On Saturday 9 February 2008, a great celebration was held to mark the inauguration of the rehabilitation work carried out in Jraba Square in Kairouan, one of the pilot operations organized in the framework of the RehabiMed project. In the course of the morning, various activities took place to celebrate the completion of work and the reintegration of the square into city life, presided by the Minister for Culture and Heritage Protection, Mohamed al-Aziz Ibn Achour, and attended by the Prefect of Kairouan, Yassine Barbouch, the Mayor, Mustapha Houcine, and the coordinator of the RehabiMed project, Xavier Casanovas.
Work took the form of remodelling and revitalizing this emblematic urban space, turning it into a hub of tourist routes within the urban fabric of the Medina of Kairouan, with a view to developing and integrating declining artisan activity (fully operative traditional looms) as a tourist attraction and providing local residents with a quality architectural space for their leisure time. This intervention has also served as an impetus to local commerce and services, highlighting various activities previously threatened by disappearance. Even the organizers are surprised at the success of a pilot experience that links rehabilitation with the development of sustainable tourism. This urban recovery operation carried out with relatively modest funds (1450.000 euros) has had the effect of revitalizing the economic fabric of the whole area.
All this has been possible thanks to the application throughout the process of the RehabiMed Method, which was presented in Kairouan to a group of some 50 professionals from Tunisia and other Mediterranean countries in June 2006. This was when the pilot operation took shape, in practice sessions carried out by the participants. Subsequent citizen participation workshops presented various concerns and challenges facing the city for inclusion in the rehabilitation project. One such was the need to highlight traditional architecture for both visitors and local residents. This intervention will serve as an example and a model for the rehabilitation of other medinas in Tunisia and the Maghreb, as the Minister for Culture stressed at the opening, calling for maximum dissemination of the project among heritage professionals.
In the course of the event, which began with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque, leaflets about the project were handed out to those present and an exhibition was opened by the RehabiMed representative in Tunisia and Conservator of the Medina, Mourad Rammah, presenting the initial state of the square, the process of diagnosis, the contents and proposals of the project, and the work carried out. The exhibition is open to the public in the mausoleum of Sidi Abid and will shortly travel to various towns in Tunisia and neighbouring countries. Traditional music was provided by two groups from the city, and typical Kairouan sweets were served.
Both the daily press and national television covered the event, praising the meticulous work carried out with attention to technical construction and architectural aspects, not forgetting the social, economic and environmental issues involved in any intervention in the urban fabric. Archibat, the Maghreb’s leading architecture magazine, published a full article about the rehabilitation of Jraba Square.