Founded in the IInd century BC by the Phoenicians to serve as a homeport for their trading vessels in the western Mediterranean, Sousse underwent spectacular development during the Roman period and stood out as one of the main cities of Africa. Nothing of significance occurred during the Vandal or Byzantine periods or during the first period of Moslem rule. As the Byzantine fleet reigned supreme in the western Mediterranean and as anarchy prevailed in Ifriqiya throughout the IInd c. H/ VIIIth century AD, the Moslems chose to withdraw inland whilst Sousse, made up of a few hamlets, lived under the protection of its ribat, a sort of fortlet which served as a lookout post and a place of refuge for its inhabitants. In the IInd-IIIrd/IXth century, the Aghlabids managed to pacify the country and took over control of the seas. Sousse was chosen as it was close to Kairouan to be used as a naval base and Ziyadat Allah I endowed it in 206/821 with a Kasbah encompassing the ribat and the arsenal where a military garrison was stationed; ramparts surrounded the whole complex. Thus Sousse became the starting point for the conquest of Sicilyin 212/827 thereby reviving the struggle between the Aghlabids and the Byzantines, leading to a series of incursions as described in historical sources. This threat prompted the first Aghlabid princes to strengthen the defensive infrastructure of their base, which was the target of the most incisive attacks. A new Kasbah was built by Abou Abbas in 230/844 and several ribats like the Sahl and the Ksar Toub ribats were built along the coast and near the city to detect any incursions by the Byzantine fleet and to warn the city’s population of any impending danger.
Fifteen years later, Abou Ibrahim Ahmed surrounded the city with a stone block wall. The city attained a surface area of 32 ha and its rate of urbanisation was truly extraordinary. Sousse also enjoyed relative peace at that time which further enhanced its development. From a military base it rose to the ranks of the greatest cities of Ifriqiya and became the main maritime outlet for Kairouan.
Crafts flourished, especially the weaving of fine cloths, which were greatly appreciated abroad. The drinking water supply problem was solved by refurbishing the sofra, an ancient Roman cistern that had been transformed into a prison during the Aghlabid period. Water was piped from nearby right inside the walls. Sousse also became the focus of great spiritual influence. Several great jurists and ascetics of Ifriqiya settled in Sousse and taught religious sciences such as Yahia Ibn Omar (in 289 H/ 902 AD), Ibn Jaafar al Susi and Abu Jaafar al Urbusi. When Mahdia was founded by the Fatimid caliph el-Mahdi, in 304/917, Sousse was relegated to second place. It then suffered greatly during the siege imposed by the Kharijite Abou Yazid in 333/945. Yet Sousse rose again, due to its choice location in the economic geography of Ifriqiya. Throughout its history and with its political fluctuations Sousse either had direct ties with its hinterland, or none at all when it concentrated mainly on its maritime activities.
The end of the IVth/Xth century and the early Vth/XIth was a period of considerable urban growth. This prosperity , however, was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of the Hilals who devastated the country. Many refugees, fleeing from the interior of the country, especially from Kairouan the fallen capital, found refuge in the city but the disintegration of Ifriqiya’s economic structure lead to the decadence of all the coastal towns just like Sousse.
Sousse preferred to free itself from central Zirid power and chose an assembly, the «jamaa» from amongst the city’s notables in order to govern it. This unique experience did not last for long. The fate of Sousse passed into the hands of jebara Ibn Kamel, Arab chief and ally of the Zirids. Cut off from its hinterland, Sousse had to manage as best it could and survived thanks to its commercial maritime relations with the other Mediterranean ports. Like many other coastal towns, it was annexed by the Normans of Sicily in 543 H/ 1148 AD and remained under their control for twelve years, until the arrival of the Almohads in 555/1160.
In the VIIth/XIIIth century, the city received a lot of attention from the Hafsids who endowed it with several monuments like the al-Akhwat mosque and the Kasbah. Mosques were thus built in Sousse and the Genoese obtained a concession for tuna fishing. Central Hafsidpower started declining in the XVIth century. and Sousse became depopulated. In 1526 Leo Africanus reported that four fifths of the houses were deserted.
When sultan Moulay Hassan turned to the Spaniards for help to recover his throne, Sousserebelled against the invaders and two punitive expeditions severely damaged the city.
