Sidi Bou Said City
The town of Sidi Bou Said is considered the third most visited tourist attraction in Tunisia, second only to Carthage and El Jem and rivaling the Bardo Museum. In Sidi Bou Said, tourists do not have the opportunity to "touch" ancient history, but this place attracts others - the stunning color and unique spirit of Arab Tunisia.
Sidi-bu-Said is a suburb of the city of Tunisia, located 20 kilometers to the north-east of the capital. In the south it borders on the modern city of Carthage, it is convenient for independent tourists to combine visits to these two places in one day.
This is a real settlement, though small - 4,793 residents according to the 2004 census. It is called a city, a village, a suburb. For the title of "city" Sidi-bu-Said is clearly too small, and for the title of "village" too large. Further in this article we will call it the word "town".
The town is named in honor of the religious figure Abu Said ibn Halef ibn Yahia Ettamini al-Beji. This man preached in Tunisia, ended his life in Sidi Bou Said, here he was buried. Another name "small white and blue paradise" attached to the town since 1915.
The tourists Sidi-bu-Said became famous as a town of white houses, blue doors and lattices on the windows, he is known as the "white-blue city". The houses here have absorbed the Andalusian and classical Arabic styles of architecture, it looks very beautiful. The layout of the town is similar to the classical Tunisian medina - it's chaotically scattered narrow and winding streets.
And another name "town of artists" the town received at the beginning of the XX century, when artists, musicians and poets lived and worked here. We will talk about these celebrities later in this article.
How is the tour going?
The vast majority of Russian tourists come to Sidi Bou Said as part of organized excursions. The most popular tour in Tunisia is called "Carthage - Sidi Bou Said - Tunisia".
Initially, tourists are taken to see the excavations of Carthage , then to Sidi Bou Said, and then two options are possible. Or they are taking Tunisian Big Ben , Habib Bourguiba Avenue and the medina of Tunisia to the center of Tunisia , or the tourist group visits the Bardo museum . Option depends on your tour operator or tour agency, where you buy an excursion.
A visit to Sidi Bou Said takes a maximum of an hour and a half. The group is brought to the entrance to the town, where the huge tourist market is now stretched. Those of the tourists who were here in the 00's remember what a magnificent view of the white houses opened before our eyes. Now the white buildings are only visible in the distance, they are not even clearly visible behind the shopping tents and pavilions. Look at the photo on the left, click on the photo to enlarge.
Accompanied by a guide, the group enters the town, passes about 200 meters along the main street of Rue Dr Habib (Rue Dr Habib). On the way, the guide shows the museum and several interesting shops (of course, they are interesting to him, they pay extra for it). Then tourists themselves can walk around Sidi-bu-Said and see what they want.
We will tell at once, all interesting during this time to look it will not turn out. Time is enough only to reach the top of the cliff - the highest point of the town. There will have time to make some good photos and enjoy a magnificent view of the bay. There will also be a small reserve for visiting the museum on the central street. Perhaps, more than anything is not enough.
To see the villa museum of Baron d'Erlange, to sit in the famous local cafes, enjoy the atmosphere or go down to the port, you will have to go to Sidi Bou Said yourself.
How to get there by yourself
If you are already in the city of Tunisia or at the resorts of Gammarth or La Gulette, the easiest way is to get there by taxi, the taxi prices in Tunis are available. From Gammarth, a taxi will cost around 10 Tunisian dinars , from the central railway station about 15 dinars.
If you want to save, you can use the train TGM - local train. It can be boarded at Tunis Marine station at the beginning of Habib Bourguiba Avenue.
To get to the city of Tunisia yourself from the popular resort areas is the easiest way by train, as you can read about our tour " Tunisian trips by trains ". From the resorts of Nabeul , Yasmine Hammamet and Hammamet it is more convenient to come by bus, as you can see in the review " Tunisian trips by buses ".
Prices for excursions and tickets
Excursion "Carthage - Sidi Bou Said - Tunisia" costs from 40 to 70 US dollars per person, depends on the greed of your tour operator or the seller of the excursion. For a child, the price of the excursion is divided by half.
It is quite difficult to calculate the price of an independent trip. For example, we are leaving the hotel in Hammamet. From the hotel to the bus station - 8 dinars, the bus - 4 dinars, from the bus station to Sidi Bou Said - another 15 dinars. Total: 27 dinars, if you go to one (the more people sit in a taxi, the cheaper it will be for everyone).
Excursion and independent travel is difficult to compare in terms of cost. If you want to see more attractions, away from the beach for a maximum of one day, then the tour is an ideal option. If Sidi-bu-Said is interesting, of course, it's cheaper and more interesting to go by yourself, because only if you visit on your own you will be able to touch the history of Sidi-bu-Said.
