It’s been a year since our move to Tunis! I’m disappointed to admit that we haven’t done as much exploring in Tunisia as I would have liked. Every day life and a mix of personal and professional travels left us grateful to be home when we were at home, so renting a car and exploring other parts of the country just kept getting pushed to “next weekend.” But, we’ve vowed to do more exploring in the next year, and a few weeks ago, we starting making good on our promise with a visit to El-Djem.
Tunisia has a wealth of beauty, especially Roman ruins, that could make even Rome a little envious. I need to study up on my Roman and Carthaginian history because even though my visits to the sites are beautiful, I know I’d get more out of it if I could appreciate the history and time period more than I do now. Even with my historical ignorance, we had cousins visiting Tunis a few weeks ago and we took the opportunity to join them in a visit to El-Djem. It’s is about a 3 hour drive from Tunis so we had to rent a car to make the day trip. El-Djem is a small town off of the Eastern coast of Tunisia, and hosts some of the most impressive Roman ruins in Tunisia (and according to Wikipedia, most impressive in Africa). The crown jewel is a Roman Amphitheater that is believed to have been used for chariot races and gladiator sports.
Visiting El-Djem was easy, the structure is so large that you can’t miss it once you arrive in the town. We paid 10 Dinar to enter and the site, which is open until 5pm in the Fall and Winter.
The state of the amphitheater is impressive and incredibly well-preserved considering that construction of the structure is estimated at sometime in the 3rd century AD.
We started our visit by going under ground to see where the animals, most famously, lions were held.
In the stadium portion, there are several levels for spectators. Climbing the steps to the higher levels of the amphitheater offers an impressive view of the structure and of the surrounding areas.
This is the view from the “Queen’s Suite.”
Walking and exploring the site reveals the construction techniques the Romans used. The archway construction is the foundation of the structure. So.many.archways.
For better or worse, the site was nearly empty. I think we saw only 15-20 visitors there. It’s a treat to visit a site of this magnitude without hoards of tourists. We felt that we had the site nearly to ourselves and took advantage to explore many of its nooks and crannies.
Finally, after a year of living in Tunis, I can check off one of Tunisia’s major sites!