The Turks pacified the country and recovered the city. The XIth/XVIIIth c. was marked by two main events. Sousse was deeply affected by internal fighting between the brothers Mohamed and Ali Bey from 1085/1675 to 1097/1686, then by Murad III and his cousin Romdhane who was pursued and decapitated in 1110/1699. Like most coastal towns, Sousse participated in privateering, which was rife within the whole Mediterranean and thus was the target of several reprisals by the European states, especially France and Venice. In the XIIth/XVIIIth c., during Ali Pacha’s rebellion in 1140/1728, Sousse sided with Hussein ibn Ali and thus became the field of several battles until the final victory of the Husseinids in 1171/1757. In gratitude, the bey Mohamed granted Soussese veral privileges and rights. Desfontaines the traveller, who visited Tunisia bat the end of the XVIIIth c. described it in these terms: «the bazaars are clean with good vaults and the mosques are nice… There are so many people in the streets that it is difficult to walk through…The inhabitants are honest with the Christians. Many fabrics are produced and sold cheaply. In Soussethere is a lot of trade in wood, pottery and footwear and cloths produced in the fashion of the country …»
In his book La régence de Tunis(1840-1841), E.Peylissier wrote: Sousse is quite well designed, the streets are fairly wide and the houses not too high so that the city has plenty of light and air which is not the case of many towns in the East. Two or three nice minarets and the general whiteness of the buildings, above which tower here and there some lithe and elegant palm trees, give a picturesque impression.
In the XIIth / XIXth century, during the uprising led by Ali ibn Ghdhahum, Sousse sided with the rebels. After the insurrection failed, general Ahmed Zarrouk, the Bey’s envoy, repressed Sousse mercilessly so that it spiralled into decline until the French troops landed in September 1881. By then, it was only a straggling village of 8000 inhabitants.
The Aghlabids who ruled Ifriqiya throughout the IXth century were great builders, endowing the country with its most beautiful monuments: The Great Mosque of Kairouan and that of Tunis are amongst their most outstanding achievements.
The ribats, the ramparts and waterworks all attest to their achievements in military architecture and public works.
Under this dynasty, the architecture of Ifriqiya, strongly influenced by the East, reached full maturity and acquired a personality of its own. Furthermore, this architecture was not as uniform as that of the Roman period in northern Africa.
Regional schools such as the Kairouan and the Sahel schools, although they were part of Ifriqiyan architectural trends , had their own distinctive features. Thus, the Kairouanese school was more influenced by Mesopotamian construction methods, decoration, use of baked bricks and pisé. The architecture of Sousse, on the other hand, represents rather what may be termed « the school of architecture of coastal fortresses (the thougours)” with their military and austere aspect, reminiscent of the underground architecture as seen in some Roman water works and in some Moslem examples, for instance the al-Ramia cistern. .
This architecture is particularly visible in the Tunisian Sahel, notably with its city-ribats such as Sousse, Monastir, Lamta and Mahdia. Thus the ribat prototype played a dominant role in the elaboration of Sousse’s architecture. The ribat with its long history, its spirituality and the prestige it owed to the piety of its inhabitants, the warrior-monks, acquired the standing of a model that exercised considerable influence. Hence, the building specificities of the ribat prayer room with its essentially military functions, were adopted by the other mosques in the city ( such as the Bou Ftata mosque and the Great Mosque)
This architecture, all of stone, is characterized by barrel vaults and pillars on which these vaults rest and constitute original features not found in contemporary mosques in Kairouan and in Tunis, which remained faithful to the tradition of Medina with its hypostyle rooms covered with wooden ceilings.
The use of rubble stone also avoided the risk of damage by fires that might be lit by invaders. The internal walls are always perpendicular to the exterior walls of the various public buildings and could thus resist attempts by enemies to breach them. Exceptionally, this austere architecture was enhanced by a few decorations and sculptures that were however restricted mainly to the mihrabs and the cupolas of the large mosques.
Yet, from the end of the Xth century, Sousse started losing its vocation as a city-ribat and developed a more elaborate architecture with more diversified decorative motifs, like the Qubba Bin Qhaoui and the Sidi Ali Ammar mosque.
