The history of Tunis goes back thousands of years to Ancient Mediterranean, however, most of its remains and culture was destroyed by the Romans. The formal founding date of Tunis can be traced back to the 7th century by Arab Muslims who used it for military purposes due to the city being close to the Strait of Sicily.
After its establishment, It took a few hundred years until the 13th century for Tunis to become one of the wealthiest and most prosperous cities in the Islamic world. In the 16th century, Tunis fell under the control of the Ottomans, leading to a boost in trade and overall growth of the city and population—a trend that continued for another 300 years. Once France took control during the 19th and 20th century, Tunis experienced an influx of immigrants from all over Europe, influencing everything from the food and culture to architecture and way of life until the country’s independence in 1956. As soon as Tunisia became a free nation, not only did the population of Tunisians outgrow Europeans, but most of the city experienced a complete reformation. Today, it’s a beautiful city with many gems to explore—if you’re ever in Tunis, here are some sites and stops we recommend you see.
Souq des Chéchias
Souq des Chéchias was developed in the 17th century and has been used as a place for merchants and trade. Today, you can find an array of different colored chechias, which are traditional red-dyed caps that take almost two months to make, being sold here. They make a great gift and unique souvenir to take back home with you. Aside from chechias, near the souq is a lovely cafe called Chaouachine where you can enjoy traditional tea or coffee and sweets as well as shisha.
Al-Zitouna Mosque is the oldest mosque in Tunis, established in 734 CE. It was once home to the first university in all of Islam but is now a fully-functioning mosque open to only Muslims. For non-Muslims, you can walk around its exteriors and the courtyard and take some beautiful photos. One part you may notice are all the pillars around Al-Zitouna—there are more than 200 of them moved from Roman Carthage to the mosque. You can also find many shops, cafes and restaurants in the surrounding area to spend time in. Our favorites are El Ali Restaurant & Cafe and Fondouk El Attarine.
Dar El Jeld
Dar El Jeld used to be home to an Arab noble family for generations. Developed in the 18th century, this home is now a hotel, restaurant and spa. The interior is decorated with traditional carpets and mosaics, high-end dinnerware, and an atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re sitting in a royal Middle Eastern home. Come with family, friends or on a date for an authentic Tunisian experience. And if you’re needing some “me” time, schedule a massage facial or body therapy session at the spa—there’s even a traditional hammam inside for you to relax in.
La Maison de L’Artisan
If you love handmade gifts, we recommend going to La Maison de L’Artisan (House of Crafts) where you can find anything from jewelry, ceramics, scarves, perfumes, rugs, traditional Tunisian slippers and more. All of the items there are high-quality and reasonably priced. The quality here is much better than some other cheaper shops around the city.
Tunisia has a rich history and an interesting culture mixed with European and African influences. It’s capital, Tunis, is full of beautiful architecture, delicious eats and unique gems to explore. If you ever find yourself in Tunis, we hope this city guide will help you relish your time there.
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