Sousse Medina (World Heritage)

Kerkouane was founded in the 6th century BC. Founded by Phoenician refugees from Tire. It is the only Phoenician-Punic city whose remains have been preserved in their original state, as it was not rebuilt after it was destroyed by the Romans in the 1st Punic War. The horseshoe-shaped city complex, foundation walls and facilities for the purple manufacture are clearly recognizable.

Sousse medina: facts

Official title: Sousse medina
Cultural monument: originally a trading port, conveniently located on the Carthage – Leptis Magna transport axis (today Libya); Old town (Medina) with the city wall that was built in the 9th century and is still 2.5 km long today, which was badly damaged in World War II, the souks between the 40 m high kasbah and the monastery castle (Ksar er-Ribat) and the great mosque
Continent: Africa
Country: Tunisia
Location: Sousse, Gulf of Hammamet
Appointment: 1988
Meaning: typical urban layout from the first centuries of Islam

Sousse medina: history

9th century BC Chr. Phoenician trading post
2nd-4th Century Catacombs, 240 underground passages, as burial places for around 15,000 people, the only remaining evidence of the Roman era
800-909 economic center of the Aghlabids
821 Construction of the monastery castle (Ksar er-Ribat)
850/51 Construction of the Great Mosque
859 Construction of the city wall
874 Renewal of the city wall
1205 Reinforcement of the city wall
1881 French occupation
1942 Occupation by German and Italian troops during the Africa campaign
1943 Recapture by the allied units of the British and French

The “silk worm”, a jewel of Arab architecture

»Sousse is an intricate, magical, typically Arab city that steps up a towering hill in steps (…). It used to be called El-Djora, or pearl. Today it is called Souça, silk worm (…) ”, enthused Isabelle Eberhardt, eccentric adventurer and globetrotter who wore men’s clothing through the Tunisian Sahel and the Algerian desert, where she died in a storm in 1904.

Sousse, founded by the Phoenicians under the name Hadrumetum as a trading post in the 9th century BC, is now a colorful and lively market center in the Tunisian Sahel according to ehotelat. However, what makes the place so extraordinarily attractive and worth seeing is its uniquely preserved medina with its exemplary ensemble of Islamic fortress architecture. It owes this defensive face to the “golden age” of the Aghlabids, who designated the place as the port for their metropolis Kairouan in the 9th century and from here undertook their campaign towards Sicily. One of the most beautiful examples of Islamic secular architecture is the Ksar er-Ribat, which was built on a square floor plan and was once a link in a chain of fortified monasteries built on the North African coast. After crossing the corridor, which is covered by a splendid groin vault, you find yourself in the inner courtyard, from which the cells of the warrior monks, who did their armed service on behalf of religion, emerge. The simple, eleven-aisled prayer room with its imposing barrel vault on the first floor enables – and this is rare in Tunisia – even “non-believers” to visit an Islamic prayer room. The so-called “pitch slits” above the entrance, through which the hot liquid spilled on unwanted intruders, are clearly visible. The eleven-aisled prayer room with its imposing barrel vault on the first floor enables – and this is rare in Tunisia – even “non-believers” to visit an Islamic prayer room. The so-called “pitch slits” above the entrance, through which the hot liquid spilled on unwanted intruders, are clearly visible. The eleven-aisled prayer room with its imposing barrel vault on the first floor enables – and this is rare in Tunisia – even “non-believers” to visit an Islamic prayer room. The so-called “pitch slits” above the entrance, through which the hot liquid spilled on unwanted intruders, are clearly visible.

The tall Khalef al-Fatah, one of a series of signal towers along the coast, towers awe at the highest point in the city. With the help of signal flags and light signals, important messages could be transmitted from the western Maghreb to Egypt within a very short time during the day, but also at night. This tower is part of another important stronghold of Sousse, the Kasbah, which today houses the magnificent Archaeological Museum with the second most important collection of antiquities in Tunisia. In addition to Punic grave steles, Roman statues and stumps of columns, splendid mosaics are exhibited in abundance. Many of the motifs reveal very clearly what an important role the sea must have played for the residents of the Sahel. One sees fish jumping out of a basket, strong fishermen.

Even the Great Mosque with its jagged walls and the two round watchtowers, one of which has since been converted into a minaret, cannot hide its defensive character. In fact, it was once used not only for devout prayer, but also for warlike purposes, such as the defense of the harbor basin with the arsenal against Normans and Christians who came across the sea on an enemy mission. A special feature is the outside staircase, which is quite atypical for North Africa, which leads up to the minaret of the church.

The secular delights of the Orient beckon in the souks of Sousse, which are among the largest in the country. Here the life of the traders and craftsmen still follows a rather leisurely rhythm.

All around the square old town, which is one of the most important examples of Arab architecture in Tunisia, is protected by a venerable and huge wall, “a long crenellated wall – so high and so low – with towers here and there, rounded gates,” wrote already the writer Guy de Maupassant.

Sousse Medina (World Heritage)