Secrets From The Sahara Sidi bou Saiid : Until the sunset
Pen and Camera : Hatem Dhwibi a.k.a CoOL Burn
I spent few days in Tunis, I went to a variety of places. One of these days I was so stressed out, I couldn’t think of any place to go, I couldn’t think of anything to release the stress, I kept roving, lost in thoughts, walking in wonder, I regained my conscious when I heard a voice telling me ‘sir, you’ve reached your destination’, I paid the man, walked out the cab to find out that I was on the way to ‘Sidi Bou Saiid’, again.
I’ve been there before, I spent a happy time walking through its alleyways, it has no straight streets, it’s either you’re going up or you’re going down, exhausting but it’s worth it. As a touristic area, ‘Sidi Bou Saiid’ has nothing so special, it has no places in the conventional sense to be called a tourist site, however, this aspect is of no importance, the real pleasure is to walk through the alleys of this fortified village and its narrow streets paved with stones which surface is smooth by walking on them for centuries, and I think this was what led me to go there, it was the inspirational atmosphere of this coastal region which has been a source of inspiration not only for me but also for generations of celebrity writers and artists such as ‘Paul Klee’, ‘GustaveFlaubert’, ‘André Guid’ and ‘Cervantes’. As the sun was going down and my feet were asking for rest, I went to have a cup of tea in ‘Sidi Chaabene’s Café’ which is up in the end of the village, what distinguishes this café is its location overlooking the gulf of Tunisia, it is so interesting and joyful to take a mint tea in one of the antique village’s cafés. Not far from where I was, there is a long ladder down starting from ‘Dar Zarrouk Restaurant’ which leads to the ships’ marina, but I chose to have a view from the top while drinking my warm cup of tea, there was a limited number of visitors and perhaps a limited number of ships, but the villagers come at the end of the day to reflect on yacht sighting, inhaling the sea air and eating ice cream.
‘Sidi Bou Saiid’, ‘Saiid’ is an Arabic proper noun, ‘Bou’ refers to the father as back in the days, men were referred to according to the name of their fathers (Ibn) or to the name of their first son (Abou or Bou), ‘Bou Saiid’ is like saying the father of Saiid, the enunciation ‘Sidi’ is told to the people of importance, like the word ‘Sir’, so who is ‘Sidi Bou Saiid’ whose name’s been given to that village?
‘Abou Saiid Khalaf Ibn Yahya al-Tamimi’, ( 1156 – 1231), a righteous guardian of Allah, this was the character whose name was left for this famous village, he was born in the old town of ‘Bejja’, a small village near ‘Manouba-Tunis’ which is now deserted, he gave himself to meditation and spiritual exercises, he devoted himself to prayer and offered lessons to his disciples, after his death, the village continued to attract all those who were prepared to seek meditation and I guess that was the reason behind choosing the blue and white colors for the village. Myths of the region say that he was only the King of France, ‘Louis IX’, who made up the story of his death after the siege of Tunisia and converted to Islam and chose to live the rest of his life in this quiet village.
I bet that there exist hundreds of stories surrounding that small village, living between the lines of its stones, but I didn’t have enough time to run after each one of them as it was getting dark and means of public transportation were starting to disappear, I was glad I could take some good pictures, and I felt better with myself as everyone is supposed to feel when visiting ‘Sidi Abou Saiid’.
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