The medina of Bizerte
The Medina of Bizerte corresponds to the old town. It stretches north of the modern city, above Avenue Bourguiba, and runs along the old port to the Kasbah of Bizerte (the fortress). Formerly protected by a rampart facing inland, the latter was brought down during the French protectorate in order to assert its power over the city. The medina is a kind of labyrinth of narrow streets that intersect in all directions. In the souks, the smells change from one alley to another, according to the artisan shops and their products. We do not hesitate to negotiate for any object. The names of the streets correspond to the old guilds present here: rue des armuriers, rue des carpenters, the weavers, the jewelers… In narrow stalls you can see a craftsman at work. The tall octagonal minaret of the Great Mosque (dating from the 17th century) rises above the medina. At his side, the zaouia of Sidi Mokhtar Dey, boss of Bizerte.
The Medina of Bizerte is an old town that surrounds the picturesque Vieux Port district. It is a lively center of traditional crafts. In its winding maze of narrow alleys and covered souks are the workshops of metalworkers and carpenters, and the shops of butchers and grocers. The streets are named after the craftsmen who live and work there: the blacksmiths of rue des Forgerons, the gunsmiths of rue des Armuriers, the carpenters of rue des Menuisiers and the butchers of rue des Bouchers. It’s a very atmospheric place to wander around, and unlike the Medinas of Hammamet and Monastir, it hasn’t been restored so it oozes with all the exotic charm of the Orient.
The 17th century Kasbah is just north of the Old Port. Its walls are open to the public and allow a beautiful view of the old port from the top. The interior of the Kasbah is occupied by houses and contains a 17th century Hanafi mosque.
The old port is undoubtedly one of the most important and symbolic attractions of the city. With these colorful fishing boats, it reminds us of Venice. It is a very charming place which is a quiet retreat for local fishermen who bring in their daily catch.
Between the souks of the Medina and the old port is the 17th century Rebaa Mosque, with a distinctive octagonal minaret that has obvious Ottoman influence on its gallery facade.
On the south side of the Old Port, opposite the Kasbah, is the small fort of Sidi el Hani. Like the Kasbah, it dates from the 17th century. It has been restored to an excellent standard and houses a small but interesting oceanographic museum. At the level of the fort’s terrace one can see excellent touristic views of the city, with the Old Port and the Kasbah in the foreground.
On a hill, northeast of the Kasbah, are the remains of the massive Fort of Spain flanked by an old cemetery. From its terrace there are panoramic views of the Medina and the old port with the modern industrial port beyond.
North of Bizerte, the coastal road known as the Corniche runs along a series of long sandy beaches lined with hotels, restaurants, holiday apartments and elegant villas.