Exploring Sidi Bou Said: Tunis' Picturesque Seaside Suburb
Impossibly picturesque, Sidi Bou Said is Tunis' bohemian seaside suburb full of photo-perfect whitewashed buildings with wrought iron window dressings and sky-blue wooden doors. This is the place to kick back with a cappuccino and enjoy watching the world stroll by, or wander amid the quiet back streets (cars are banned) and take a cue from the relaxed ambiance. With its top credentials as a hip hangout for those of an artistic nature, this is also one of Tunisia's top spots to pick up the ceramic work for which the country is famed.
It was here in around 1207 that the Sufi teacher Abu Said el Baji established his Sufi order and settled, attracting many admirers and adherents to his preaching. When members of the Husseinite dynasty took up residence here in the 18th century, they brought with them many leading musicians and writers of the day. This laid the foundations for Sidi Bou Said's reputation as an artists' village. Thereafter it soon developed into an internationally known haunt of artists. Thanks to the efforts of the French artist and musicologist Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger, author of a six-volume encyclopedia on Arab music, the village was given statutory protection in 1915 to ensure that it would be preserved in its original state.
Sidi Bou Said is more an atmosphere than a list of tourist attractions, but don't miss a coffee or tea at Café des Nattes (upper end of the main square), where time has done little to change the exterior or interior of this typical Moorish coffeehouse. If you're looking for the best sightseeing views, stroll up to the Mausoleum of Abu Said el Baji (below the lighthouse) from where there are incomparable views of the Gulf of Tunis, Carthage, La Goulette and Tunis itself.