House and Home

This is just a look at a small selection of the very many different architectural and building styles seen in Tunisia. Some of these are very localized, with specific areas being identified by their building styles or construction methods.

A popular destination for people visiting Tunisia is Matmata to see the troglodyte houses, made famous outside Tunisia by George Lucas.

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The outrageous cheese-fest above is the Hotel Sidi Driss. It seems to see a pretty constant stream of visitors as its claim to fame is as the site used as Luke Skywalker’s house in Star Wars. There are, however, other less kitsch examples available to visit.

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The houses are cut into the soft rock and provide a wonderfully cool respite from the high summer temperatures. I understand that relatively few of the villagers actually still live in the houses, but they are maintained as a historical record of their former lifestyles. However, we were assured that this lady does indeed still live in her troglodyte dwelling.

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While we had a look around, she made us some delicious tea and we tasted the bread that the locals have for breakfast with honey and olive oil. Yum.

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It’s actually a rather nice house and, as it has electricity laid on, she can reap the benefits of troglodyte living, while still being able to have her flat screen TV and cable.

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At Bulla Regia, we can see a sort of cross between the troglodyte dwelling and the classical Roman villas which we expect to encounter at Roman urban sites.

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These villas have all the trappings of high status villas above-ground; columns, mosaics, hot and cold running slaves, but they have been cut into the ground, with winter quarters and services on the ground floor, and summer quarters below ground level.

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Descending into the house, the change in temperature is very obvious, and light for these areas is provided by the large atrium and additional light-wells. The builders used terracotta tubes, fitted together to create vaulting to support the roofs, a device I also saw at other sites.

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These ones (below) were in the museum at el Jem.

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In Tozeur, local government requires that all buildings, including new ones, be at least one third clad in the local hand-made bricks, for which the area is known.

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This has resulted in a distinctive look to the town, with even ordinary flats and office blocks sitting comfortably with older buildings.

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In the old town especially, the designs of brickwork can be quite elaborate.

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We went a wee bit off piste and visited one of the local brickmakers (he is also a potter). He can make, by hand, up to 600 bricks a day and he showed up how he did it.

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Tunisia may be a small country, but it is a country of variety, in history, people, lifestyles and environment. This has lead to this range of unique architectural styles and construction methods, and many more.

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3 thoughts on “House and Home

  1. US citizens have a “travel warning” from our State Department regards Tunisia. How are things there these days?

    Badger

    • Hi Badger,
      the UK Foreign Office also changed their travel advice just before I went over there, so we weren’t able to go into the desert south of Douz, but it was fine when I was there. I did hear a bit of a demo going on when I was in Sousse, but there was no trouble, and the general atmosphere was absolutely fine. It felt like a pretty safe and comfortable country. I think that the changes to travel advice are generally precautionary, as it’s coming up to the anniversary of the 14th January revolution. Hopefully the Tunisian people will mark the anniversary with lots of sound but not so much fury.

  2. Pingback: “Hmpf! Adventure. Hmpf! Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”* | moose and hobbes

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