The Great Mosque
The Great Mosque of Sousse was built by the Aghlabid prince Abou el-Abbas Mohammed in 236/851. It forms a quadrilateral (59m x 51m ) and consists of a prayer room preceded by a courtyard. The width of the latter is greater than its depth (41m x 26m) and it is bordered by porticoes on three sides and dates to the Aghlabid period. The fourth portico, located in front of the prayer room, is an addition dating back to the Vth/XIth century, although it was completely restored in 1085/1675.
At the top of the portico façade is a Kufic inscription mentioning the name of Moudam, the freedman responsible for supervising the work at the prince’s behest. This inscription is the oldest surviving epigraphic frieze decorating the courtyard of a mosque.
In contrast with most Tunisian mosque-cathedrals, the Sousse mosque has no minaret and this omission can be explained by the proximity of the ribat’s watchtower. The call to prayer, however, was made from the top of the north-eastern corner tower which is surmounted by a aedicule with a cupola dating to the Zirid period( Vth/XIth century).
The hypostyle room comprises 13 aisles and 6 bays. With the median aisles wider than the lateral aisles, and the cupola in front of the mihrab, it obeys the T-shape layout of the Okba mosque in Kairouan, although its architecture differs. The aisles are covered, not with ceilings, but with rubble stone vaults reinforced by semi-circular transverse arches resting on stout cruciform pillars. This prayer room seems to have gone through three stages. Abou el-Abbas probably enlarged the oratory of the Ziyadat Allah Kasbah so as to obtain a room with 13 aisles and 3 bays covered with barrel vaults.
Ibrahim II added the three far end bays covered with ribbed vaults, in 247/862. The mihrab dates to the Zirid period, as attested by the decoration of its niche with a series of semi-cylindrical niches and the presence of bands of flowery Kufic inscriptions on the columns flanking the mihrab. These architectural and decorative motifs were inherited form the Zirid repertoire.
The prayer room is surmounted by two cupolas above the median aisle The Zirid cupola, in front of the present mihrab, is simple and austere, and rests directly on a square drum. The squinches inside the dome are devoid of any decoration and are surrounded by arching interlinked by means of arcades. The second cupola preceding the Abou el-abbas’ mihrab, situated at the level of the fourth bay starting from the present mihrab, obeys the construction principles of the Aghlabid school of Kairouan. The circular dome crowns an octagonal drum over shell shaped squinches contained within two arches resting on small projecting pillars, themselves supported by small corbels. Horseshoe stone block arches, bearing apertures, link the squinches to each other. An epigraphic band in Kufic style runs above this and the whole rests on sculpted spandrels according to the Kairouanese decorative repertoire.
The Ribat stands opposite the Great Mosque. This fortress-monastery was almost certainly founded at the beginning of the VIIIth century and completely overhauled by Zyadat-Allah I within the ’Al Qasr al- Kabir ( The Great fortress) that he built in 206H /821AD as attested by a sculpted Kufic stone inscription which is now at the entrance of the watchtower, although it should be on the intrados of the entrance door arch. This commemorative plaque bears the names of the Aghlabid prince and his freedman Masrour who supervised the work. It bears the following words: « In the name of Allah, the compassionate and the merciful. Benediction comes from Allah. The building was ordered by prince Ziyadat Allah, son of Ibrahim, may Allah give him long life, through his freedman Masrour al-Fata in 206. Take me to the blessed place, you, the best of guides. »
The garrison was composed of about 50 warrior-monks ready for the supreme sacrifice, namely the jihad. This specificity conferred a religious character to this military building, which is clearly reflected in the building’s austerity, the smallness of the rooms and the choice of layout. Indeed, the Ribat forms a 36m skewed square built of stone and surmounted by rounded merlons, found in Ifriqiya since the Byzantine period. It has round towers at the corners, except for the south-eastern corner where a superb circular minaret rises on a square base. It was inspired by the Abbasid minaret prototype that spread in the Maghreb from the end of the VIIIth century.
Semi-circular towers rise from the middle of the curtain walls except on the southern side where there is a rectangular porch preceding the sole entry to the fort. This direct entrance preceded the staggered or maze entrances attested in Ifriqiya from the IXth century and seems to be inspired from the entrances to the Abbasid palaces of Ukhaydhar and Atshan that strongly influenced the external architecture of the Sousse Ribat, which in fact is a reproduction of the initial plan of the Ribat of Monastir, founded by Harthama who built several other similar military buildings on the eastern front.
