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Tunisia

Main attractions

Mides Gorge and fortifications, Tunisia
Mides Gorge and fortifications / McKay Savage, , CC BY 2.0

Although Tunisia is smaller than its neighbouring countries, it has a great history, country is very rich with archaeological landmarks. Highlights of Tunisia are:

  • Ruins of Punic, Roman and Byzantine cities. First cities in the present-day Tunisia started to develop almost 3000 years ago and one of them - Ancient Carthage was among the largest metropolises in the ancient world.
  • Medieval cities and towns. Tunisia has some of the best preserved and interesting medieval cities in Arab world, such as the old cities (medinas) of Tunis, Sfax and Sousse.

Natural landmarks

  • Mides Gorge and oasis - Tozeur. This mountain oasis is located in a very impressive gorge. Gorge is some 3 km long, walls are approximately 50 - 60 m tall.
  • Mine Cave - Kairouan. Longest known cave in Tunisia, 4,100 m long. Contains traces of human settlement and beautiful cave formations, including gours.
  • Tamerza falls - Tozeur. Group of small waterfalls which are up to 5 m tall. These waterfalls are located in a charming mountain oasis of Tamerza.
  • Zarziha Rock (Korbous hot springs) - Nabeul. Thermal sulphurous springs which fall directly into the sea over a cliff which is covered with sulphuric deposits. This water originates from the nearby Aïn el-Atrous spring (50° hot) and is channeled with an underground pipe towards the cliff. There are other hot springs in this area.

Man made landmarks

Maktar megaliths, Tunisia
Maktar megaliths / Alun Salt, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Megaliths

  • Djebel Gorra dolmens - Béja. Group of 200 - 300 prehistoric burials with dolmens which have different morphology.
  • Dougga dolmens - Béja. Several impressive dolmens are located in the necropolis of the ancient Dougga town. These dolmens were created sometimes around 2000 BC.
  • Ellès megaliths - Siliana. Group of megalithic tombs and other structures near Ellès village. It is assumed that these structures were created around 2500 BC.
  • Maktar megaliths - Siliana. Impressive, interesting group of megaliths. These structures have been built from enormous stone slabs and served for the cult of the dead. Site contains also graves of ancient Numidian kings, Punic nobleman.

Other prehistoric landmarks

  • Djebel Ousselat rock art - Kairouan. Group of 7 rock shelters (Aïn Khanfous, Chendoube, Khnéfissa, Oued Bourrime, Oued Chara, Oued Grabech, Oued Majel) with red and black paintings. Most drawings show humans, some - animals, stars, weapons.
  • Kef Negcha Rock (Kef Ennagcha) - Jendouba. Large rock which rises above El Feijaa forest. Prehistoric sacred site with signs of rock art. On the top of rock were built Numidian fortresses and even fortifications of Algerian freedom fighters from 1960 - 1962.
Sufetula, Tunisia
Sufetula, ruins of temples / Dennis Jarvis, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Ancient, abandoned cities and towns

  • Ancient Carthage - Tunis. Once very important, legendary city, established as Phoenician colony in the 9th - 8th century BC. Carthage as the capital of Punic culture was the main rival of emerging Rome and finally was destroyed by Romans in 146 BC. Then it was reestablished by Romans and destroyed by Muslims in 698 AD. Byrsa is the fortified citadel of city.
  • Bulla Regia - Jendouba. Ruins of city, founded by Punians around the 4th century BC and later extended by Romans. Magnificent mosaic floors have been preserved. Many of the buildings were partly underground - this was an adaptation to the African heat.
  • Dougga (Thugga) - Béja. Extensive ruins of magnificent Punic, Roman and Byzantine city, one of the best preserved Roman cities. Contains ruins of many buildings, notably, a mausoleum, capitol, theatre, temples of Saturn and Juno Caelestis.
  • Kerkouane - Nabeul. Ruins of Punic town which was never inhabited by Romans or other people since its abandonment roughly in 250 BC. Thus it has preserved valuable information about Punic culture, their city planning and architecture of houses.
  • Makthar (Maktara) - Siliana. Ancient settlement, inhabited since the eight millenium BC. City was established here in the 3rd - 2nd century BC. Later it was important Numidian, Punic, Roman city, important centre of Christianity. Declined in the 5th century AD.
  • Musti - Béja. Ruins of Roman city which was located on an important trade route. Limits of this town were set by two triumphal arcs built in 238 AD. Ruins include remnants of Byzantine citadel and other temples.
  • Oudna - Ben Arous. Ruins of Punic and Roman city. Here have been found fine mosaics, large amphitheatre, baths, capitol, aqueduct, as well as enormous temple of Jupiter.
  • Sufetula - Kasserine. Ruins of Roman city with some of the best preserved ruins of forum temples.
  • Utica - Ariana. Ruins of Phoenician city, which is considered to be the first outpost of Phoenicians in North Africa. Most likely founded in the 8th century BC and was an independent centre until 540 BC. Around 150 BC it became a capital of Roman province of Africa. Abandoned around 700 AD.
El Jem amphitheatre, Tunisia
El Jem amphitheatre / Yowalid, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Other landmarks of ancient cultures

