Historical Religious Buildings Tour (Self Guided), Tunis

Being the oldest part of Tunis, Medina is packed with a number of great mosques of both religious and historical value. Most of them have high minarets, marble columns, beautifully decorated prayer rooms and mausoleums of famous people. Mosquée Zitouna, built in the 9th century, is the Tunisian jewel.
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Historical Religious Buildings Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Religious Buildings Tour
Guide Location: Tunisia » Tunis (See other walking tours in Tunis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mosquée Saheb Ettabaâ
  • Mosquée Sidi Mahrez
  • Kasbah Mosque
  • Mosquée Youssef Dey
  • Tourbet el Bey
  • Ez-Zituna Mosque
  • Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Paul
Mosquée Saheb Ettabaâ

1) Mosquée Saheb Ettabaâ

Saheb Ettabaâ Mosque, also known as Youssef Saheb Al Tabaa Mosque is an official Historical Monument. It is the last great mosque built in Tunis before the establishment of French protectorate in 1881.

It bears the name of the Grand Vizier Yusuf Saheb Ettabaâ and was opened in 1814. Its construction lasted six years, from 1808, led by Ben Sassi and a workforce consisting primarily of slaves captured by European pirates to Tunis and made available to the Minister by Hammouda Pacha. It is influenced by Italian architecture; columns with fluted shafts, capitals and especially a unique type of veneer marble polychrome.

The mosque dominates the imposing Halfaouine district with its many domes and colonnaded galleries Italian marble work. It is part of a monumental complex built at the same time including a bazaar, a hammam, two madrasas, a sabil or public fountain, a funduq and Ettabaâ Saheb's palace (now a public library) as well as his tomb. The combination of these schedules in place of worship is a unique example in the construction of religious buildings.

Its minaret is octagonal remained unfinished until 1970, when restoration work has finished his lantern.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Mosquée Sidi Mahrez

2) Mosquée Sidi Mahrez (must see)

Built by Mohamed Bey El Mouradi, son of Mourad Bey II in 1692 in honor of the patron-saint of Tunis, Sidi Mahrez, this mosque is an official Historical Monument. It is strongly influenced by Ottoman architecture, showing similarities to the Sultan Ahmed II Mosque of Istanbul with a central dome with cupolas occupying the four corners of the square of the prayer hall. Polychrome tiles were imported from Iznik (Turkey) to cover a large part of the wall in the direction of Mecca and the grand pillars that support the central dome. The interior of the mosque was renovated in the 1960s.

In order for non-Muslims to visit the interior, they should convert to Islam, so you can perhaps satisfy yourself, without too many dramas, by observing this mosque from the outside.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Kasbah Mosque

3) Kasbah Mosque (must see)

You will easily find this mosque opposite Kasbah Square. It was built between 1231 and 1235 and has a rectangular prayer room, gorgeous arches, marble columns, and a remarkable minaret. The top of the tower is crowned with a lantern.

As with other mosques in Tunis, you cannot visit inside being a non-Muslim.
Mosquée Youssef Dey

4) Mosquée Youssef Dey (must see)

An official Historical Monument, the Youssef Dey Mosque operated primarily as a public speaking venue before becoming a real mosque in 1631. At the time it was the 11th mosque to be built in the capital. In the late 19th century, it underwent extensive restoration, ordered by Ali Bey. A decree in 1926 saw the mosque become an annex of the University of Ez-Zitouna.

Why You Should Visit:
The mosque itself is really nice and even the courtyard is interesting (if you are lucky), but it's the neighborhood – the side streets, the cafeterias, etc. – that you should explore at least once.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Tourbet el Bey

5) Tourbet el Bey (must see)


Built in the 18th century, the Tourbet el Bey is a Tunisian royal mausoleum in the southwest of the medina of Tunis. It is the largest funerary monument in Tunis, mainly known for housing the marble graves of the Husseinite dynasty which ruled Tunisia for a long time. Besides members of their families, favorite ministers and court people are also buried here. The graves occupy the courtyard and some rooms. You will be impressed by the mausoleum's richly decorated rooms and finely worked stucco on the ceiling domes inside them.
Ez-Zituna Mosque

6) Ez-Zituna Mosque (must see)

Ez-Zituna Mosque (literally meaning "the Mosque of Olive") is the oldest mosque in the Capital of Tunisia and covers an area of 5,000 square metres (1.2 acres) with nine entrances. It has 160 authentic columns brought originally from the ruins of the old city of Carthage. The mosque is known to host one of the first and greatest universities in the history of Islam. Many Muslim scholars were graduated from the Al-Zaytuna for over a thousand years. From Ibn 'Arafa, one of the greatest scholars of Islam, Imam Maziri, the great traditionalist and jurist to the famous Tunisian poet Aboul-Qacem Echebbi and countless others all taught there.

The courtyard is accessible via nine lateral doorways and forms a rectangle surrounded by galleries supported by columns made variously of marble, granite or porphyry and which were taken from ancient monuments (primarily from Carthage), as were those in the prayer hall. The square minaret, built in 1894, rises from the northwest corner of the courtyard.

Why You Should Visit:
The building fits perfectly in the environment but is not less majestic. The architectural work of the main minaret is remarkable.
Given the age of the mosque (nearly 1000 years old), the overall degree of preservation is surprising.

As a non-Muslim, you may take a look at the square of the mosque (via the main gate) and snap some photos, but will not be allowed entrance to the prayer room.
Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

7) Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (must see)

Situated at Place de l'Indépendence in Ville Nouvelle, the Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul is a Roman Catholic church in Tunis dedicated to the patron saint of charity.

The church was built in a mixture of styles, including Moorish revival, Gothic revival, and Neo-Byzantine architectural traditions. Construction began in 1893 and the church was opened at Christmas 1897. Imposing and unique, it is the largest surviving building from Tunis' colonial era and is still a living church thanks to a community of foreigners. Directly opposite is the French embassy, built in colonial times as residence of the French governor.

Don't miss the mosaics on top of the facade and discover the unique souvenir from the visit of Pope John Paul II. The church is free to enter.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-12pm / 3-5pm (Sep-Jun); 8am-3pm (Jul, Aug)

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