Tourbet El Bey

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Tourbet el Bey is the burial place of the reigning princes of the dynasty Husseinite who ruled Tunisia from 1705 to 1957. The different rooms contain the tombs of their wives as well as some ministers and faithful servants. It is a large sandstone building with green tiled domes.

The entrance hall is very attractive as it is covered with tiles with bird patterns. There is a small ticket desk but they have no information about the mausoleum and do not sell post cards. This leads into the main courtyard with an orange tree and lined with rooms containing the tombs. The rooms were often more impressive than the tombs with brightly coloured, patterned tiles and carved white stucco ceilings. The graves are covered with marble boxes. Some are simple boxes with a marble slab at each end with a poetry description mourning the death of the deceased. The tombs of the princes have a column with either a turban or fez on top. Each had the date of death in the muslim calendar on the pillar. The tombs of the royal princesses were separated from other tombs by a wooden screened area. In the room housing the oldest tombs there are smaller tombs belonging to children and in one corner a wooden tomb housing a Sidi (revered holy person). The rooms with the later tombs were congested with tombs crammed in to fill every available space.

This is in the south west corner of the Medina in a cramped rather run down area with quite a bit of litter. I had seen pictures of this on the internet before we visited but felt the reality didn’t live up to the images we’d seen. This applied to many of the other tombs and Zaouias we visited, so if you are only planning to see one, this is possibly the best.

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