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A mosque in El Kef
|Elevation||2,560 ft (780 m)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC1)|
El Kef is situated 175 kilometres (109 mi) to the west of Tunis and some 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of the border between Algeria and Tunisia. It has a population of 45,191 (2004 census). The old town is built on the cliff face of the table-top Jebel Dyr mountain. El Kef was the provisional capital of Tunisia during World War II. It was the command centre of the Front de Libération Nationale during the Algerian War of Independence against the French in the 1950s.
The Sidi Bou Makhlouf Mausoleum entombs the patron saint of the city.
The highest-elevated city of Tunisia, at 780 metres (2,560 ft), its metropolitan area reaches 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) of which 45 hectares (110 acres) lie within the interior of the old walled Medina quarter.
The municipality of El Kef is shared between two national delegates, East Kef and West Kef, which correspond to the two municipal boroughs.
First known by the name of Sicca during the Carthaginian era, then later Sicca Veneria during the rise of Roman domination, the city has carried numerous names throughout its history: Colonia Julia Cirta, Cirta Nova, Sikka Beneria, Shaqbanariya and finally El Kef since the 16th century.
El Kef has since ancient times been the principal city of the High-Tell Mountains and of the Tunisian northwest of which it constituted, until recently, the political center, the most important religious center, and the dominant stronghold.
In the early 5th Century Apiarius of Sicca was a priest here, and instigated a dispute between the churches of Carthage and Rome concerning the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Africa when he appealed to the church of Rome against his excommunication by the church of Carthage.
Around 439, invading Vandals conquered the African Romans near the coast. Eventually, El Kef became part of a Berber Kingdom.
In 688 AD, the city was raided during the Umayyad conquest of North Africa.
In the 17th century, a fort was built to house a permanent garrison (ujaq); the construction was completed by the addition of fortified ramparts in 1740. This did not however prevent the taking and pillaging of the city by the Algerians in 1756, nor the occupation by the French military from 1881, following the partial collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1973, there was a summit meeting here between the Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba and the Algerian president Houari Boumédiène. The latter proposed a constitution for a Tunisian-Algerian union which Bourguiba declined in favor of the development of economic cooperation between the two countries.
The climate is usually unstable, ranging from summer heat waves to winter snow blizzards.
El Kef contains a certain number of Islamic religious edifices, in its role as the center of a Sufic movement. The Sidi Bou Makhlouf Mausoleum holds the tomb of the founder of the Aissawa brotherhood in Tunisia, Sidi Bou Makhlouf. The El Qadriya mosque is also important to Sufism.
A legacy of the old local Jewish community, the synagogue of the Ghriba is the object of veneration by Jews of the region, who come in pilgrimage each year during the week marked by the festival of Sukkot.
The enormous Jugurtha Tableland mesa is visible from El Kef.
The Museum of the Popular Arts and Traditions of El Kef, housed within a museum built in the 18th century, presents collections which retrace the social habits and customs which prevailed before the independence of the country.
The cuisine of El Kef has two recipes specific to the region. First, a typical regional bread, mjamaa or khobz el aid, is prepared at festival times, covered with an egg and decorated with pastry. Second, borzgane is a type of couscous lightly sweetened by alternating layers of dry fruits, dates, and meat of lamb.
The Festival of Mayou, also known as the Festival of Borzgane, brings the traditional Keffish couscous up to contemporary taste.
The city council is composed of 22 members, including a president, vice president, borough chief, six assistants and thirteen counselors.
Schools, institutes, and faculties include the El Kef Higher Institute of Applied Studies in the Humanities, El Kef Higher Institute of Music and Theatre, El Kef Higher Institute of Information Technology, El Kef Higher Institute of Physical Education, El Kef Graduate School of Agriculture, and El Kef Higher Institute of Nursing Science.
Radio Le Kef, the regional radio service founded November 7, 1991, covers the northwest of the country.
The transportation company of El Kef is the only company offering a public transit service by bus. The city is linked with surrounding cities by a network of taxis called louage, and with the capital, Tunis, by a regional railway line passing through Dahmani.
The El Kef Higher Institute of Sport and Physical Education runs the annual Tunisian Women's Soccer Championship.
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