Sfax City in Tunisia
The city of Sfax is not a resort, but it can be interesting for tourists as a sightseeing destination. There are no beach hotels, but many interesting sites: the medina, the Great Mosque, the Archaeological Museum, excavations of the ancient city of Tina.
Sfax is an industrial center, famous for the production of olive oil and textiles, and for tourists it means low prices for clothes and Tunisian gifts - profitable shopping.
We will tell in detail about the city and pay special attention to what travelers can see here.
Sfax on the map of Tunisia
Details of the location on the map of all Tunisian resorts, we told in the article " Map of Tunisia with resorts ."
Facts and Figures
Sfax is the second largest city in Tunisia, second only to the capital city of Tunisia. It is the center of the same-named province (province), the second largest city with a total population of 955,000 people. The population of the city of Sfax is about 273 000 people (without suburbs and satellite cities).
Sfax has been a busy port since ancient times, and now it is the second "Tunisian sea gate" in terms of cargo turnover. Perhaps, we will start from ancient times.
History of Sfax
The first to settle here were the Phoenicians, who created colonies throughout the Mediterranean. It is not known exactly when the colony was founded on the site of modern Sfax, but approximately this is the 11th-9th centuries BC. Sfax can claim the title of one of the first cities in the history of Tunisia .
The colony quickly merged into the state of Carthage, becoming an agrarian base for the Carthaginians. In the region near Sfax, then grains were grown - barley and wheat. Recall that in that era the climate in modern Tunisia was softer, in place of the present sands there were fields and meadows.
Carthage lost the Third Punic War and was destroyed by the Romans, and the territory of modern Tunisia became a province of the Roman Republic. In the year 146 BC. The city became Roman and was named Taparoor. His economic specialization has not changed - the supply of grain.
To the south of Taparuru was another Roman city called Tina. Now this city is a suburb of Sfax, here archaeological work is conducted, and excavations show tourists.
In the Roman period, the town of Taparura flourished, the historian Pliny the Elder wrote about record harvests in the region. Gradually, Taparura changes its specialization from cereals to olive trees and becomes one of the largest suppliers of olive oil in the Mediterranean.
In 439-442 the territory of modern Tunisia was captured by vandals and founded their kingdom here. In 553-554 the army of Byzantium smashes the vandals and seizes these lands. In 650-670 years, the Arabs conquer all of North Africa. All these wars had a deplorable impact on the development of the economy.
It ended with the fact that in the 8th century the area around was almost uninhabited, the town of Taparura ceased to exist. The Norman pirates blocked trade, the Arabs fought the Berbers for a long time, and there was not much to live for.
The situation calmed down in the 9th century, when the power of the Arabs strengthened. The city is rebuilt anew, but already an Arab city under the name "Sfax". Here the land caravan routes from Africa successfully converge, and the seaport allows you to export goods to Europe. From the depths of the continent they carry ivory, ebony, ostrich feathers, golden sand and slaves. The region has become famous throughout Europe with olive oil and textiles.
In the 9th century, the first walls and defensive bastions began to be erected in Sfax. Then it was not yet the medina, which is now visited by tourists, but its prototype.
Trade with Europe that faded, then once again gaining momentum, but 700 years the city prospered. In the 16th century the port became interested in European powers. In 1535, the Spaniards occupied the city and held it until 1574. Since 1574, Tunisia was officially in the possessions of the Ottoman Empire, but the Turkish power in the country was very weak.
After the departure of the Spaniards, Sfax becomes one of the bases of the pirates, the central place of their stay in Tunisia was then the island of Djerba . About 100 years pirates posed a serious threat in the Mediterranean Sea, European powers constantly arranged anti-piracy operations. In 1785 the Venetians fired Sfax from the sea twice, but did not dare to storm.
The power of the Turkish governors (Beilerbeev) was constantly growing. In 1873-1877, the governor Heyraddin Pasha carried out large-scale reforms in Tunisia, in Sfax the port was expanded and modernized, and new plantations of olive trees were planted around the city. These plantations are used by modern Tunisians.
In 1881, Sfax captured the French (see the illustration on the left), the era of the French protectorate is coming. The city becomes one of the provincial centers of the country. In 1892, the French planted even more olive trees.
In 1896, in the west of Sfax in the city of Gafsa, the French find a deposit of phosphate ores, which "played into the hands of" the economy of Sfax, which becomes an industrial center, where ore processing plants are built, and the port is used for exporting phosphates to Europe. The first railways in Tunisia are built exactly from Sfax to other cities, primarily to Gafsa. The factories need manpower, and here people from other provinces are stretching, the population is growing rapidly.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Tunisia captured the Italians, and later the Germans landed under the command of Rommel to help them in Africa. Sfax is becoming an important base for Rommel's trip to Egypt. Despite the nickname "Desert Fox", Rommel lost the African campaign, and Tunisia was occupied by the English under the command of Montgomery. Now the British and US armies used Sfax as an important base for the capture of Sicily.
