In the Medina, Tunis, Tunisia
Hegira 1003–19 / AD 1594–1611
Generally known by the name of Dar al-'Awla (provision's house), Dar ‘Uthman was used from the mid-13th / 19th century to store provisions for the soldiers billeted in the neighbouring barracks.
On the façade of the palace, the entrance door and its surrounds, made up of diverse architectural and ornamental elements, are truly majestic. The black and white marble shows the influence of the eastern nations, especially Egypt. Over the portico is a wooden pergola composed of three beams. Two lintels of arch-stones above the door are separated by a pointed horseshoe arch made up of black and white arch-stones.
The façade is flanked by two marble columns with Al-Andalus-style capitals. In the upper part, two further columns have Hafsid capitals.
The external door opens onto a square driba (vestibule). Kadhal flagstones form the floor and there are stone benches set around the walls. This is the area where the host would receive his visitors.
An Italian influence can be seen in the ceiling. Made of wooden beams, it rises in stages from bottom to top. However, the stucco-work, with its geometric and vegetal decoration, carries the imprint of the style typical of al-Andalus.
Patios in prestigious dwellings are generally surrounded by four porticoes, but Dar ‘Uthman only has two. This particularity features in other residences in the Tunis Medina.
Symmetrical rooms open onto the four sides of the patio. In the angle of each door there is a small room and this too is typical of other houses in the medina.
The ceiling of the room to the left as one enters the courtyard is a barrel vault ending in groined vaults. This room seems to link the house to offices and outhouses, probably the stables and the storehouse.
Most of the walls are covered with ceramic tiles. There are 22 different types of tile. These were probably added during the AH 13th / AD 19th century, at the time of the works undertaken by Husayn ibn Mahmud Bey.
The four main rooms are identical, consisting of a rectangular plan, a reception area opposite the entrance door and two antechambers. Residences in the medinas have remained true to this architectural model right across the country since the arrival of the Muslims.
Dar ‘Uthman combines the richness of Hafsid art with Andalusian and oriental influences and with the new artistic and architectural elements brought in firstly by the Turks and then by the Italians.
This palace, which was the residence of ‘Uthman Dey, brings together the wealth of Hafsid art, with its Andalusian and eastern influences, and the ornamental and architectural decoration of the Turks and Italians.
Its stuccos, ceramics, marble facings and wooden ceiling panels are all noteworthy. Used in the 19th century to store food by the soldiers living in the neighbouring barracks, Dar ‘Uthman is commonly referred to as Dar al-‘Awla (provisions house). The building is currently home to the Tunis Medina Conservation Department.
Revault, J., L'habitation tunisoise, pierre marbre et fer dans la construction et le décor, Paris, 1978, pp.104, 163, 215, 269.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.77–8.
Mohamed Béji Ben Mami "Dar ‘Uthman" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tn;Mon01;30;en
Prepared by: Mohamed Béji Ben MamiMohamed Béji Ben Mami
Né le 27 janvier 1950 à Tunis, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mohamed Béji Ben Mami est directeur général de l'Institut national du patrimoine et vice-président de la Municipalité de Tunis. Il a restauré, sauvegardé et mis en valeur plus d'une cinquantaine de monuments de la médina de Tunis, dirigé les fouilles de grands sites islamiques et organisé diverses expositions relatives à la civilisation arabo-islamique.
Depuis 1996, il est vice-président de l'Union des historiens arabes et représentant de l'Union des archéologues arabes de Tunisie.
Mohamed Béji Ben Mami a pris part à divers congrès internationaux et publié plusieurs articles et ouvrages, parmi lesquels Tourbet el-Bey (Tunis, 2004) et Les médersas de la médina de Tunis (Tunis, 2005).
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TN 30