Three months in post-revolutionary Tunis
In the centre of Tunis, where the once-walled medieval medina meets the nineteenth-century ville nouvelle, the visitor is struck by an imposing statue of Abu Zayd ‘Abdu r-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Khaldun Al-Hadrami, which commands the Place de L’Independence. Ibn Khaldun, as he is better known, is an exceptional figure in the history of ideas. He is often credited with having invented modern sociological history; he was certainly one of its earliest and most outstanding practitioners. He was also a native of Tunis, born in the city in 1332 AD (732 AH) into a wealthy Andalusian family. Inside the medina, a few minutes’ walk from Ibn Khaldun’s statue, can be found the site of his childhood home as well as the mosque where he began his education. Even if most of his mature career was spent as resident scholar to courts in other parts of North Africa, people here insist on his Tunisois origins. Indeed, the reverence afforded him in this statue is a striking statement of national pride. Rather than a political figure, a military commander or revolutionary martyr – the usual suspects for national statuary – Tunisia’s post-colonial leaders chose a man of letters to occupy this pride of place in the city.
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