2012 World Monuments Watch
Built on the Roman remains of Tichilla, the Old Town of Testour was established in the early seventeenth century by Jewish and Muslim communities fleeing the Spanish Inquisition on the Iberian Peninsula. Nestled in the fertile valley of the Medjerda River, the town is characterized by decorative Moorish architecture and urban planning traditions brought from Spain, including a grid layout with a main plaza and commercial area. Many structures remain from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including mosques, a synagogue, and a Jewish cemetery. Testour is a rare surviving example in North Africa of this unique blend of Spanish and Mudéjar influences. This architectural chronicle of diversity and coexistence, and of reinventing a community in the face of adversity, is particularly poignant in light of Tunisia’s recent political developments. The story of Testour is one of survival through change. However, lack of maintenance, resources, and awareness has taken their toll on the historic urban fabric of the town, and the problems are compounded by loss through demolitions. Advocates, both local and international, hope to revitalize the town through protective planning, conservation, community outreach, and tourism development. In particular, infrastructure and services for visitors and pilgrims could benefit the local community and preserve the heritage of Testour for generations to come.