First, you need to understand the geography. Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the great boulevard that runs through downtown Tunis like a colonial Champs Elysees, runs from the Lake of Tunis via Place 14 Janvier 2011 (formerly Place 7 Novembre 1987, formerly where Bourguiba's statue stood till 1987) in a grand European sweep to the old city. At the French Cathedral it becomes, for its last couple of blocks, the somewhat narrower Avenue de France, and then it reaches the old city, the medina, a typical warren of winding streets and allies. The entrance to the medina, the Bab al-Bahr (the gate toward the sea), thus marks the seam between the medieval Arab city and the French colonial European one.
|The Since-removed Statue of Cardinal Lavigerie|
In the Bourguiba era, another statue was erected at this end of the avenue: this time outside the gate, in front of the French Catholic cathedral. This was the statue of Ibn Khaldun. Not far from where the cardinal intent on converting Muslims had once stood in challenge to the nearby Zaytuna, so now the great Muslim scholar and product of Zaytuna stood by the Catholic cathedral. Of such dueling symbols post-colonial history often consists.