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Amphitheatre of El Jem

El Jem was no doubt a thriving Roman agricultural region producing both olive oil and wheat and the grandiose coliseum, second only in size to that of Rome itself, attests to its wealth. Arriving at this small city from Sousse ...

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El Jem was no doubt a thriving Roman agricultural region producing both olive oil and wheat and the grandiose coliseum, second only in size to that of Rome itself, attests to its wealth. Arriving at this small city from Sousse or Sfax, the sight of this amphitheatre rising in the distance like a Colossus is both wondrous and slightly strange as the present surroundings give no hint of its former importance.

Built around the year 200, it was the scene of those games and circuses, often cruel and bloody, provided by ancient Rome. Today, the cries of martyrs and beasts have been replaced by the haunting strains of a concerto or the precise beauty of a fugue as world famous orchestras and artists perform at the classical music festival held at the coliseum each summer.

El Jem has opened workshops where artists are re-discovering the art of mosaics and their creations are truly worthy of this site and its history. You can compare these artworks with those in the museum by the coliseum.

El Jem

Medina of Tunis

Until the ninteenth century, the Medina was an oval-shaped walled city. The walls which have long since disappeared, apart from a few town gates, and their place has been taken by a ring of streets around the old town, which is...

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Until the ninteenth century, the Medina was an oval-shaped walled city. The walls which have long since disappeared, apart from a few town gates, and their place has been taken by a ring of streets around the old town, which is in the form of an oval measuring 1,500m/1,640yds from north to south by 800m/880yds from east to west.

The Medina of Tunis is the largest in Tunisia and the finest after the Medina of Kairouan. Originally going back to the ninth-11th centuries, it dates in its present form largely from the Hafsid (13th century) and Turkish (17th-18th century) periods. The French demolished its outer walls but left it otherwise unchanged.

Read more about markets and Medinas here.

Tunisian Souk

Site of Carthage

Carthage Museum: (00216) 01 34 10 77
Who has not heard of Hannibal and this city who dared brave the might of Rome? Now the ruins of both these great empires lay open to the sun and wildflowers. Declared a national monument the...

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Carthage Museum: (00216) 01 34 10 77
Who has not heard of Hannibal and this city who dared brave the might of Rome? Now the ruins of both these great empires lay open to the sun and wildflowers. Declared a national monument the town of Carthage and nearby Salammbo abound in vestiges of the Punic and Roman empires, baths, dwellings, temples, shrines and the fabulous naval port of the Carthaginians.

The hill of Byrsa, where in the 8th century BC, Carthage was founded by the legendary Princess Elissa-Dido, is a storehouse of history .Newly restored, the former cathedral of Saint Louis, which crowns the hill is now a cultural centre and the nearby national museum of Carthage holds an impressive collection of Punic statues, steles and urns. How strange that this breathtakingly beautiful site should have been the theatre of such violence, as a Roman historian wrote of the fall of Carthage "the city was then razed and burnt to the ground and the accursed land covered with salt to ensure its barrenness."

For a thousand years, Phoenicians were masters of the Mediterranean and over 200 war ships and innumerable merchant vessels were sheltered in the nearby port of Salammbo. At its center the Admirals Island still exists and archaeologists are reconstituting the pavilion with its shrine and docks. Next to the ports the ancient sanctuary of the goddess Tanit (Tophet) a quiet, shady square of hundreds of funeral steles.

The Romans returned to Carthage and built on its ruins a new Carthage resplendent with great buildings, theatres, villas and baths. Carthage became the administrative capital for Africa and its importance can be seen in the Antoinine Thermal baths, one of the largest built under the Roman empire with the "cool room" an amazing 47 meters long and 15 meters high. The Roman theatre is still used today for the summer festival of Carthage.

Magnificent ruins of ancient Carthage

Kairouan

An hour drive from Sousse, discover Kairouan "the city of 50 mosques”. The spiritual home of all Tunisians, the city itself rises like a dream of ochre and tawny beige, serene in its 13 centuries of Islamic culture, authentic a...

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An hour drive from Sousse, discover Kairouan "the city of 50 mosques”. The spiritual home of all Tunisians, the city itself rises like a dream of ochre and tawny beige, serene in its 13 centuries of Islamic culture, authentic and proud of the wondrous beauty of its mosques, the symphony of its columns and arches, the exquisite delicacy of the stone work. The towering and sober dignity of the Great Mosque seems to embody the spirituality that has inspired artists and poets from its creation until the present day.


History

Dating from the 9th century its austere beauty dominates the entire city. Inside, visitors can wonder at the exquisite elegance of the wood carved doors and stucco arabesques, as well as the forest of columns (400) of the prayer room with their Phoenician, Roman and Arabic capitals.

