Borj Sidi al Bsili, built in 1801, is a valuable illustration of early XIXth century Tunisian military architecture. It is also one of the rare remains that have survived of the imposing fortifications built in Tunis by the Husseinid bey Hammouda Pacha (1782-1814) on the eve of the conflict with the deys of Algiers. The construction work was entrusted to the Dutch engineer Homberg whom the reformer prince also charged with rehabilitating the country’s main fortifications.
The quadrangular shaped building is composed of a ground floor and a first floor. The casemate and ancillary rooms are organised around a small central courtyard. A ramp served to haul the cannons and munitions to the upper level and to the wall walk. The very thick outer walls are made of rammed earth reinforced with stone blocks. This technique provided the building with great elasticity and was efficient in offsetting the effect of impacts from cannon balls.
Despite its considerable size, the monument was only a simple artillery bastion flanking the eastern part of the surrounding walls of the northern suburb of Tunis (Rbat Bab Souika). The bab al Khadhra and Sidi Yahia bastions belonged the same building campaign. Because of its configuration it constituted a sort of independent fort that would have been able to continue fighting after the other fortifications had been overcome.
Abandoned for decades, the monument fell into disrepair for lack of maintenance. Its decay was compounded by the fragility of the building materials used to build it (rammed earth),. Major restoration and rehabilitation work was undertaken by the AMVPPC in 1994 that lasted until 19999. The global cost of the operation was in the order of 270 thousand dinars.
The rehabilitation programme included the creation of a workshop to produce objects derived from heritage (plaster and mosaic) housed in the ground floor rooms. The upper floor was converted into an exhibition area.
Objects inspired from heritage are sought after by visitors as souvenirs and appreciated for their aesthetic or practical qualities.