The Ribat porch is surmounted by a defensive device in the form of a series of parallel slits in the stone. These murder-holes are surmounted by an aedicule with a cupola on squinches, in hewn stone, representing the oldest example of this type to have survived, making it possible to study the evolution of this cupola prototype which came from the East and was adopted by Ifriqiya in the VIIIth century. It reached the height of its development with the mihrab cupola of the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
The cupola of the Sousse Ribat represents an intermediate stage marked by the absence of the drum area and the direct passage from the octagon (squinches area with the circular calotte)
The porch leads to a square vestibule covered with a groined vault that seems to confirm the survival of some Byzantine and Roman traditions. This is a real vault with intersecting ribs composed of four ribs of dressed stone acting as a support and which meet up with a square keystone.
The segments are filled with rubble stone. On either side of the vestibule are two iwans (structured elements in the form of a large conch specific to Persian buildings) whose walls contain niches that must have served for lighting or as cupboards.
The great arches of the two iwans are surmounted by two square cartouches on which were written in red the first words of the Koranic verse, known as the verse of the throne that is recited in times of danger and to ward off the forces of evil.
Several reclaimed ancient architectural elements are to be found in the porch and vestibule, especially marble columns, sculpted Byzantine corbels with acanthus leaves and very beautiful capitals.
The courtyard in the centre is surrounded by four galleries whose arcades rest on ashlar pillars and that are covered b a series of groined and barrel vaults. The northern and eastern wings were re-structured in 1725. The ground floor has 33 very small cells covered with barrel vaults made of rubble stone. A staircase leads to the first floor and opens onto a passage way surrounded by cells on all sides except for the south where the prayer room lies. The latter is composed of eleven aisles and two bays. Its width is greater than its depth and it is covered by barrel vaults with semi-circular or basket handle arches resting on cruciform pillars made of rubble stone.
The mihrab is surmounted by a semi-circular arch resting on reclaimed ancient columns and bases. The cylindrical mihrab niche is made of dressed stone linked by strips of fat lime mixed with plaster which constitutes the only decoration, apart from a frieze of squares set on the diagonal ornamenting the middle of the niche.
The mihrab is crowned by four recessed lozenges reminiscent of the decoration above an Aghlabid door in the Great mosque of Kairouan. This motif, reflecting Mesopotamian influence, is usually made of baked bricks.
The qibla wall is also the surrounding wall and it is equipped with loopholes so that the worshippers could at any time turn into warriors to defend the Ribat. No other element can express so eloquently the dual nature of the Ribat as an institution that was both religious and military.
Stairs leads to the terraces where a wallwalk is to be found. At this level the towers contains rooms though it is not known for what purpose they were used, although they probably served as storerooms for weapons and ammunition.
When confrontation ceased between the two shores of the Mediterranean, the ribat lost its military vocation and was turned into a place of teaching and propagation of religious sciences. The layout of Tunisian madrasas was greatly influenced by that of the ribats.
During modern times some parts of the ramparts were modified in order to accommodate pieces of artillery The Kasbah stands in the south-eastern corner and was built in 236H/850AD by the Aghlabid prince Abou al Abbas Mohamed. This fortress housed the military garrison and the governor’s headquarters. The citadel was modified several times from the IXth century right up to contemporary times, but the oldest part is certainly the manar of Khalaf, the Aghlabid prince’s freedman, dating to the foundation of the Kasbah itself..
This 30m high signalling tower bears certain similarities to the minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan by which it was clearly inspired. This manar is another no less eloquent example of the spreading of the Kairouanese school of architecture in the Sahel region. With only two stories, it is reached by a staircase embedded in the thickness of the wall. The central core had 4 superposed rooms, which were vaulted in different manners. This layout hitherto unattested in Moslem architecture was to serve as an example to architects of the great Almohad minarets.
The Khalaf tower provided for a better control of the coastline compared to what the ribat minaret could offer ; indeed it rose only 27m above sea level whereas the Khalaf tower was 77m high and provided vision within a radius of over 13 km.
