays one can see a great view over Sousse.
The Sousse Medina is also been used as a film location. In the famous Indiana Jones film ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (from 1981), Sousse represented Cairo – even though it looks nothing like it…
The Medina includes open and covered bazaars (souks), where the visitors can head for the traditional Tunisian shopping experience. In order to get the best bargain possible from the beautiful handmade crafts, spices and other souvenirs, one needs to put his/hers haggling skills to the test…
Three Tips for Sousse
- Taxi drivers will rip you off if you let them – negotiate the price with the driver before entering the taxi
- As s female traveler prepare to get lots of (sometimes unwanted) attention
- Beware pickpockets in the narrow souks (bazaars) who will take advantage of the crowded places