Making the médina a vibrant city centre, attractive to businesses, tourists and inhabitants. Those are the challenges that were addressed at the workshop I was kindly invited to contribute to on Saturday. This event was organised by City Change Maker in collaboration with the ASM of Tunis (Association de Sauvegarde de la Médina) which has been preserving the Médina, a UNESCO world heritage for the last 48 years.
The old town is not yet a fashionable hang out for young Tunisians, especially at a time when a western lifestyle and modernity are the the comon aspiration. Most of the few hundred historical buildings worth visiting in the Médina are now indefinitely closed for renovation and the few tourists still wondering around don’t venture much out of the main souk.
There is many challenges that needs to be addressed and one of them is the way to support local craftsmen in a context where their skills are undervalued and their products are being replaced by cheaper Chinese import. Nowadays even the best-intentioned tourists will have difficulty to find locally made products in this maze of replica. However the medina is still an amazing resource in terms of craftsmanship and if those skills are not passed on to the next generation it will be a great cultural loss.
One of the outcome of the workshop was the idea to rebrand the Médina, using “Made in Médina” as a way to promote local craftsmanship and ethical business values. This could include working with young designers and craftsmen to develop products that would attract a wider range of customers and create an incentive for Tunisians to rediscover the rich heritage of the medina.