Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Tunisian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Gabonese funeral traditions and Turkmen funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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Religion and Death Beliefs
Islam is the most common religion in Tunisia, with 99% of Tunisian people identifying as Muslim. Muslims believe that death is the end of physical life on Earth, but the soul lives on. On Judgement Day, the Angel of Death determines whether the soul goes to paradise or hell based on their actions while on Earth.
Preparation of the Body
To prepare the body, they wash the deceased and wrap the body in a shroud. Muslims don’t practice embalming or cremation, so they prepare the body for burial. During this time, people may visit to express their sympathy.
Tunisian Funeral Service
A Tunisian funeral typically follows Muslim beliefs, and they read from the Quran to help the deceased’s soul find peace. Wealthier families may plan more extravagant funerals that are like wedding celebrations. It can turn into a large event, and some families even hire catering companies to serve food.
They typically bury the deceased within 24 hours of the death. Sometimes, families may have the funeral service graveside if there isn’t time for a wake or service before the burial. They bury the body facing Mecca in a cemetery that reflects the deceased’s social identity.
Mourning and Memorialization
Depending on the family, the mourning period can last three days or longer. They have memorial ceremonies on the seventh and 40th days after the death, as well as on the one-year anniversary of the death. Family and friends also regularly visit the deceased’s grave to leave offerings.