UNESCO qualified Dougga, Tunisia as a World Heritage Site in 1997, which is considered “the best-preserved Roman small town in North Africa”. The Capital of Dougga was built between 166 and 167 AD. The Capital served as the main temple for the entire city and was dedicated to the three gods of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
The four front Corinthian columns still support a beautiful pediment, complete with an intact relief, albiet eroded.
The three gods (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva) each had their niche with Jupiter having the large one in the middle. This is where a 6 metre high white marble statue once stood but its remains are now exhibited in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
My excitement was building …. we were going to see an amphitheatre, a real old amphitheatre!
Took the bus to Dougga, 100 km W of Tunis. The ruins at Dougga are probably the best preserved Roman ruins in Tunisia. It was an amazing sight to see!
Four gents from Great Britain showed up about the time we arrived at the theatre and, as luck would have it, they were a quartet, for real! “It’s always been a dream of mine to sing in an amphitheatre” exclaimed one of them and with that, they broke into song - the strains of Ava Maria filled the air. What an amazing sound it was!
The theatre at Dougga - 168 BC - considered a relatively small theatre seats 3500 and is still used for concerts at the Dougga Festival each summer.
I have to admit that I hadn’t done extensive research (which I now tend to do for any travel) with regards to getting around in Tunisia as I thought I’d just rent a car and drive wherever I pleased. But when I arrived at my hotel, I was given a note signed “Your Travel Representative”. My travel representative? I didn’t know I had one. Had the travel agent back home who had booked my flights made some kind of deal with a travel company out here? EXACTWORDS on note (including grammatical errors) “We are pleased to inform you that an information meeting would take place on 3/16 at 2:30 PM at the hotel reception. Would you please do not reserve any excursion before this meeting, in order to avoid any disappointment or misunderstanding.” Being a little green when it came to travel abroad, I figured I’d best attend this “meeting”.
“Sorry, car rental is not possible. You must book all tours with us. Please take time to look through this brochure and carefully choose which tours you would like to go on. Please find me at the front desk when you are ready to book”. And because I was somewhat naive (and honestly thought, at the time, that car rental must not available to tourists because my self-appointed travel representative said so), I got out my credit card and booked some tours.
I haven’t been to Italy (yet) but I never expected to see my first Roman ruins……. in Tunisia.
Our first stop - Thuburbo Majus, founded in 27 BC approximately 60 kms SW of Tunis. Click here for a bird’s eye view via Virtual Globetrotting.
The Capital and Forum (168 AD) - 13 steps up to the fluted columns made by carrara marble. I’ve always been fascinated with columns so it was amazing to gaze up at something that was built so very long ago.
Very little is left of the Temple of Caelestis - the arch and its one remaining punic column.
The columns of Palaestra of Petronii (225 AD), with a fantastic hue of grey-blue, are made of carrara marble, a marble favored as a sculpting material throughout history - Michaelangelo’s “David” also being made of this type of marble. The grounds here were used for boxing and wrestling, a noble art of that time - think of it as a roman gymnasium, of sorts.
Photos of the amphitheatre ruins in the distance, inscriptions and detailed carvings, and floor mosaics.
While visiting the Bardo Museum, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful walls and ceilings of this former palace. Many were as amazing as the mosaics housed there. This detailed painted ceiling is in the Dougga Room.
This intricate and stunning green and gold ceiling is in the Sousse Room - absolutely gorgeous.
I think the ceiling of the Carthage Room is spectacular in its own way.
Walls and ceilings contain intricately carved plaster.
Mosaics aren’t the only thing on display at the Bardo Museum on the outskirts of Tunis, Tunisia. Stone carvings, marble statues and brilliant tile work add to the multitude of mosaics.
I’ve always loved the carvings of The Three Graces, 3rd Century AD - Euphrosyne, Aglaea and Thalia symbolizing beauty, grace and wisdom (the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome).
Apollo, 2nd Century AD - marble statuary
Minerva, 2nd Century AD
This bust of Venus was found among the treasures of a sunken Roman ship off the coast of Mahdia, Tunisia. It is said that Roman villas in northern Africa were anticipating a ship full of Greek art but it never arrived.
Traditional Islamic Courtyard within the Bardo, Husseinite style, 19th Century and some close-ups of the tile work.
Bardo Museum,a former 17th century Moorish palace belonging to the Husseinite beys (kings) situated on the outskirts of Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, is now home to the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. Many of the mosaics displayed here once adorned the homes of some of Roman Africa’s wealthiest - the persian rugs of the ancient world. It is said that the mosaics are a clear indication of disposable income for interior decor in 2nd and 3rd century North Africa. It’s hard to take in all the exhibits of the Bardo Museum in one visit. Three floors of amazing mosaics in every size with varying themes fill the walls (and some floors!)
Although many mosaic pieces have been restored in the Bardo Museum, not all have been salvaged in their entirety.
Mosaic floors are still found at some of the archeological sites - these columns and mosaic floors at Thuburbo Majus.
A closer look at a mosaic floor at Thuburbo Majus.
