The curtain wall of Sfax was built during the reign of the Aghlabid prince Abu Abbass Muhammad Ibn Al Aghlab by the judge Ali Ibn Silm Al Bikri between 849 AD and 851 AD. It was renovated during the reign of Prince Abu Ibrahim Ahmed Ibn Aghlab. Its architecture is purely Arab-Islamic with its towering curtain walls protecting against external threats and the great mosque located in the center. It is surrounded by a network of houses and narrow alleys which was connected to the outside world through two main doors : Bab Al jebli and Bab Al diwan. These two doors are the oldest and they are topped with stone carvings indicating the history of their creation. The number of doors,today, is 12.
The city is divided in the middle by a great number of markets that are constructed with the urban islamic style of North Africa. Its a sort of a branching tree of alleys including a number of shops and workshops adjacent to one type of industry or commerce. Each market selects a master (Ameen) who has to be the most experienced and trustworthy between the people of the industry. His mission is to observe the industry protect its honor and solve conflicts among traders. Top markets are : Souk al sabaghin (Dyers Market), Souk Al hadadin (Blacksmiths Market), Souk Al Jumuah (Friday Market), Souk Al asmak (Fish Market),
Since antiquity, markets formed the beating heart of the medina and even the neighboring villages and towns thanks to its dynamic economy that was reflected on the social and political life as well. The city was known with the quality of its artisans and their strong mastery of the industry as well as the prosperity of the olive oil production and its export to other midetirranean countries. Therefore, it was coveted by foreign forces such as Malta, Venice and Sicily (which managed to occupy the city in the year 543 AH 1148 AD for 8 years).
The architecture of the houses shows the ethnic and cultural diversity of the population who lived there all along the centuries. The Islamic pattern dominates on the these houses with its curtain walls, terraces, High balconies made in iron, and wooden armored doors decorated by rich people to indicate the luxury they live in. In this architecture, we also find a western style of the French population, Italians and Maltese Christians, Jews and Jewish Arabs who all lived side by side in a single harmonious society with respect and tolerance for centuries before they leave in the mid-twentieth century.
When you visit the ancient city of Sfax, you must visit Dar Aljlouli Museum, the Museum of the Kasbah for Architecture, Bab Diwan, Bab Al Jebli, the Great Mosque, Souk Al Rob’aa,Souk Bshuisha, fish market( souk al hout), market blacksmiths( souk al hadadeen), Albay alley and the angle( zawiyat) sidi Ali Alkray.
When you visit the ancient city of Sfax, you must visit Dar Aljlouli Museum, the Museum of the Kasbah for Architecture, Bab Diwan, Bab Al Jebli, the Great Mosque, Souk Al Rob’aa,Souk Bshuisha, fish market( souk al hout), market blacksmiths( souk al hadadeen), Albay alley and the angle( zawiyat) sidi Ali Alkray. Do not miss tasting the delicious Sfaxian dishes in some popular restaurants nearby the Butchers Market (Souk Al Jazarin) and be sure to taste the “Lafif” Bread which is unique and only manufactured by traditional bakeries of the city. Do not forget to try the delicious puncakes (ftayer) in one of the best puncakes shops : Ftayer El Sayala
This is a brief description of the ancient city of sfax. Ancient, diverse in population and solid with its tall curtain walls, desreve a serious attention to restore its luster and radiance. Its the only ancient city in Tunisia and one of three other North-African countries that fully preserved its curtain walls.
The Hello Tunisia team supports all efforts made by civil society to include the ancient city of Sfax in the World Heritage as soon as possible in order to preserve this architectural and cultural treasure.