Medina of Tunis

Under the Almohads and the Hafsids, from the 12th to the 16th century, Tunis was considered one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the Islamic world. Some 700 monuments, including palaces, mosques, mausoleums, madrasas and fountains, testify to this remarkable past.

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Located in a fertile plain region of north-eastern Tunisia, and a few kilometres from the sea, the Medina of Tunis is one of the first Arabo-Muslim towns of the Maghreb (698 A.D.). Capital of several universally influential dynasties, it represents a human settlement that bears witness to the interaction between architecture, urbanism and the effects of socio-cultural and economic changes of earlier cultures. Under the Almohads and the Hafsids, from the 12th to the 16th century, Tunis was considered one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the Arab world. Numerous testimonies from this and earlier periods exist today. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, new powers endowed the city with numerous palaces and residences, great mosques, zaouias and madrasas.

The inscribed property covers an area of approximately 280 ha and comprises all the features of an Arabo-Muslim city. It is composed of the central medina (8th century) and suburbs to the North and South (13th century). There are some 700 historic monuments, distributed in 7 areas, among which the most remarkable are the Zitouna Mosque, the Kasbah Mosque, the Youssef Dey Mosque, Bab Jedid Gate, Bab Bhar Gate, the Souq el-Attarine, the Dar el-Bey, Souqs ech-Chaouachia, the Tourbet (family cemetery) el Bey, noble houses such as Dar Hussein, Dar Ben Abdallah, Dar Lasram, the Medrasa Es- Slimanya and El-Mouradia, the El Attarine military barracks and the Zaouia of Sidi Mehrez.

With its souqs, its urban fabric, its residential quarters, monuments and gates, this ensemble constitutes a prototype among the best conserved in the Islamic world.

Criterion (ii): The relay role played by the Medina of Tunis between the Maghreb, Southern Europeand the East encouraged exchanges of influences in the field of the arts and architecture over many centuries.

Criterion (iii): As an important city and the capital of different dynasties (from the Banu Khurassan, to the Husseinits), the Medina of Tunis bears outstanding witness to the civilizations of Ifriqiya (essentially from the 10th century).

Criterion (v): The Medina of Tunis is an example of a human settlement that has conserved the integrity of its urban fabric with all its typo-morphological components. The impact of socio-economic change has rendered this traditional settlement vulnerable and it should be fully protected.

Integrity (2009)

The attributes that express the Outstanding Universal Value include not only the buildings but also the coherent urban fabric of the town. The exact boundaries of the property need to be clarified.

At the time of inscription, 50% of the built heritage of Tunis was considered to be in a bad state of conservation or almost in ruins. Individual monuments and the cohesion of the ensemble of the urban fabric have remained partially vulnerable to the effects of socio-economic change.  A buffer zone is proposed in order to better protect the surroundings of the property.

Authenticity (2009)

The Medina of Tunis (with its central part and two suburbs, North and South) has conserved, without significant alteration, its urban fabric and morphology, as well as its architectural and architectonic features. The impact of adaptation to new life styles and its demands is relatively slight and the different restoration and/or rehabilitation interventions have not affected the intrinsic value of its functional and structural authenticity, even if the buildings remain vulnerable to the accumulated change of materials and building techniques.

Protection and management requirements (2009)

The Medina of Tunis benefits from the national listing for 88 historic monuments. It also enjoys national protection for 5 monuments, 14 streets (including 3 souqs) and a square. Its protection is also assured by Law 35-1994 concerning the protection of archaeological and historic heritage and traditional arts, and by the development plan of the Medina of Tunis. The Medina of Tunis has a safeguarding and management structure attached to the National Heritage Institute and a Safeguarding Association for the Medina attached to the Municipality of Tunis. The proposed buffer zone needs to be revised to ensure the efficacious protection of the property taking into account its values and its integration into the environmental context. The regulatory measures to ensure the management of the site and its buffer zone as well as the implementation mechanisms should be specified.