Sidi Bou Said Tourist Attractions
Situation and townscapeThe picturesque Andalusian-style village of Sidi Bou Said lies on the slopes of a rocky hill on Cap Carthage, which here falls 100m/330ft down to the sea. It owes its fame in Europe to three young painters - Paul Klee, August Macke and Louis Moillet - who came here in 1914 and in a series of pictures which became widely famed recorded the beauty of this village of whitewashed houses with blue doors and shutters and wrought-iron window grilles, with the Cafe des Mimosas and a minaret in the background. Sidi Bou Said is now one of the most popular resorts in Tunisia. In August Sidi Bou Said is the scene of the Kharja religious festival, which attracts large numbers of believers from all over Tunisia.HistoryThe present-day lighthouse occupies the site of a ribat built in the ninth century, soon after the Arab conquest of Carthage. Here around 1207 the Sufi teacher Abu Said el Baji established himself and attracted many admirers, who settled in Sidi Bou Said. Later his cult gained many adherents among refugees from Andalusia, who after the end of Spanish rule (1535-74) also settled here as pirates, taking Abu Said el Baji as their patron saint and naming him "Lord of the Sea". 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, who laid the foundations of 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 British banker and music-lover Baron Rudolphe 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.SightsNowadays Sidi Bou Said is crowded with tourists during the summer: hence the numerous souvenir shops in and around the main square.AccessRegular bus and TGM (suburban railroad) services to and from Tunis, 16km/10mi northwest. The road from Tunis to La Goulette continues by way of Carthage to Sidi Bou Said, and GP 9 runs direct to Sidi Bou Said, passing the Lac de Tunis and the airport.NoteCars are banned in the village, and the little parking lot is permanently overcrowded during the summer. The best plan, therefore, is to take the TGM or a taxi from Tunis.
Café des Nattes
At the upper end of the main square in Sidi Bou Said is the world-famed Cafe des Nattes, which features in August Macke's "View of a Mosque" (1914). Since Macke's time nothing essential has changed either in the exterior or interior of this typical Moorish coffee-house.
Zaouia (mausoleum) of Abu Said el Baji
On the highest point in in Sidi Bou Said, below the lighthouse, is the zaouia (mausoleum) of Abu Said el Baji, with a minaret erected in Ottoman times. From here there are incomparable views of the Gulf of Tunis, Cap Bon, Djebel Zaghouan in the distance, Carthage, La Goulette and Tunis.