The Bin El Qhzoui Qubba
This strange building dates to the Vth/XIth century. It is probably a funerary monument housing the tomb of one of the city’s religious or political figures. The entrance porch consists of a rectangular door framed with stone blocks and surmounted by a shell within a polylobed arch opening onto three semi-circular arches framed by a serrated cornice. The spandrels contain flat or semi-cylindrical niches. To the right, eight mihrab-shaped niches embellish the façade of the external wall above which stands the cupola. This decoration is reminiscent of the lateral façade of the Great Mosque of Sfax dating from the Zirid period. (end IVth/Xth century).
The inside of the building consists of a square room covered with a vault of radiating fluting. Arched shell-shaped squinches ensure the transition between the cupola and the square base. They are linked to each other by hollow arches with triple archlines. This cupola has obvious similarities with the funerary monument known as the Banu Khourssan Qubba (Vth/end XIth century).
On the outside, the dome is decorated with grooves forming a zigzag pattern from the base to the top. This decoration is reminiscent of some of the Almoravid cupolas, such as that of Qaraouiyne in Fez, that of Marrakech and the cupola of the Sidi Marwan mosque in Bône (Annaba) in Algeria, built in 424/1033. Everything suggests the monument dates to the Vth/XIth century, but the origins of some of the decorative elements, especially the Z-shaped grooves, remain unclear. More recently, most likely in the XIth/XVIth or XIIth/XVIIIth century, a caravanserai was added to the building, which was completely renovated in the 1980’s and now houses the Municipal Arts and Popular Traditions Museum.
The Bouftata Mosque
A fine inscription sculpted in relief on the oratory’s façade suggests its construction may be assigned to the Aghlabid prince Abou Iqal el-Aghlab, who ruled from 223/838 to 226/841.
The oratory is preceded by a barrel-vaulted gallery with three horseshoe arches ornamenting its façade. This is quite a unique arrangement in the early architecture of Ifriqiya.
The almost square prayer room( 7,85 x 7,70m ), is divided into three aisles and three bays. It is covered with barrel vaults supporting transverse arches resting on cruciform pillars.
The principle of oratories with three aisles was adopted everywhere in the Moslem world from the Atlantic as far as Afghanistan, although it has proved impossible to follow its historical evolution. The Bouftata mosque is one of the oldest extant examples. This oratory, even though founded by a prince, is devoid of any decoration that could distract the eye. The choice of such austere architecture thus seems to reflect official policy regarding the urban development of Sousse, which was marked by its defensive aspect.
The architect of this mosque seemed to have elaborated schemes that were applied on a broader scale by the architect of the Great Mosque built a dozen or so years later.
The Sidi Ali Ammar Mosque
The Sidi Ali Ammar masjed has an outstanding sculpted facade representing a break with the sobriety of Sousse architecture during the Aghlabid period. It is composed of two registers:
The lower register is composed of three horseshoe arches where the last arch stones do not go beyond the abacus of the pillars, thus providing a first clue as to the date of the monument, which must be the end of the IVth/Xth century. The central arch, more elaborate that the others and bearing a projecting keystone, coincides with the entrance door. This architectural principle was already to be found on the facade of the Mosque of the Three Doors in Kairouan and prevailed in Ifriqiya for centuries to come.
The upper register is formed of seven, either flat or semi-cylindrical, niches. These are surmounted by polylobed or simple arches or triangles. Medallions, with floral motifs and six branch stars, resemble certain motifs found on the porches of the Great Mosque of Mahdia. The whole is crowned with a serrated moulding, already seen in the cupola of the Aghlabid mihrab in the Great Mosque of Sousse. The façade decoration of the Sidi Ali Ammar mosque is very characteristic of the Fatimid-Zirid repertoire, already attested in the Eastern façade of the Great Mosque of Sfax as well as in the Zirid cupola of the Great Mosque of Tunis. Everything seems to confirm the assumption that this mosque was built between the mid IVth/Xth c and the early IVth/XIth century.
Inside, everything seems to indicate that Sheikh Ali Ammar’s own house was turned into a prayer room. Two adjoining rooms were connected by opening a large arch in the separating wall. The larger eastern room occupies a surface area of 30m2 (10m x 3 m ). It is covered with a barrel vault whose two sides are vaulted with a semi circular arch. This type of ceiling was not common in Tunisia. The square western room is covered with a groined vault.
