The Zawiya of Sidi Qasim al-Jalizi is located on a hill overlooking the Sijoumi salt-flats to the west and the Kasbah to the north. Today it faces the Place du Leader and the Minaret of Jemmaa el Haoua to the southeast of the Medina in the Kasbah Faubourg. When it was constructed in the fifteenth century it was intended to be near the Hafsid sultans' mosque and madrasa (destroyed in the twentieth century) and to have a prominent position at the edge of the Hafsid city. The Zawiya was commissioned by the powerful craftsman saint, Sidi Qasim al-Jalizi (Abou el Fadhl Kacem el Fessi), who died in 1496 (902 A. H.) and is buried within the structure. Joining the saint are several Hafsid sultans and princes including the last Hafsid sovereign, Ahmed III, who ruled from 1546 until 1569. According to tradition, Sidi Qasim built the zawiya with his followers to serve as his home and to provide shelter to travelers and tradesmen. The building was renovated and expanded, most notably in 1726 (1139 A. H.) by Hussein bin Ali (1705-1734), the founder of Tunisia's Husaynid Bey dynasty (1705-1957).
The entrance hall leads to an arcaded courtyard that is dominated to the south by a pyramidal green-tiled cupola capped with a finial. The cupola rests on a square base that has two blind brick arches. Interestingly, the cupola is not on axis with the southern wall; rather, it was constructed slightly to the west. An inscription on the northern wall of the cupola was added after the death of Sidi Qasim and provides the complete name and the origin of the saint. The arcades and the sanctuary interior are linked by square black and white marble floor tiles.
Centered on the southern courtyard wall is the entrance to the mausoleum. The interior is divided into two equal parts; the cenotaph of Sidi Qasim is located in the north. This ceiling of this chamber is coffered with carved and decorated wood.
The portal to the right of the sanctuary was added in 1726 by Hussein bin Ali. Although the courtyard was restored in 1980 by the Institut National du Patrimonie, it and the surrounding chambers are original. Only the western and northern porticoes are original, but during restoration they were used as guides to reconstruct missing elements.
The decorations of this monument are highly regarded in Tunisia, most notably the ceramics, but also the engraved stucco and the carved and decorated wood. The nickname "jalizi" is derived from the saint's manufacturing of the earthenware squares (zalig) which decorate the structure. Although an inscription provides the saint's full name and origin from the city of Fez, it is believed that he spent time in Andalusia and introduced advanced ceramic making techniques to Tunisia. It was restored in 1977 and again. While the structure continues as a functioning zawiya, it also became home to a museum of Tunisian ceramics and the National Center of Ceramic Arts, a school for training future practitioners of the craft.
Jacobs, Daniel and Peter Morris. Tunisia. New York: Rough Guides, 7th ed., 2005. 106.
Santelli, Serge. Medinas: Traditional Architecture of Tunisia. Tunis: Dar Ashraf Editions, 1995. 88-90.
Zbiss, Slimane Mustapha. Les Monuments de Tunis. Tunis: Société Tunisienne de Diffusion, 1971. 62.