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Crafts

Carpet seller at the Tataouine souk / Photo HH

Tunisia is famous for its handicrafts, including carpets, ceramics, pottery, leatherwork, and mosaics. Kairouan is the centre of crafts manufacture, employing about 23,000 people, most of whom are women. The manufacture of carpets began in Tunisia in the 19th century, and Tunisia now produces several types of carpet famous throughout the world: the mergoum, a short-pile woolen carpet with Berber regma (woven motifs for decoration) on it; the kilim, which is strongly influenced by the Ottoman Turk experience; and ‘tapestries’, which are woven in many colours and are especially famous. Tunisia’s pottery and ceramics are among its oldest handicrafts, dating back over a thousand years. There are two main types of pottery, one made by women – which is generally utilitarian and is most common in Tunisia’s rural areas – and a kind of turned pottery made by men. Leatherwork includes embroidery, saddlery, and utilitarian items such as the traditional leather slippers that are still widely available. Wrought iron is often used for decoration purposes, including for doors, windows, and grillework. It is inspired by the Arab, Spanish, and Portuguese craft.

Tunisia’s mosaics are among the oldest and most important in the world. Roman mosaics are the most common, but others are much older. The Bardo Museum in Tunis exhibits a wide variety of mostly Roman mosaics; the exhibits are open to the public.

Weaving carpets / Photo Shutterstock
Tunisian lamps / Photo Shutterstock