The Moureddine basins
The Moureddine basins lie along the road n°17 linking Sousse with Moureddine, 5km 200 to the southwest of Sousse. They occupied the bottom of a large clearing situated in a dip in an olive grove, dominated to the South east by a hill, with a gradient of 62, whose north-western side sloped into the impluvium. Since the basins are now in the middle of a residential quarter they are severely threatened by the surrounding buildings. Like the Aghlabid basins in Kairouan, they comprise a decantation basin, a reservoir basins and a cistern for drawing water. Both basins are in the open air while the cistern is closed.
The decantation basin has a circular layout : the inner circle is 5 meters in diameter and the external circle 6m 30 (thickness of the walls 0m65)
It rests against the Great Basin on one of the sides of the basin’s peripheral polygon. Along the length of its unsupported part, the wall is supported on the outside by six huge abutments, which, as in Kairouan, are half-cylinders crowned with semi-spheres. The radius of the main circle of these cylinders is 0m90
Two of the external abutments are only quarter cylinders with quarter spheres. They correspond to complete abutments cut in two on a longitudinal plane. These quarters indicate the entrance of the canal bringing run-off water to the basin from the slope surface.
On the inside, the small basin has four abutments identical in both shape and size to those on the outside. Two of the inner abutments are located at the springline of the arch resting on the Great Basin. The two others are laid out opposite the exterior abutments close to the entrance of the basin.
The depth of the small basin is 7-9 m below the present ground level. It is at present concealed by the deposits filling the cavity.
The small basin is thought to have had a capacity of approximately m3
Water flowed from the small basin to the Great Basin through a 1m40 wide aperture.
The Great storage basin is surrounded by a polygonal wall with 14 sides. The radius of the inner circle is 18 meters while that of the outer circle is 19m30.
Each dihedron is consolidated by an interior and an exterior abutment, the two abutments facing each other.
The Great Basin is thought to have had a capacity of approximately 2300m3
The drawing-cistern is a rectangular chamber measuring 6m by 2m50. It is covered by a barrel vault on which there is a terrace pierced by apertures through which water was drawn.
It must have been able to contain over 150 cubic meters.
The three Moureddine basins together must have represented, when full, a total reserve capacity of approximately 3000m3 of water.
The Sofra cistern
According to al-Maliki, the Aghlabid emir, Ibrahim II, supplied water to the city by means of a conduit pipe to a « very old cellar » in the centre of the city that was used as a prison. This old cellar was almost certainly the large Sofra cistern, which has survived intact to the present time. It is indeed located in the middle of the old town, at an equal distance from the western and eastern ramparts.
Metrology proves that this structure antedates the Moslem period. The overall length of the rectangular cistern is 100 Roman feet, i.e. 29m 50, with a width of 80 feet. The IXth century Moslem foot, that derived from the Abbasid cubit, is the equivalent of 0m 42.
The reservoir is covered with five barrel vaults resting by means of arches on square pillars. All the walls and floor are covered with a watertight coating containing a high proportion or ash and charcoal. Niches are to be found at the top of some walls which were probably former openings to let light in and then subsequently filled in. At the north-eastern corner a stair leads down next to a small drawing cistern with a single circular opening.’ The vaults are equipped with several other square holes for water removal, as is the case in the cisterns of the great Aghlabid basin in Kairouan.
The large cistern could contain about 3000m3 of water. The openings, subsequently blocked in, had served to let the light in when the cistern was used as a prison. In Mahdia, cisterns had also been used as prisons. The construction of the Sofra reservoir does not conform to Roman standards during the imperial period. The whole upper part (stone vaults) was certainly re-done by the Aghlabids. .
The water-tight coating does not belong to the early Moslem period. It probably dates to restoration work carried out not before the XIth century.
According to preliminary investigations, it is thought that the cistern was supplied in water partially from the water table that must be very close, but most probably, as can be inferred from al-Maliki’s writings, it was supplied by an aqueduct, built during the Aghlabid period and which must have been located at Moureddine, 10 kilometers away from Sousse. This mains-pipe must have been comparable to the system built by the Romans to bring water to Hadrumetum from Wadi Kharrouf, along a distance of 4 Km 250.
Dar al Charaa
This monument owes its name to the juridical role it played in the city of Sousse. The building, close to the Dar El Gaid, is in fact the city’s former religious court presided by a “Qadi” (judge). It is accessed by means of a staircase leading to a square courtyard.
At present, this now fully restored monument, has become a cultural centre for the city’s youth.