Nicholas S. Hopkins: A Muslim Shrine in Tunisia Sidi Ali el Arian in Testour in the 1970s


In the North-Tunisian town of Testour one can observe the role of the saint most respected in Testour society: Sidi Ali el Arian. People visit his shrine to make individual offerings and for collective celebrations, especially the annual festival known as a zerda. Sidi Ali’s main role is that of a protector of the people of Testour and their enterprises, and many legends and tales recount his successes in those domains from health to politics. The appeal to Sidi Ali requires a visit to the shrine where the petitioner offers a prayer to God and leaves a modest offering and may burn a candle. An annual festival occurs in the spring and involves the sacrifice of cattle and a communal meal on the resulting meat, and a collective celebration involving drumming, singing, and dancing with occasional trancing.

[Tunisia, Zerda festival, shrine, saints, protection, offering, Islam, trance]