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Sidi Bou Said Things to Do: 46 reviews and 106 photos
Baron d'Erlanger Palace ~ Picture From the web
As you can see from previous tips and photos, one of the unique features of Sidi Bou Said is its white-washed buildings paired with intense blue accents on doors, scrolled ironwork, and other architectural accents. Many have compared Sidi Bou Said's appearance to that of Santorini, Greece, and it is not difficult to see the remarkable resemblance. But how did Sidi Bou Said come to look so incredibly different from its other counterparts in North Africa.
The predominant use of the white and blue in Sidi Bou Said has been notably attributed to one man. The Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger, a musicologist and painter, built a palace here between 1911 - 1922 using those 2 signature colors and a style influenced by architectural details from the Andalusian-Maghreb tradition. Somehow the predominant use of those colors flourished throughout Sidi Bou Said and the rest is history.
Today the Palace is now known as "Ennejma Ezzahra" and is the home of the Arab and Mediterranean Music Center. The Center plays a major role in four areas: "conservation, exhibitions related to Tunisian musical heritage and museum activities." Groups of musicians, and choral groups from around the world perform at the Center on a regular basis.
It is unfortunate we didn't have enough time to see the Palace for hear a performance because I believe both would have been quite special. If you're in the area of Sidi Bou Said, check your hotel concierge for information on exhibitions and performances for daily or nightly entertainment.
The museum is open Tuesday - Sunday from 9am - 1pm and from 2pm - 5pm.
Admission: 3 TD adults; 1.5 TD for children.
Picture 1: Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger Palace now known as Ennejma Ezzahra or The Arab and Mediterranean Music Center
Pictures 2 & 3: Examples of Sidi Bou Said's signature colors & architecture
Address: 8 Rue 2 Mars 1934, Sidi Bou Said
Cathedral of St. Louis ~ Carthage, Tunisia
It is known that the man known as St. Louis, was also the same person who was crowned in Rheims in 1226 at the age of 11 as King Louis IX of France and the House of Capet. During his reign, Louis was known as a benevolent and devout Christian and Catholic. It is said he took his coronation investature as "lieutenant of God on Earth" and Protector of the Church seriously and to that end, embarked on two crusades.
It was during his second crusade when trying to spread Christianity and fighting Islam that Louis died in the town now known as Sidi Bou Said. Some sources say that he died in this Tunisian village of disease in 1270. However, Tunisians believe he did not die, but converted to Islam becoming known as Sidi Bou Said, and died as an Islamic saint buried in Djebel-Marsa. Because of Louis' documented, life long Christian devotion and his crusade against Islam, the Berber legend is not considered credible to many scholars.
What is more, apparently the partial remains of this saint have been buried in several places in addition to Sidi Bou Said: the Basilica of Monreale in Palermo, Sicily; Basicilica of St. Dominic in Bologna, Italy was his resting place for a brief time; and the French Royal Necropolis in St. Denis, France. It is said his body disappeared from St. Denis during the French Wars of Religion (a subject for further study).
St. Louis/Sidi Bou Said was canonized as a Catholic saint by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297; Louis IX was the only crowned monarch of France ever to become a saint. His memory is honored throughout the world in many places and in many ways. The Cathedral of St. Louis in Carthage was one, but now is no longer a relgious place of worship, but is used as a cultural center. The pictures here show the building which unfortunately we were not given access to. It remains a beautiful testament to the man known as St. Louis and also Sidi Bou Said.
While making our way up an inclined and narrow "street" in Sidi Bou Said, our guide pointed out the doorway you see in the picture here. He said it was part of the tomb of "Sidi Bou Said" whom the town was named after. Our guide told us that "Sidi" is a term of honor or deference. No doubt the door is only a portion of a much larger building or religious complex that we really could not see from street level.
In researching this place, I soon found out that the history surrounding this revered person (Sidi Bou Said) is somewhat confusing as not only is this person known in Christianity as St. Louis, but also as an Islamic saint known as "Sidi Bou Said." Just as mysterious is his exact burial place!! So the story around the person known as St. Louis or Sidi Bou Said is an interesting one for many reasons.