  • El Jem amphitheatre - Mahdia. Third largest Roman amphitheatre after Colosseum and Capua amphitheatre. It is comparatively well preserved, constructed around 238 AD and has a capacity of 35,000 seats. Amphitheatre was used mainly for gladiator shows and chariot races.
  • Dougga Numidian Mausoleum - Béja. One of the few remaining Numidian royal mausoleums. This structure is 21 m tall, built in the 2nd century BC.
  • House of the Hunt in Bulla Regia (Maison de la Chasse) - Jendouba. Large city house of wealthy citizen with fine mosaic floros. Planning of this house is similar to a planning of basilica and it is possible that elements of such houses were used for the concept of Christian churches.
  • Oudna amphitheatre - Ben Arous. 110 by 90 m large amphitheatre with a capacity of 15,000 spectators.
  • Temple of Hathor Miskar - Siliana, Maktar. Ancient Punic temple, built in the 1st century BC, reconstructed in the 2nd century AD. This shows that Punic cult continued here long after the arrival of Romans. Temple contained the longest known Punic inscription - 47 lines on 10 columns.
Matmâta underground houses, Tunisia
Matmâta underground houses / Dennis Jarvis, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Medieval cities and towns

  • Kairouan - Kairouan. One of holiest Islam's cities, founded sometimes at 670 AD. Has several very important buildings, including Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba from the 9th century.
  • Matmâta – Gabès. Unique troglodyte village with numerous underground rock-cut houses which are in use up to this day. Developed as a hideaway from the scorching heat of Sahara desert, possibly already in Roman times.
  • Walled medina of Sfax - Sfax. Old city which is enclosed in massive, 2.75 km long fortification walls. These walls are 7 - 11 m tall, have two historical gates and 34 towers. Old city is 600 by 400 m large.
  • Medina of Sousse - Sousse. Well preserved medieval city with magnificent fortification walls. Sousse has characteristic architecture of white washed houses with blue details. Interesting buildings are Ribat, the Great Mosque, Bu Ftata Mosque and others.
  • Medina of Tozeur - Tozeur. Old city with specific style of traditional architecture - ornate brickwork.
  • Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia
    Great Mosque of Kairouan / David Weekly, , CC BY 2.0
    Medina of Tunis - Tunis. One of the best preserved Arab old cities. It has an area of 270 ha and is covered with dense, seemingly chaotic network of buildings and streets. Closer investigation though shows that the planning of city is not random - it is based on socio-cultural code of complex human relations. Here are located some 700 monuments of architecture and history. Parts of fortification wall and some gates have been preserved.

Mosques

  • Al-Zaytuna Mosque (Zitouna Mosque) and Ez-Zitouna University - Tunis. Enormous mosque which hosts one of the oldest and best universities in the history of Islam. First mosque here was built around 703 AD. University is founded in 737 AD and is considered to be the oldest teaching establishment in the Arab world.
  • Great Mosque of Mahdiya - Mahdia. Old and large mosque which was built in 916 AD. Innovative planning of this mosque left influence on the design of future mosques.
  • Mosque of Uqba (Great Mosque of Kairouan) - Kairouan. Oldest mosque in Western Islamic world, built in 670 AD. Impressive building which resembles a fortress.
Ksar Ouled Soltane - fortified granary, Tunisia
Ksar Ouled Soltane - fortified granary / Katina Rogers, , CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • El Ghriba synagogue - Djerba. One of oldest synagogues in world. It houses the oldest Sefer Torah - handwritten Torah.
  • Ksar Hadada - Tataouine. Communal building - typical Berber storage capacity for grain.
  • Ksar Ouled Soltane - Tataouine. Fortified granary, typical for Tunisia and Libya, constructed in the 15th - 19th century. Such communal Berber granaries were built in order to protect the food supplies from raids.
  • Théâtre municipal de Tunis - Tunis. Large theater, beautiful building constructed in Art Noveau style. Initially built in 1902 and extended in 1911.
  • Tophet of Salammbó - Tunis, Carthage. Punic sanctuary and necropolis of children which was in use in 730 BC - 146 AD. It is considered that this was the site where children were sacrificed by Carthagians. Now it is located under a later, Roman built vault.

List of described attractions by governorates

Tunisia is divided into 24 governorates:

Ariana
Béja
Ben Arous
Bizerte
Gabès
Gafsa
Jendouba
Kairouan
Kasserine
Kebili
Kef
Mahdia
Manouba
Medenine
Monastir
Nabeul
Sfax
Sidi Bouzid
Siliana
Sousse
Tataouine
Tozeur
Tunis
ArrowAncient CarthageAncient cities and towns, Abandoned cities and towns
Zaghouan

Map of Tunisia

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