To the east of the Bay of Tunis, the promontory of Sidi Bou Saïd is home to an Andalusian-style village that has long remained impenetrable to foreigners.
A hotbed of spirituality, this peaceful fishing village was to become famous in the 1920s thanks to the Franco-British orientalist painter and musicologist Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger. He had a sumptuous palace built there - Ennejma Ezzahra - "the Star of Venus", where he invited his artist friends. Since then, the popularity of this beautifully designed town has never waned.
It's great to stroll along its narrow streets at siesta time. Or in the evening, as the sun sets over the bay. The buses unload their stream of tourists and the old staircases and steep alleyways lined with stalls are a hustle and bustle.
But the white and blue village does not let itself be swallowed up. It reveals itself only cautiously, to those who can take the time to feel it, to look at it and to appreciate its serene atmosphere that no vicissitude seems to touch. You can glide along in the shade of whitewashed facades whose vaulted porches are overflowing with geraniums and bougainvilleas.
Take a seat under the cypress trees on the covered walkway overlooking the sea, where lovers hide. You can sip a pine nut tea on the terrace of the famous "café des nattes", which has seen generations of artists, writers and backpackers come and go.
The magnificent gates of the mansions may be closed, but the terraces and patios are open to all eyes. Stroll through the peaceful cemetery overlooking the village and admire the beauty of the domes at sunset.
Peacefully waiting for the scent of peppers and grilled fish from the kitchen of the neighbouring restaurant to signal that it's time. Time to linger a little longer in this village of saints and poets, still watched over by the ghosts of Klee, Gide and Cocteau.
Text : Capucine Ferry
Photos : Capucine Ferry et Brigitte Postel
An envelope of serenity, Dar Saïd is a former nineteenth-century mansion transformed into a 4-star hotel in the heart of Sidi Bou Saïd. Its 24 rooms, elegantly furnished with mosaic tiles, are arranged around a series of patios and terraces where you can relax to the soothing sound of rustling fountains. In addition to its breathtaking views over the Gulf of Tunis, the hotel boasts a swimming pool, spa and gourmet restaurant.
For more information
Tunisian National Tourist Office
32 avenue de l'Opéra. 75002 PARIS. France.
Tel: +33 (0)1 47 42 72 67
Web : www.bonjour-tunisie.com
Petit futé Tunisia: 11.35 ?
Sidi Bou Saïd - The charm of a palace on the Mediterranean
Voyageurs du Monde offers guests the chance to stay in an old-fashioned palace converted into an intimate hotel.
Tel.: 01 42 86 17 90