In the XIth century, the heights of the village were chosen by the Almoravides for the defense of the northeastern coast of Tunisia. Watchtowers and fire towers were built there.

Sidi Bou Saïd: a key city

These fire towers moreover gave its name to the hill: Djebel Menara ("mountain of the lighthouse").

Abou Saïd Khalaf Ibn Yahya el-Tamini el-Béji, alias Sidi Bou Saïd, used to teach in the street in which he lived in Tunis and which has since been named after him. Towards the end of his life, he withdrew on Djebel Menara, in the ribat built on the hill above the cape Carthage, to stand guard and teach Sufism. He was then nicknamed "master of the sea" due to the protection which the sailors, navigating near the site, believed he could grant them. He died in 1231 and was buried on the hill. His zouaïa doubtless constitutes the first element of the village that would later take his name.

A legend tells that Sidi bou Saïd would be no other than the french king, Louis IX, a.k.a Saint-Louis, which landed in Tunis in 1270 during the eighth crusade. During the siege of Carthage, while his army was decimated by the plague and the dysentery, the king would have disguised as a shepherd, Saïd, and would have withdrawn on the hill. After becoming a diligent reader of the Koran, he would have converted to Sufism and become a respected mystic. (*)

The current lighthouse overlooks of the hill and is still a guide to the navigator.

The blue and white village

From the XVIIth century on, the charm of this village seduced the bourgeoisie of Tunis and the beylicale husseinite family which built luxurious houses of Arabian-Moslem style such as Dar Dellagi, Dar Mohsen, Dar Thameur, Dar Arif, Dar Lasram, Dar Debbagh, Dar Chérif, Dar Bahri, the Naceur Bey's palace... It was later named after Sidi Bou Saïd' when the village became the seat of a municipality in 1893.  August 28th, 1815 a decree was taken to ensure the protection of the village, imposing the blue and the white so dear to the baron d'Estanget forbidding any anarchic construction on the headland, making of Sidi Bou Saïd the first conservation area in the world. (*)

Sidi Bou Saïd, together with the site of Carthage has been recognized as a world heritage by Unesco in 1979. However, the instructions of Unesco giving under the urbanization which develops from Sidi Bou Saïd to La Marsa and Salammbô.

Sidi bou Saïd, city of writers and artists

From the XIXth century on, Sidi Bou Saïd attracted numerous artists, musicians and writers such as Chateaubriand, Gustave Flaubert, Alphonse de Lamartine, André Gide, Colette and Simone de Beauvoir. Michel Foucault wrote l'Archéologie du Savoir there. (*)

Sidi Bou Saïd, symbol of the Tunisian reconstruction

On January 12th, 2013, Sidi Bou Saïd's mausoleum was destroyed by fire; it had been under the threat of salafis. Works of renovation were later undertaken and the monument has since found its lost integrity. (*)

(*) from Wikipedia

Ranked among the 13 most charming villages in the world

The modern city

History