Sidi Bou Said, the Tunisian Santorini
By: Mariem Hamdi/ Arab America contributing writer
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia, “The promontory of the eternal sun”, is one of the most charming and breathtaking towns in the whole world. It is located north of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, on top of a cliff on a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Tunis. The town is named after Abu Said al-Baji, a religious figure، who was a Tunisian Sufi scholar.
Sidi Bou said is one of the jewels of Tunisia, the streets are cobbled, the houses and buildings are white, the doors and decorative window lattices are blue, and flowers are all over the walls and doorways. That’s why a lot of people call it the Tunisian Santorini.
The pirates of Barbarossa once visited this white and blue village, It is also famous for being the place for artists, writers, and philosophers. Artists who have lived in or visited Sidi Bou are said to include Yahia Turki, Ammar Farhat, Aleister Crowly, Michel Foucol… etc. Also, the French author and winner of the Nobel prize in literature Andre Gide had a house there. You will feel the artistry when you visit.
There are many different things you can do while in Sidi Bousaid, people from all around the globe visit yearly to see the attractive historical sites.
One of the famous spots that you should definitely visit is The Café des Delices, It has the best view of the Gulf of Tunis. It has the most beautiful sunset view, you would want to spend a sun-kissed evening drinking “Thé aux pignons” which is a Tunisian tea with pine nuts and mint leaves.
In the background, you will be listening to “Au Café des Delices” a song by Patrick Bruel, the French singer who fell in love with Sidi Bou said. Felix Gray wrote the lyrics recalling the memories of his childhood since he was born on June 28, 1958, in Tunis, Tunisia. It tells the sweetness of life in the city of Tunis referring to the Café des Délices.
Here’s a verse from the song:
“ Your memories become shrouded
You see the tram passing
And the whiteness of veils
Women holding their sons
And the scent of jasmine
That he carries in his hands
At the Café des Délices
Yalil yalil habibi yalil yalil yalil habibi yalil
Yalil yalil habibi yalil yalil yalil yalil…”
Now Let’s look at other places that are best for sights & landmarks in Sidi Bou Said:
Palace Dar Ennejma Ezzahra “Star of Venus” (Sparkling Star), also the Palace of the Baron d’Erlanger is a historical palace at Sidi Bou Said, it’s the home of Rodolphe d’Erlanger, the French painter and musicologist who was responsible for the blue and white color scheme of the town.
Ennejma Ezzahra Palace houses the CAMM, the Museum of Arab and Mediterranean Music, which is an institution operating under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage Conservation that is designed to serve both as a museum space and as a space to promote activities devoted to musical heritage.
The Mosque of Sidi Bou Said is one of the most beautiful and prominent mosques in Sidi Bou Said. Its traditional architecture is very beautiful with white and azure colors like the colors of the neighborhood where it’s located. The mosque has a pretty and simple design from the inside with white walls, columns, and special carpets that are ornate just like the mosque they are meant to represent. The minaret is tall and large as well, with a classic design, it has a big area for large numbers of worshipers.
Dar Zarrouk restaurant, is the most upscale restaurant in the heart of the village, with a breathtaking view of the bay of Tunis. They have a rich menu with a variety of food, Couscous with lamb and dried fruits dish is recommended.
If you are into fashion, you would really want to see DAR ALAIA, which is The beautiful house of the famous Tunisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaia where he used to spend his time relaxing and enjoying the beautiful view of Sidi Bou Said. Also, inside the house, you can still see some of his work, and the great clothing he has produced.
Last but not least, during your visit to Sidi Bou Said You will not forget to try the Bambalouni while visiting Sidi Bou Said, especially since you will see a queue outside a window looking into a kitchen, serving deep-fried desserts.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!