The medina, with its imposing walls and monumental gates encloses lovely mosques, an ancient well and hundreds of shops where world famous Kairouan carpets of pure wool are woven and sold and where the visitor can admire the handicrafts of artisans in copper, leather, and in the traditional Jebba and burnous, ornate and richly adorned or elegantly natural. The artisanal centre provides an excellent exhibit on carpets and carpet weaving and visitors who may be thinking of buying a carpet are welcome to consult the Tunisian National Handicrafts Organization or Artisanat, as it is familiarly called, for advice on quality, prices, styles, care and shipping their carpet home.


Carpets

As Kairouan is the oldest and most renowned carpet centre in Tunisia, the selection is enormous .Undoubtedly the hand knotted pile carpet reigns supreme with the typical design of Kairouan, Alloucha, being of natural wool colours with a large border of parallel stripes of geometric patterns and a central lozenge with a floral design. However, the creativity and artistry of the weavers embroiders this basic scheme with an infinite variety of patterns and colours creating a masterpiece of harmony and elegance.

Carpets are graded by their fineness ,the number of knots in a square meter ,with a normal weave from 10,000 to 40,000, fine weave from 65,000-90,000 and extra fine from 160,000 - 500,000. Silk carpets may be over 500,000 knots per square meter.

Kairouan also produces a woven carpet - the margoum, using mainly geometric Berber designs, lighter in weight and in a multitude of colours.

Tunisian craftsmen have explored, with outstanding success, a blending of traditional Tunisian patterns with modern designs creating a new line of knotted carpets to satisfy more modern tastes.

Justly proud of the excellence of its carpets Tunisia has established a strict quality control and only those that satisfy the high standards are given the coveted label with the seal of the Tunisian Republic and information on the date, size, fineness, of the carpet. It is your guarantee of excellence. Unless you are an experienced carpet buyer, or have purchased an antique carpet, best rely on this label of quality.

Kairouan is also noted for its brass work, intricately designed trays, vases and bowels, embossed or engraved as well as leatherwork ranging from camel saddles to fine slippers.

Medina of Sousse

On the eastern coast of Tunisia, two hours from the capital Tunis lies Sousse, "the pearl of the Sahel”. The mildness of its climate, its calm and beautiful coast and the hospitality of its people has long captivated those who ...

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On the eastern coast of Tunisia, two hours from the capital Tunis lies Sousse, "the pearl of the Sahel”. The mildness of its climate, its calm and beautiful coast and the hospitality of its people has long captivated those who came to conquer. Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs settled in this lovely "fertile city" each leaving their imprint and heritage. No wonder modern day visitors from all over the world find themselves at home and return again and again.

The resort area of Sousse is perfectly integrated into the city and the visitor welcomed to participate in its exuberance. Proud of its heritage, museums and monuments are accessible and opened with pleasure to its guests and the Medina with its tiny colourful shops overflowing with silver jewellery, pure wool blankets, copper and carpets bustle with activity under the towering walls of the ribat.

Dougga (Thugga)

Dougga is all that one dreams a Roman site should be. Grandiose temples and theatres, forum and markets stand in remarkable repair on a mountainside overlooking wheat fields and valley. Imposing Dougga spreads over 65 hectares,...

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Dougga is all that one dreams a Roman site should be. Grandiose temples and theatres, forum and markets stand in remarkable repair on a mountainside overlooking wheat fields and valley. Imposing Dougga spreads over 65 hectares, its position on the slopes forced Roman builders to renounce their standard city plan and adapt their monuments to the terrain.

Dougga was originally a fortified Berber village (the name Thugga meant "pastures"). Later, it served as the seat of the Numidian king Masinissa in the 2nd century BC. The Romans occupied the city in the late 2nd century BC.

The impressive Roman ruins of Dougga were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Dougga is widely recogniesd as one of the most beautiful Roman sites in Tunisia. At its height between 20 to 30,000 people would have lived here and their shops, stores and baths, latrines, wash room and gymnasiums are still evident, bringing the ruins to life. Stone streets bear the grooves of chariot wheels and in the silent, windswept afternoon one can almost hear their clatter. Dougga was a prosperous city even before the coming of the Romans.

 

Kasserine

Kasserine is the capital city of the Kasserine Governorate, in west-central Tunisia. It is situated below Jebel ech Chambi, Tunisia's highest mountain. Its population is 76,243 (2004).


A city in the Republic of Tunisia with abo...

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Kasserine is the capital city of the Kasserine Governorate, in west-central Tunisia. It is situated below Jebel ech Chambi, Tunisia's highest mountain. Its population is 76,243 (2004).


A city in the Republic of Tunisia with about 75,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), situated in western-central part of the country, east of the Chaambi Mountain, Tunisia's largest at 1544 meters, in the Aurès Mountains. It is the capital of Kasserine governorate with 440,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate) and an area of 6,712 km². The economy of Kasserine is based on varieties of activities, like being a market centre, olive cultivation, growing of esparto grass and production of paper pulp, oil production, growing of grain, the raising of sheep and cattle. The cellulose factory has emissions of chlorine, causing at times a bad environment. Kasserine has good road and rail connections to other urban centres of Tunisia like Tunis and Sousse.


