Oukala designates an in-town caravanserai, a type of hotel with rooms rented on a daily or weekly basis. Since the 1930s, the old city of Tunis, the Médina was strongly affected by a population shift; the intense rural migration and the departure of its urban gentry. Many private residences and monuments of the old city were "oukalaised", i.e., turned into multi-family dwellings that sometimes sheltered up to twenty households, often the less fortunate ones, in unacceptable sanitary conditions. Building deterioration, exacerbated by defective rental laws, caused the oukalas to become precarious homes for low-income families, with all or part of buildings falling apart from time to time.
The oukalas project is a complex intervention effort. Through the establishment of appropriate technical, legal, and financial procedures, it aims to improve living conditions of and to revive the poetic quality of space in the Médina. The initial objective of the oukalas project within the national programme was to rectify the existing housing conditions of 3000 households in the Médina's 600 oukalas through demolition and reconstruction. The general objective of the programme, which was primarily to find a solution for the precarious living conditions of the oukalas' occupants, entails the following aspects:
· Re-housing: 256 oukalas housing 1296 households were identified as being in a severe state of disrepair and were ordained for demolition. In order to provide adequate housing for the occupants, three new quarters have been constructed in the western suburbs of Tunis, Douar Hicher, El Agba, and Sidi Hassine Séjoumi. 25-year, sale-by-rent plans with low monthly payments have been provided to new residents;
· Reconstruction: The sites of the demolished oukalas are sold in public auction or are reacquired by former owners. New construction will be undertaken by the municipality for rental accommodations or by private and public developers according to the current land use regulations of the Médina;
· Rehabilitation: 404 oukalas housing 1600 households were classified as needing work to be brought up to standard. This rehabilitation component includes privately and municipally owned housing stock. A 15-year loan with a 5% interest rate and free technical assistance is made available to private owners; and
· Restoration/adaptive reuse: thirteen buildings were identified as being of special historic and/or architectural interest. Projects were created to facilitate their adaptive reuse for public utilisation.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture