An Ottoman heritage site located at the highest point of the city of Kef in northwestern Tunisia, Kef Castle has been witnessing history for four centuries.
The castle (or kasbah) can be reached by climbing Deyr Mountain, located on the Algerian border at an altitude of 735 meters and an extension of the Atlas Mountains. It offers a unique view of the city as well as a historical journey.
Visitors to the castle are welcomed by its golden-hued masonry and a huge wooden door decorated in Ottoman-style designs. At the entrance to the courtyard, old cannons arranged side by side are the first things to draw one’s attention. Moving through the long passageway next to the courtyard, there is a large hall with doors opening to different sections of the fortress, such as the kitchen, bedroom and armory. Leaving the wide hall, a large, square-like courtyard opens up. Today, this space is used as a venue for various exhibitions and cultural events.
Ottoman heritage challenges time
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Tunisian historian Muhammad Telili said that Kef Castle was built on an area of 2,000 square meters on a plateau of 5,000 square meters on Deyr Mountain in the 1600s, during the Ottoman period. Telili, who also took part in restoration work on the castle, said that information about the history of the castle could be obtained thanks to the lines on the door.
After the collapse of the Hafsid Dynasty in 1574, the Ottoman Empire came to the region to prevent the tribes from forming new structures by exploiting the existing void of authority. Telili noted that the Ottomans first built a simple tower in 1600, but later, especially after the struggle with the Beni Shenuf tribe in the region, additional areas were included in the castle’s construction, which was completed in 1637. “Special sections were made in the castle to host the soldiers of the Amazigh tribe, the Zevava, who came from the northeast of Algeria to join the Ottoman Empire,” Telili added.
Telili stated that the castle, located on the border with Algeria, has great strategic importance due to its dominant position in its surroundings and has assumed important military roles throughout history. Pointing out that Kef Castle was the scene of many battles, sieges and fights in the reigns of Ali Pasha (1735-1756) and later the Husainid Dynasty, which ruled as Ottoman vassals, Telili said that the castle was also enlarged and restored in 1807.
Noting that the region in which the castle is located has been of great importance since the ancient kingdom of Numidia (202 B.C.-46 B.C.), Telili recalled that whenever Tunisia was invaded and the city was ruled by someone else, the castle always retained its importance as a strategic military base and remained in the same place.
“The people of the region know that their city has been of critical importance and assumed an active role throughout history, and they are proud of it,” Telili added.