Situation and characteristics

Kasserine lies on the Oued el Habeb in the upland steppe country of central Tunisia, surrounded by the country's highest hill, Djebel Chambi (1,544m/5,066ft), to the northeast, Djebel Semmama (1,314m/4,311ft) to the northwest ... More > and Djebel Selloum (1,373m/4,505ft) to the southeast. Thanks to its situation it is an important traffic junction and market town (market on Tuesdays); but it is now mainly an industrial center. In the largest industrial plant in central Tunisia, established in 1963, the esparto grass which grows in the surrounding steppe is used in the manufacture of cellulose and paper.

 

History


The town was founded by the Romans, probably in the second century A.D., under the name of Cellium, and in the third century was raised to the status of a colonia. With the fall of the Roman Empire it declined in importance, and until the colonial period remained no more than a small market center for the surrounding villages. The French built a railway station and settled European colons on the land.

Kasserine Pass, to the northwest, was the scene of a decisive battle of the Tunisian campaign in World War II, which contributed to the collapse of German resistance in northern Africa.

Matmata (the home of Star Wars)

Matmata is the name of a Berber tribe which was later given to the town
From the splendour of the high citadel of Ksar Jouma which overlooks the entire region, follow the rocky trails down to the arid, sun baked region of Matmat...

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Matmata is the name of a Berber tribe which was later given to the town
From the splendour of the high citadel of Ksar Jouma which overlooks the entire region, follow the rocky trails down to the arid, sun baked region of Matmata where craters dug into the ground provided another type of shelter from invaders.

These troglodyte "homes" consist of a courtyard, 5 to 10 meters deep from which a labyrinth of small rooms for sleeping, grain storage and family gatherings are cut into the soft rock and interconnected by narrow passageways. Access is through a sloping tunnel or by a ladder which could be removed in time of danger.

The interiors are whitewashed and quite cool in summer, indeed there are now hotels installed in these craters which visitors will find amazingly comfortable. Should the landscape look strangely familiar, Matmata was the setting for the film "Star Wars" (to read more about Star Wars and the real film locations click here). This village, named after the Berber tribe that inhabits the region is the largest of the troglodyte communities.

Bulla Regia

Bulla Regia is a remarkable site, home to underground villas and priceless mosaics. The villas were part-constructed underground to keep the inhabitants cool during the heat of the summer months.

Located in Northern Tunisia, Bu...

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Bulla Regia is a remarkable site, home to underground villas and priceless mosaics. The villas were part-constructed underground to keep the inhabitants cool during the heat of the summer months.

Located in Northern Tunisia, Bulla Regia shows evidence in a very different way to Dougga of Roman presence in this agricultural region. At first sight Bulla Regia may disapoint, no great temples, arches or monuments mark the site, but don't drive on!

Approaching the ruins, one is suddenly aware that part of the houses and baths are below your feet. In order to remain comfortable in the summer heat, houses were built with a winter apartment on ground floor and summer quarters underground with hollow air - pipes built into the walls. Light was provided by windows in the top floor and unlike sober Matmata, rich mosaics graced the floors. Unique testimony to the genius of the builders of the Coliseum and the aqueducts! Nearby is a small but interesting little museum.


History

The city of Bulla was first mentioned by Latin classical sources when the pursuing Roman armies caught up with the Numidian king Hiarbas at Bulla where he had sought refuge (in 81 BC). It also appeared, much  later, (end of 4th century AD) in one of Saint Augustine’s sermons when he reproached  the inhabitants of  the city for continuing to go to such places of debauch as the theatre.

While their neighbours, the inhabitants of Chemtou, had long ago deserted them. In the writings of Arab travellers, Bulla Regia is referred to as Henchir bul. Archaeology and in particular Latin inscriptions are much more generous in terms of information supplied. They enable us to trace the history of the city since the 4th century BC until the Moslem conquest in the seventh century AD.

To see the image stream for Bulla Regia on Flickr click here (opens new window)

Thuburbo Majus

Unlike most Roman cities, Thuburbo Majus lacks the straight streets, the rectangular outlay. A common theory is that when the Romans started to build it in 27 BCE as a veteran's colony, an existing Punic town was already here, ...

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Unlike most Roman cities, Thuburbo Majus lacks the straight streets, the rectangular outlay. A common theory is that when the Romans started to build it in 27 BCE as a veteran's colony, an existing Punic town was already here, and it was not sacrificed for the new developments. This town is in the dip between the Forum and the House of Neptune, although every stone here have been relocated many times during the Roman centuries.

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