The Tunisian legend relates the story of King Louis falling in love with a Berber princess, converting to Islam and changing his name to quite a long Islamic name: Abou Said ibn Khalef ibn Yahia Ettamini el Beji. However, this legend is widely thought to be discredited because of the historical facts.
The man known as St. Louis, canonized by the Catholic Church, has been honored throughout the world, giving his name to many Cathedrals, including the one at Carthage just a few miles away.
One of the first things I noticed about Sidi Bou Said was its attractive architecture of white-washed buildings with deep blue accents much like what I have seen in pictures of Santorini, Greece. The intense colors of Bougainvilla along with palm trees are beautiful, and I love the lacey scrolled ironwork surrounding windows, but it is the unique doors of Sidi Bou Said that really catches my eye.
These unusual doors are typically arched, some with Moorish arches and may be outlined in alternating color blocks of white and black. Most doors themselves are painted a brilliant deep Cerulean blue color and often have artisitic patterns made by using large, wrought-iron black nail heads. Patterns are often elaborate and symbolic. For example, the outline or picture of "hands" in art, doors or everyday goods are said to be symbols of good luck or keep evil spirits away.
These beautiful doors themselves seem to be the signature of or symbol of Tunisia and so you may see them, as we did, as enlarged pictures and mounted on a building; on postcards; on ceramics; in metalwork; and even on magnets. When I think of Tunisia, one of the things I will remember most are the beautiful and exotic-looking doors.
Beautiful shops in Sidi Bou Said
The delicate art of bargaining, bartering, and negotiation when shopping can be an enjoyable pursuit or a less than enjoyable experience, depending on what you make of it. In many countries it is expected that customers will bargain or negtiate when shopping.
I am rather new at bargaining and I enjoyed trying my hand at it in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia. It is never my intention to bargain someone down to such a low price that they are insulted or angry. It is also never my intention to get ripped off, although maybe I have been. I feel strongly that there can be no enjoyment in being a stingy, miserly jerk of a person who basically walks away with an item almost for free. I aim for fairness on both sides always.
I have read that a good start for bargaining is one-quarter or one third of the asking price depending on what the item is (some people say one-tenth of the asking price). I tried to be very polite and respectful of everyone I bargained with and I bargained until I was happy (or close to it) with the price as was the shopowner. In one particularly nice shop with Tunisian pottery, the first asking price was 60 Euro for a handpainted, oval bowl of good size. I kept saying "too much (money)". I did not leave with the large bowl, but I left with a very nice decorative piece & another smaller bowl included in the deal for 30 Euros. I also purchased a plate and vase together for even less. Maybe I did OK because the shopowner said, "No more" and politely ushered me out the door.
At another roadside shop I was lookiing at postcards and a teenage boy told me a folding "book" of postcards was 1 euro. It wasn't a high price of course, but the "book" that he wanted me to take was a little worn from handling already. So I bargained with him to give me a few more new postcards with the book for the 1 euro or so.
Beautiful Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said is sometimes called the "Village of Artists." It had been a favorite of artists, poets and writers in the early part of the 20th century. The intense beauty of the sea, the architecture and color of the place is simply awe-inspiring. Capturing this amazing beauty in watercolors or oils would be no small accomplishment. So it is no wonder why artists such as Paul Klee, Gustave-Henri Jossot, August Macke and Louis Moillet visited Sidi Bou Said and spent time here. Sidi Bou Said also attracted notable Tunisian artists such as Tahia Turki, Brahim Dhahak, and Amma Farhat whose work, unfortunately, I am not familiar with.
Paul Klee, a Swiss-borne artist, came to Sidi Bou Said in 1914 with Jossot and Macke. It is said that Klee experienced a turning point in his artwork here when he came to understand the significance of light and color and the embodiment of it in his work became pivotal. It is said Klee exclaimed, "Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever......". Much of Klee's earlier works were black & white sketches. Although artists like Klee are famous, I am not a fan of modern art in most cases.
From my own point of view, it is the native Tunisian artists whose work is seen in roadside shops today that is of importance to me. The artists who handpaint the intricate designs of the beautiful Tunisian pottery, the leathercrafters and weavers, the mosaic artists and painters. It is their artwork which I shall remember and not a modern painting in some cold museum.
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