Today, walking up the hill on the main street of the old city of Tunis, one passes former Ottoman barracks, stately Arab villas closed off from the narrow lane by wooden gates, shops selling hand-woven carpets, perfumes, and inlaid metalware. The street is full of jostling, milling crowds, pressing their way to work or to shops. The Great Mosque, built in its present form in the ninth century by the Aghlabid rulers, faces a row of herb shops where medicines are sold. The shops are colorful, with jars of spices, herbs collected in the countryside, camphor, and imported metallic compounds. Turning to the right, one crosses to another busy street, Nahj al-Qasaba, or rue de la Kasbah, where, at number 101, the old maristan (hospital) of Tunis is located. Continuing up the street, one suddenly enters a main square around which is the Dar al-Bey, or bey's palace, built by Hamuda Bey al-Husayni (1782–1814) and now the site of the prime ministry. Across the square is the newer Muslim hospital, the Mustashfa Sadiqi, and at the top the Kasbah (citadel).
Two hundred years ago Tunisia was ruled from the Kasbah by the Husayni dynasty of beys, who had become Arabized and who paid formal allegiance to the Ottoman sultan and ruled independently.