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The domestic architecture of the Medina of Tunis

The domestic architecture of the Medina presents uniform architectural characteristics that can be found in bourgeois houses, palaces and craftsmen's houses. It is a Mediterranean model of houses where the living and service spaces are articulated around one or a more open space called: The patio.

A horizontal and vertical circulation system made up of open or closed galleries leads to apartments, private rooms, service areas, and sometimes to a garden and terraces. These spaces are totally turned inward. Seen from the outside, only the door, the vestibule (skifa) and windows (often upstairs) are visible to onlookers.

The main door, large or small, ornate or simple, is the only access to the house. The large houses have a portal with two parts, with a stone archway sometimes surmounted by a pointed arch with two-tone keystones and flanked by two columns of marble or ornate stone. The door is decorated with large nails, often black, and the right part of the door can be pierced with an entrance gate (khoukha) for daily use. In this case, the large door is reserved for ceremonies.

The vestibule (skifa) to which the door opens directly is generally rectangular or square. It filters out looks from the outside. In large houses there may be several vestibules, the first of which (driba) containing a bench intended to receive visitors or customers, a second vestibule can be used by the occupants of the house for housework or certain craft activities. Generally, these hallways are popular because of their coolness.

Windows to the outside, for privacy, are located upstairs. They are completed with grids of slats of turned or crossed wood, filtering the sunlight and allowing to see without being seen (moucharabias). The size and shape of its fences vary from a simple rectangular panel to a sort of balcony. These protective grids can also be made of wrought iron slats (zlabiya), often shaped in the form of a C or S volute (called hlawi) typical of the facades of houses in the medina. (Text revised: Source Wikipedia)

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