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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Three die while repairing ancient walls surrounding UNESCO World Heritage Site

Three dedicated masons lost their lives while undertaking repairs on the ancient walls surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The enchanting Old City of Kairouan, nestled in the heart of Tunisia, has been shaken by a tragic incident as three dedicated masons lost their lives while undertaking repairs on the ancient walls surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The disaster unfolded on December 16th, when a 30-meter section of the wall near the iconic Gate of the Floggers collapsed, casting a shadow over the ongoing renovation efforts.

Renovation Project

The Kairouan medina, a historical gem cocooned by massive city walls, had been undergoing meticulous restoration work. The three-kilometer-long fortification was the focus of the team’s attention, aiming to preserve the architectural splendor that has captivated visitors for centuries. Moez Tria, spokesperson for Tunisia’s Civil Protection, revealed that the accident might be attributed to heavy rains in the region in the days leading up to the incident.

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Casualties and Injuries

The toll of this calamity extends beyond the crumbling walls, with three masons losing their lives in the line of duty. Two additional workers sustained injuries, grappling with fractures as a result of the collapse. The aftermath prompted authorities to cordon off the affected area, recognizing the potential risk of further sections succumbing to the forces of gravity.

City Walls Under Siege

The revered city of Kairouan boasts a history dating back to 670 AD, making it one of North Africa’s holiest cities and a magnet for tourists seeking a glimpse into the past. Its medieval city walls, now under threat, have long been a testament to the endurance of this ancient city. The ongoing restoration aimed to not only preserve the physical structure but also the cultural legacy that permeates every stone of Kairouan’s historic walls.

Architectural Heritage at Risk

Kairouan’s architectural tapestry is adorned with treasures like the Great Mosque, adorned with marble and porphyry columns, and the 9th-century Mosque of the Three Gates. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized in 1988, is home to the Mosque of the Three Doors – the oldest known mosque with a sculpted façade. These structures, once vibrant symbols of Islamic civilization, are now at risk of losing their battle against time and the elements.

Historical Significance

Kairouan holds a unique position in history, having served as the capital of the Muslim world in North Africa for four centuries. The city witnessed the ebb and flow of civilizations, leaving an indelible mark on its landscape. UNESCO attests to the significance of Kairouan, describing the Great Mosque as “an architectural masterpiece that served as a model for several other Maghreban mosques.” The city, with its Mosque of the Three Doors, provides a tangible link to the first centuries of Islamic civilization.

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The tragic incident highlights the delicate balance between preserving the past and safeguarding those entrusted with this noble task. The Kairouan medina, a living museum of Islamic history, requires a delicate touch to ensure its longevity. The local authorities, alongside international conservation bodies, now face the daunting challenge of not just rebuilding walls but also restoring faith in the ongoing preservation efforts.