Sfax Through the Ages

Chapter 5 - 1928-1937

Maps from the ‘20s and ‘30s show us how the port has developed by this time. The channel for petite bateaux no longer runs as far as the Orthodox Church, but has been filled in back to south of Jules Gau. The market is now located at the head of this Port de Pêche, and postcards of the time show numerous boats moored and unloading in this area [B]. The two arms – the French word, Darse is used – that project from the channel give it the appearance of a reversed letter F.

2-Controle Civile
3-Bureau de Poste
5-Hotel De Ville (City Hall)
7-Place Carnot
8-Jardin Paul Bourde
9-Hotel les Oliviers
10-Hotel De France
11-Boulevard De France
12-Rue Victor Hugo
13-Rue Thina
East/West streets
Rue Jules Gau (N, to Gare)
Rue Corbet
Rue Henri Boucher
Rue Colonel Ramond
Rue Pavillier
Quai Mougeot (S, near harbor)
North/South streets
R. Henri Cochery (W, by water)
R. Charles Quint
R. Philippe Thomas
R. Mattéi
R. de la République
R. Massicault
R. Gambetta
R. Lamouricière
R. Michaud
R. Numero 10 (E, by railway)

For visitors to Sfax, this layout is familiar, and the wide pavements on three sides of this small harbor are known by residents today as the corniche [Photo 23]. Since independence, though, a new harbour for the fishing fleet has been developed, to the southwest. This would mean that the new route of the railway line, across the top of the harbour, would not obstruct the fishing fleet. However, at the time of which we are speaking, the route of the chemins des fer (railway) to Gabes still runs north of the medina.

At the scale of this map there is space to show the two sets of cisterns that historically provided Sfax with its drinking water. The Nasrias cisterns date back many years, and are part of the folklore of the city. Wealthy families that wanted to demonstrate their generosity were wont to provide additional water storage, having a new cistern dug in the Nasrias. Eventually, it is said, there were as many as 365 cisterns, one for each day of the year. Each day, we are told, water was drawn for the city from a different cistern, fistqiyeh, in Arabic. By the 18th century the Nasrias cisterns were insufficient for the growing numbers of inhabitants in the city, and a set of larger reservoirs was built, to the southwest of the original supply, closer to the city walls. Today the Nasrias are no more, the Lycée Majida Boulila has been built over the site, but the outline of the cisterns is still reflected in the perimeter wall of the school sports fields. The 18th century cisterns can still be seen, set in gardens between the Sidi Al Lakhmi mosque and the new construction of Sfax Jadida to the north [Photo 24].