First built in 1306, the mammoth main gateway (known as Bab Diwan) into the Medina is one of Sfax’s most prominent landmarks. It has been much altered during its long history, nearly completely destroyed by bombing in 1943 and subsequently rebuilt in its original form. Sfax’s Medina is relatively small measuring only 400 m by 500 m and is enclosed by a well-preserved circuit of walls. The original mud brick walls were made by the Aghlabids in the 9th century and were strongly fortified in the 12th century. The Kasbah at the southwest corner of the walls was added in the 17th century.
Unusually, compared to the Medinas in Tunis and Sousse, the streets here are laid out in a grid plan, presumably inherited from the Roman town. Rue Mongi Slim runs south to north and is one of the main Medina thoroughfares. While wandering here, don’t miss Rue de la Driba where there are a number of houses sporting handsome, imposing doorways. In a side street opening off this street you’ll find the interesting folk museum.
The site of ancient Thaenae (Thyna) was the most south-easterly outpost of Carthaginian territory. The Fossa Regia, constructed by the Romans in 146 BC to mark the frontier between the Roman province and the kingdom of Numidia, began just south of the town. Excavations here have revealed the remains of various buildings from the 4th and 5th centuries including baths, dwelling houses and a Christian church. To the east of the site is a necropolis centred round an octagonal mausoleum.
Location: 11 km southwest from Sfax
Sfax’s New Town
Sfax’s New Town district lies between the harbour and the Medina. It was constructed during the French protectorate, though only a few buildings from the colonial period now survive. One of the most distinctive of these is the Town Hall (Place de la République), built in neo-Moorish style with a tall minaret-like tower.
For a local beach experience, Chaffer’s Beach can’t be beaten. This beautiful strip of sand is much frequented by the population of Sfax and on the weekends becomes a vibrant and buzzing hub of family fun.
Location: 25 km southwest of Sfax.
The Kerkennah Islands
The Kerkennah Islands lie off the Tunisian coast, between 20 km and 40 km east of Sfax. The archipelago consists of seven islands with only the principal two (Gharbi and Chergui) inhabited. The island inhabitants make a living mainly by fishing, sponge diving and selling their craft products. The sandy beaches, most of them still mainly unfrequented, offer excellent conditions for diving. From Sfax there are, depending on the season, between two and five daily car ferries to the islands.