Travelers to Sfax often describe its walled city as the most authentic medina in Tunisia. Indeed, it’s easy to understand why as the Sfax medina has been mostly untouched by tourism. It continues to play an important role in everyday life for locals, as it has for centuries.
If you’re the kind of traveler who likes experiencing authentic local life and learning about fascinating history along the way, consider making these 7 stops in the Sfax medina a part of your Tunisia itinerary:
The Sfax Medina: Bab Diwan Gate
Gates were an important aspect of walled cities as they regulated the comings and goings into the city. And crucially, the city could close the gates to protect against invasions. Bab Diwan was one of the early gates of the medina, and it’s a great place to start a walking tour. Note the large defensive ramparts.
The Sfax Medina: Dar Jellouli Museum
Dar Jellouli is in a quiet, residential area off one of the main streets that runs through the Sfax medina. This traditional courtyard home is now a museum that highlights the history and culture of life in the medina. Walking through the house’s rooms and seeing the displays really gives a sense of what life was like for the residents of Sfax for centuries.
The Sfax Medina: Funduq des Forgerons
The next stop is Funduq des Forgerons (literally, “the Blacksmiths’ hotel”). This was a traditional hotel for merchants who came to Sfax with their caravans. There was plenty of room on the ground floor for travelers’ animals in the large courtyard and stalls, while travelers lodged in the rooms above.
The Sfax Fish Market
Although not actually in the medina’s walls, a visit to the medina wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the fish market. Sfaxian cuisine is known for its various seafood dishes, and the variety of fish and other seafood in this market makes it easy to understand why. This fish market is among the most popular for Sfaxians to shop.
The Medina’s Spice Shops
Heading back to the medina through Bab Jebli, make a stop at one of the spice shops nearby. The spice trade was once one of the most important and profitable in the world. Spice sellers played (and still play) an important role in the medina to provide flavor for food and ingredients for traditional medicine.
Relax with Cafe Kemour’s Great Panorama
By this time, you’ll probably appreciate time to sit down for a coffee or mint tea at Café Kemour. Here you can sit on the roof and get wonderful views of the Great Mosque and surrounding rooftops, or sit inside and enjoy the traditional decor.
The Sfax Medina: Souq des Etoffes
The nearby Souq des Etoffes is a colorful covered market where sellers display a variety of traditional clothing and rugs. This is a great place to buy traditional clothes or rugs because sellers usually start off at reasonable prices.
Enjoy Local Tunisian Cuisine
Last but not least, it’s now time for lunch. I recommend one of the seafood restaurants not far from Bab Diwan. Choose from a variety of fish and seafood, and you’ll get salad, soup, and a choice of starter. They also have chicken and lamb if you’re not into seafood.
The Sfax Medina: Culture and History
In the Sfax medina, there’s a sense of culture and history at every stop. A walking tour of the medina is sure to be a memorable part of any Tunisia itinerary!
For more information on building a custom Tunisia itinerary that includes the Sfax medina and other authentic places like it, contact us today!
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Austin learned the power of authentic travel during a year home-stay experience in Brazil. Since then, he’s been passionate about connecting deeply with other cultures and helping fellow travelers do the same. He and his wife have lived in Tunisia for several years. He continues to be surprised by the hidden gems the country has to offer, as well as the hospitality and kindness of the Tunisian people.
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