After the Second World War, Tunisia returned under the administration of France, and since 1956 the country gained independence. Sfax flourished in all these periods and flourishes to this day.
Economy - what do people do
Sfax is the second largest port of Tunisia, hence export (export) of phosphates, olives and oil, dates and other food products. The city is an important industrial center, here are developed light, food and chemical industries.
Fishing and fishing for seafood are the second specialization of Sfax, where 25% of all fish and seafood are caught in Tunisia. Every year, 10,000 tons of fish are exported.
Around Sfax, 40% of Tunisian olives are grown (pictured right). Recorded yields the region is obliged to a unique microclimate, which makes it possible to grow olive trees without artificial irrigation. The second popular agricultural crop in Sfax is almonds, 30% of almonds in the country are grown here.
The authorities made several attempts to develop tourism in the region, but they did not achieve much success.
Tourism with Sfax
Unsuccessful attempts to develop the tourism industry are caused by several factors. First, high cost and labor shortage, because the people of Sfax and so there is something to do. Secondly, the shortage of funds for the development of infrastructure, because local authorities already have money to spend. Thirdly, the proximity of a large port to local beaches, which will exclude vacationers from here.
As a result, there are beaches in Sfax, but there is not a single beach hotel. However, this does not prevent to settle in an ordinary hotel in the city and go to the public beach, which in the city a few. The most famous is Chaffar beach, pictured on the left.
A full-fledged hotel in the city is only a dozen, and they are oriented for business visitors. Prices are great, to live in a normal room (clean and with all amenities) can be even for $ 20 per night. If you decide to come to Sfax to see the sights, do not miss the chance to stay in a local hotel and save money.
Sfax - a good place for shopping, large markets and low prices will please shoppers. Local traders are not focused on tourists. Olive oil, clothing, seafood is cheaper here than in any resort area.
In the south-west of the city there is an international airport "Sfax-Thyna International Airport", however it is not used for tourist purposes. From here, planes fly only to Libya, Algeria and to France.
In Sfax tourists are taken on excursions, because there is something to see.
Medina is the center of the Arab city, surrounded by a wall. In Sfax there is the largest surviving Tunisian medin, measuring 400 by 500 meters. The first walls were built in 849-851 by Prince Abu Abbas Mohammed. In the 12th century the walls were fortified, and in the 17th century Kasba (fort, citadel) appeared in the south-western corner.
Medina is full of shops and handicraft shops, cafes and simple houses. People live here, according to the French Wikipedia, 113,000 people live here, but a reasonable person will never believe such a figure. Try yourself to calculate how many square meters of the area is per person.
"Mammoth Gate" (or "Bab Divan") - the main of the six entrances to the medina (pictured right). They were rebuilt many times, and in 1943 during the seizure of Sfax by the English army Montgomery were completely destroyed by bombardment, later restored. It was these gates that became one of the "business cards" of Sfax.
In the northern part is the Sok de Etoffe ("Souq des Etoffes") - the tissue market. It was here that the film "English patient" was filmed.
Medina is a big market, but not a tourist market, like the medina of Hammamet or Sousse, where shops are full of souvenirs and cheap Chinese clothes. Here come the local Tunisians and the range is focused on them. This is a good chance to buy cheap quality Tunisian clothes, exclusive creations of local artisans, olive oil, dates and other tasty gifts.
We want to warn that the appearance of tourists has a negative effect on some traders, they are beginning to try to "squeeze out a maximum of foreigners." Be attentive and read our article " How to buy gifts in Tunisia ", where we gave many practical advice.
Also here you can visit a small ethnographic museum, and in the center of the medina is another important landmark of the city - the Great Mosque.
The Great Mosque of Sfax
The first version of this mosque was built in 849 by Ali Ben Selam el-Beckri - ruler of Sfax and the adjoining area, which at that time was called "Sahel". The first mosque was built of clay, but after 10 years it was rebuilt from stone. In 988 the mosque was reconstructed.
A very interesting fact is that the minarets of mosques have always been used for defensive purposes, to monitor the enemy. At the time of the seizure of Sfax by the French in 1881, the Minaret of the Great Mosque (pictured left) served as the defenders of "bad service", as the French gunners used it as a reference point for adjusting fire around the city center. After capturing the city, the French used the mosque as barracks and soldiers' baths, and the courtyard of the mosque as a stable.
The Great Mosque is closed to non-Muslims, tourists only have to look at the outer walls, which are beautifully decorated.
It is already in the New Town, built by the French during the time of the protectorate, on Carthage Avenue. The museum's collection is one of the richest in Tunisia, it contains exhibits from all eras, including objects from the Carthage period. Most of the exhibits were brought from the excavations of the cities of Tina and Taparuru.
In addition to these places, in Sfax you can see the excavations of the city of Tina, the Museum of Folk Traditions, the beach of Chaffar and the islands of Kerkenna.
Successful trips to Tunisia, and read our other interesting articles about this country ( links below ).
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