What’s special about the Medina of Tunis? According to people who actually live there!

Growing up in the Medina of Tunis, walking around traditional houses and self-explanatory streets that express age, intimacy and culture, losing a bit of its charm as most people attempt to modify it without a real thoughtful reflection of their architecture philosophy and identity. All this meditation about the Medina lifestyle has always ended up with the main question:” what is special about the Medina?”

Typical Medina street

People in La Medina value privacy. When you enter a house, you’d find an empty hall at first. Where a visitor could wait without actually entering the house and with no view of what’s inside. If you continue, however, you’d get to the very spacious roofless courtyard known as the center of the house “Patio”. Doors and windows opening to it on every side. That’s where the rooms are and that’s how each house gets enough air and sunlight. That’s important to know because passing by the outside, you’d only see walls and the big entrance doors and occasionally small windows.

These houses are often adjacent, which makes the rooftops connected. It shows how people were connected and unified through their roof. Rumors said that this was one of the strategies to resist the french colonization in the past. However, I find it odd as it makes the house feel much less secure.

A souk “Public Market” in The Medina surrounding the Mosque.

All streets and alleys of Medina are intertwined, sometimes it’s even like a maze, perhaps purposefully. When I get lost, I just keep going until I get to a main street that I recognize. It’s not like getting lost there is bad after all, it’s such a calm place with beautiful views.

You’d often find children playing in some alley. They might give you the “stranger” look but they might not even pay attention because they’re used to visitors the same as all the inhabitants there. You might run into some old lady poking her head out of a door waiting for someone to pass by so she could ask them to get her some groceries from the store at the end of the street. If you do offer to help, she’d call you son/daughter, thank you warmly, and might offer sweets. You can also run into a group of architecture students sitting on the side of the street sketching a façade. You’d look up and it would seem like any other house at first, then you’d sneak a look at their drawings. Only then would you notice the beauty of the details that you somehow took for granted.

I could talk for days and it wouldn’t be enough to describe all the things I find special about that place. But are all those things enough for me to enjoy living there?

To sum up, it is a really beautiful place that has its unique charm. I think living there can be a wonderful experience to understand and live the value of unity and intimacy. Visit the Medina and enjoy an educative experience about privacy, architecture and communication!

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