Dipping into Tunis
By Anne-Linda Amira Augustin
The Summer Academy had the great opportunity to learn more about Tunis’s history and its old city ‘Medina’ in a sightseeing tour. Around 10 percent of the country’s population – more than one million
Tunisians – live in the capital Tunis. Besides being the political center of the country, Tunis and its suburbs are considered to be the socio-economic and cultural heart of Tunisia. However, we realized that the city’s and country’s full historical and touristic potential cannot be tapped these days. Tourists are still reluctant to visit the country due the uprisings in 2010/11 and because of the attacks the country witnessed in the last months.
Under Ben Ali’s rule tourism was concentrated on mass instead of sustainable tourism, offering little attractive options for individual tourists. However, nowadays the situation slowly changes: old historical Medina houses called ‘Dar’ are reconstructed as hotels and opened for individual tourists. Local handicraft is provided in many shops of the old city. More than one hundred thousand people live in the Medina, where we were warmly welcomed. Inhabitants are waiting to show their hospitality to more guests willing to visit the country. Tunisia has a long history of Punic-Phoenician, Roman, Germanic Vandal and Eastern Roman landmarks that visitors see for example in Carthage, a suburb of Tunis. The Muslim, Jewish and Ottoman heritage is omnipresent in the old city of Tunis, while the colonial past is most visible in the architecture of the Ville Nouvelle (new town) of the capital.
In the evening of our city tour, we had the chance to experience the International Light Art Project of Tunis “Interference” with many light installations and performances around the old city. The project was financially supported by Cross Culture Plus Program of the German Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen with the institutional support of Bluefish Consultancy and the Integrated Urbanism & Sustainable Design Lab. Spontaneous music performances took place in the old city:
Kurt Laurenz Theinert with Jihed Khemiri and Seif Srairi “The Skin We Call Reality” at the Place Ramadhan Bey is an audio-visual improvisation that engenders a dialogue with the surrounding space in a 360 degree projection. The musician Salah Nay spontaneously attended the scene to perform Maghrebin Gnawa music. Gnawa is mainly performed by people who trace their descent back to the Sahelian region of West and Central Africa. Gnawa music mixes pre-Islamic African traditions, whether Maghrebin or sub-Saharan, with classical Islamic Sufism.