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6 December 2010

The Medina of Tunis is a UNESCO World Heritage site

It was a cold, crisp morning the sky was blue and the sun was shining so I decided to go to the Medina in Tunis.  My main reason for going there was to look for some gifts to take to family and friends, as in less than two weeks time I will be going on holiday. 

The Medina is like a city within a city.  It extends over 270 hectares = 2 700 000 meters squared.  This will give you an idea of its size.  I know my way around a small portion of it but sometimes when I go there and if I have the time, I purposefully take wrong turns and get lost in the maze of narrow cobbled streets.  This is what I did today, I knew roughly the direction in which I was travelling and where I would probably end up and I did not mind that for half an hour or so I was lost.  It enabled me to see areas of the Medina where I have never walked before and I managed to buy some gifts en route and photographed many beautiful doors.  So all in all it was a good day.


The Medina of Tunis is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The UNESCO website provides excellent information not only on the history of the Medina and its architecture but also on its well renowned doors.  Below is an extract about the Tunisian doors and their meaning.  The entire article can be found at the following website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/36

"The decorated, mysterious and varied doors that line the roads, above all those of the Medina, illustrate the ways of thought and life of Tunisian families: there are simple doors with a single leaf, double rectangular doors in Hafsid style, and doors with a small under door known as a Khoukha. It was invented by the Spanish princess, wife of Abdulaziz Ibn Moussa Ibn Noussair, in order to oblige his Muslim subjects to bow to their monarch. Their colour also have a particular meaning: yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God; green is the colour of Paradise; blue, only introduced in recent times, recalls the 'blue of Sidi Bou Said', the village north of Tunis, which in the past was identified with catastrophe, but today used between the dominant colours in the windows and the walls of the houses of the Tunis medina. tricolour (white, green and red) one is the coat of arms of the Hafsid dynasty, who reigned from 1228 to 1574 in Tunis: they were brought together to recall the preceding dynasties - white for the Aghlabids, green for the Fatimids, and red for the Sanhajids.



The decorations (hilia, jewel) over the doors are made using large and small nails in order to execute symbolic and geometric designs: they have considerable historical and sociological importance. Also to be found are the symbol of Tanit, the Carthage goddess of the fertility, the six-angled star of David (which according to legend drives away djinng, the malignant spirits), the Christian cross (a memory of the Christian past of Tunisia, with St Augustine of Hippo), the Muslim mihrab (the place in the mosque where the Imam leads the faithful in prayer), the Turkish moon, symbolizing Ottoman Turkey, and the other Christian symbols, the eye and the fish."


 Figure 1: The significance of the yellow coloured door: "yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God".   


 Figure 2: The significance of the decorations: "the six-angled star of David (which according to legend drives away djinng, the malignant spirits)." 


 
 Figure 3: The significance of the blue coloured door: "recalls the 'blue of Sidi Bou Said', the village north of Tunis".  The significance of the decorations: the six-angled star of David (which according to legend drives away djinng, the malignant spirits). 


 
 Figure 4: The significance of the blue coloured door: "recalls the 'blue of Sidi Bou Said', the village north of Tunis". 


 
 Figure 5:  The significance of the blue coloured door: "recalls the 'blue of Sidi Bou Said', the village north of Tunis".  The significance of the decorations: the six-angled star of David (which according to legend drives away djinng, the malignant spirits).
  
 Figure 6: The significance of the yellow coloured door: "yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God".


Figure 7: The significance of the yellow coloured door: "yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God".  The significance of the decorations: "the Turkish moon, symbolizing Ottoman Turkey".


 Figure 8: The significance of the yellow coloured door: "yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God".


Figure 9: The significance of the yellow coloured door: "yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God".  The significance of the decorations: the six-angled star of David (which according to legend drives away djinng, the malignant spirits), the Turkish moon, symbolizing Ottoman Turkey". 


 
Figure 10: The significance of the yellow coloured door: "yellow ochre in the Koran is the colour loved by God".  The significance of the decorations: the six-angled star of David (which according to legend drives away djinng, the malignant spirits), the Turkish moon, symbolizing Ottoman Turkey". 
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