We arrived to Tunisia very late at night and after finding that our luggage had not followed us, we headed out to Hammamet, 60 kms southeast of the capital. This was my first trip overseas so everything seemed new to me. Should I be worried as our taxi driver veered from lane to lane on the highway? I think he’s speeding - ALOT. What happened to the luggage? We arrive at the hotel and there’s hardly a light on. The driver honks and the guard opens the gate to the hotel compound. The hotel appears closed but there is a gentleman who greets us at the front door and escorts us up to our room with the light of his flashlight in hand. He assures me the luggage will arrive tomorrow. “Have a good night’s rest,” he says and closes the door. I take note of the Fire Evacuation Plan on the back side of the door and notice that the room next door is an office. That’s weird, I remember thinking. Why an office on the top floor? The flight and the wild ride with the taxi leaves me exhausted and I fall asleep almost instantly.
But somewhere in the night, I’m awakened by something striking my leg and a thud on the floor. I bolt up in bed, my heart thumping and find the light switch next to the bed. The wall sconce has fallen off the wall, bounced off the nightstand hitting my leg and falling to the floor. OK - SONOW I’M PARANOID! No luggage, the light sconce falling - I’m convinced the office next door has a small camera linked through the wall sconce fixture and is taping the goings-on in this room. The rest of the night is a restless sleep.
I wake up, still feeling exhausted but am looking forward to getting my luggage AND using the pool - the one I SAW in the photo of the hotel. I sauntered over to the window and was……….stunned. I could not believe my eyes.
This was NOT the pool that I saw in the photos of the hotel website. My mind was reeling from everything that had happened in the past few hours and now this. I wasn’t a seasoned traveler at all but remembered having read about how things aren’t always as shown and this totally seemed to prove that.
We headed downstairs to the dining room for breakfast. I chose the empty table by the window. The table by the window that overlooked a pool - a beautiful pool. I’m sure I had a very puzzled look on my face. What had I just seen minutes earlier from my balcony? Well…..as it turned out, the scene from my balcony was actually a hotel under construction next door!
This was the pool that belonged to the hotel we were at! I laugh to this day about the many thoughts that had gone through my head that first morning in Tunisia.
Sidi Bou Said is a walker’s dream along its cobbled streets lined with cube-like white houses and narrow alleyways.
Take time to relax at the many street cafes with a traditional glass of mint tea topped with pine nuts.
A trip wouldn’t be complete without checking the markets and shops in town. Haggle, haggle, and haggle some more! And there’s always that one shopkeeper who will offer 250 camels for your spouse/partner. Later I was rather disappointed when I met another traveler to find that they had been offered 500 camels! I did mention to the shopkeeper, at the time, that I didn’t think there were enough camels in all of Tunisia to trade for my beloved! He laughed at that and convinced me to buy a bowl instead. Deal.
What led me to go to Tunisia initially was a single photograph - in a travel brochure. The building was glistening white with beautiful blue doors. The photo was gorgeous. I thought it must be somewhere in Greece. As I had a closer look at the brochure, I realized it was not Greece but rather Tunisia in northern Africa. I immediately wanted to go to see the place in the photo.
I found the exact place as I had seen in the photograph.
The town is Sidi Bou Said and the place in the photo is now Cafe Sidi Chabaane. Sidi Bou Said is a quaint, all blue and white town. Just some 20 kms from the nation’s capital, Tunis. A walk along the narrow cobblestone streets revealed a sea of white and blue - beautiful white homes and shops with blue window grills, blue shutters and blue doors - decorated in a multitude of black patterned rivets and door knockers.
Often the entire door does not open - a smaller door is part of the larger door which requires a person to stoop when entering.
and some doors, although devoid of ornamentation, were still so incredibly beautiful to me. I sit and wonder about the amazing stories this door would have if it could speak.
Although I had always enjoyed traveling throughout North America, it wasn’t until 2006 that I really got the travel fever to see the world. So with camera in hand, the fever continues! This yearning to see the world has taken me to Northern Africa, East Asia, India, Central America and my list of future travel destinations continues to grow. I can’t get enough of traveling and find tremendous joy in learning about people, their culture, their traditions, and being able to capture some of that through photography.
Signed up for a tour of Tunisia in Northern Africa but the tour was cancelled due to a lack of interest. By then I had done a lot of research about the country (as I tend to do when making travel plans) and decided to go - tour or no tour. Traveled in the north and eastern regions of Tunisia - a country filled with diverse landscapes. Cap Bon is considered the garden peninsula of Tunisia and contains some of the richest farmland in the country. Citrus orchards, olive groves and endless vineyards dot the landscape. From the western shores of Cap Bon, the Mediterranean Sea glistens under the sun.
Welcome to my travel photo blog. Photography has been a part of my life for a long time – back in the day the Pentax Super Program was always near at hand.
But it wasn’t until I started travelling around the world that photography became a vehicle for me to show others about the absolutely amazing and complex world we live in. My hope is to share with you glimpses of what I’ve seen. Enjoy!