The Arabic calligraphy of yesterday and today enters the World Heritage

Published : 03-02-2022
Whether classical calligraphy or contemporary calligraffiti, the art of beautiful Arabic script is now part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. Why not discover them through the streets and museums of Tunisia? 

Throughout the cities and villages of Tunisia, calligraphy is very present ... but often in its contemporary form of “calligraffiti”.   
In the villages of Erriadh (Djerba island) and Sidi Bou Said (near Tunis), in the town of Kef at the foot of the mountains and in many other places, you will see here and there Arabic calligraphy revisited in the style of graffiti artists.

Indeed, the plastic beauty of the Arabic alphabet has not finished inspiring street artists. Some of them have established reputations in Tunis or elsewhere: ElSeed (above), Zepha, Shoof, Inkman and many others.
The Arabic letter brings to the murals its dynamism, it is a path to abstraction.

Zepha, “Djerbahood” project in Erriadh

It is in fact a very old art which knows today a metamorphosis in the street art. Born with the writing of the Koran, it has known centuries of evolution.
“The fluidity of Arabic script offers infinite possibilities, even within a single word, as letters can be stretched and transformed in numerous ways,” according to UNESCO, which has included Arabic calligraphy on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Among the most remarkable and oldest specimens: the famous Blue Koran, calligraphed in gold letters on precious parchment, made in Tunisia in the early 10th century. Several leaves of this universal masterpiece are preserved in Tunisia, in the museums of Bardo (Tunis) and Raqqada (Kairouan).
These two museums have many beautiful manuscripts, representing different styles of writing. The oldest ones date back to the 8th century!

Manuscripts from the 8th century, Bardo Museum, Tunis

But you don’t need to enter a museum to see ancient Tunisian calligraphy. Sometimes you just have to look up. In Sousse, in Kairouan, several historical mosques are decorated with inscriptions engraved in stone

Carved calligraphy in the Great Mosque of Kairouan 

Video: Monuments of Kairouan

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