A bit of history
Sidi-bu-Said is on a cliff at high altitude. Since ancient times in the history of Tunisia, it was used by the Carthaginians and Romans, there was a lighthouse. Archaeologists found a large mosaic, which indicates that there was once a Roman villa. Was there a large settlement in ancient times? The question is yet open to scientists.
In the 11th century, the Arabs built here a fort to protect the coast, bastions are erected on a hill. The Arabs give the hill the name "Jebel Menara", translated as "Mountain of Light". A village appears around the fortress. In the 12th century, the preacher Abu Said ibn Halef arrived in the settlement. He died here in 1231 and the village is named in his honor - Sidi Bou Said.
In the 18th century, the town was recognized by Turkish governors, and houses of wealthy citizens from the city of Tunisia and Turkish officials begin to be built here. At that time, the most remarkable mansions were built: Dar Dallagi, Dar Mohsen, Dar Fameur, Dar Arif and others.
August 28, 1915 already during the French protectorate issued a decree prohibiting painting houses in any colors, except blue and white. Any construction in Sidi Bou Said is now necessarily coordinated with the authorities. The author of this initiative is Baron Rudolph d'Erlange, who settled in the town and loved his beauty with all his heart. His villa is now open to tourists.
Baron Rudolph d'Erlange was a famous musician, it was he who revived the old style of "maluf" in Tunisian music . By that time, since the 19th century, many artists, writers, musicians and poets have settled here. Sidi-bu-Said is also called the "Tunisian Montmartre", by analogy with the Montmartre district in Paris . Here lived: Henri Matisse, Michel Foucault, Paul Klee, André Gide, August Macke and others. Michel Foucault wrote here his famous book "Archeology of Knowledge".
It was these people who glorified Sidi-bu-Said. But today the town is no longer the center of bohemian art, although you can still meet solitary artists on the street, and several galleries sell paintings. Now everything here is trying to make money on tourism and tourists.
What to watch
Sidi-bu-Said streets are his main attraction. Tourists come here to admire them - this snow-white mosaic. In the mini photo gallery below, see how the streets, houses and parks look.
The top of the cliff
The highest point of the town, from where the fascinating view opens.
Here tourists are waited by tremendous blue of a gulf, port below and a pleasant breeze. The last part of the street in front of the summit has a slope of about 30 degrees, free fitness for excursions is guaranteed.
This wonderful view can be seen in the photo on the left, click on the photo to enlarge. Although, it is impossible to convey to the photo the real impressions of visiting this place.
Dar El Annabi (or "Family Home")
This is a museum on the main street. Look for it on the left side, if you go from the entrance to the cliff. Another one of its name is "The Palace of Arab Nights." 50 rooms feature household items, clothes and other exhibits. The main exhibit of the collection is a wedding dress weighing 22 kilograms. The price of entry is 3 dinars.
Baron d'Erlange Palace
Also called "Dar Ennejma Ezzhara", it is translated as "Star of Venus". It was built in 1922. The word "palace" is difficult to apply to it, rather the word "villa" will do. Here lived the Baron d'Erlange and here he was engaged in music.
Now the villa has become a museum, and the most valuable exhibits are a collection of Tunisian musical instruments. Note that the palace is not in the town itself, but "on the outskirts". At the main entrance, turn right.
Cages for birds
When villas of Turkish officials and rich Tunisians began to be built in Sidi Bu Said in the 18th century, artisans began to settle here, who made ceramics, clothes and other household items. In the midst of the rich inhabitants, singing birds were popular, and they tried to make the cells as luxurious as possible.
Nowadays, the traditions of crafts have been preserved, and the bird cages have become one of the "visiting cards" of Sidi Bu Saeed. Go shopping, the cages are sold almost everywhere. Look, enjoy the beauty. An example of such cells is in the photo on the right.
Cafe de Nutte
This is a legendary café, it was here that Paul Klee liked to work. Visitors are not sitting on chairs, but on puffs. Especially popular in this institution is sweet mint tea.
Cafe Dalitses (or Sidi Shaaban)
Offers stunning views of the bay. It is distinguished by high prices - 5 dinars per bottle of water.
Tips for tourists
- You have to go a lot, wear comfortable and different shoes. Covering the streets in Sidi Bou Said will be extremely inconvenient for the heels, leave such shoes in the hotel.
- Prepare for sharp climbs and descents on the streets of the town. A good physical form here does not hurt. An example of such a street in the photo on the left, click on the photo to enlarge.
- According to the law, traffic of cars along the streets of Sidi-bu-Said is prohibited, but it does not stop drivers. Look closely at the sides and watch the children. In addition to cars, potential danger is represented by scooters and mopeds.
- If you come for an organized tour, there will be time to climb to the top and visit the museum. Do not attempt to get on the villa or go down to the port, there will not be enough time.
Successful walks through the streets of Sidi Bou Said, and read our other articles about Tunisia ( list of links below ).
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