Sunday, 28 May 2017

A taste of Tunisia: Carthage

The view from Birsa hill

The second day we headed to historical Carthage. This is a city very rich in history and culture, there's debate as to when it was established, but it's around 1000 B.C by the Phoenicians. It was a thriving commercial city and the remains found there show how open to the world around them they were, how many different cultures passed through it and blended together, how their own arts been influenced by so many others they came in contact with. But the romans had different ideas some 750 years after, burnt it to the ground, killed everybody and built their own city on the rubble...

A colorful window inside the Acropolium church (next to Carthage museum)

Anyway, there are a few sites lying not too far from each other around Carthage, you can easily do them all in one day if you start a bit early as they all close at 5. You buy your ticket at one and use it to enter everything apart from the Punic port. We didn't enter all as we didn't start early enough but were happy with what we saw.

The ticket gives you access to:
- Carthage museum
- The amphitheater
- The Roman villas
- The Roman theater
- The Paleo-Christian museum
- The Tophet of Salammbo
- Antonin baths
- Magon quarter

Punic quarter on Birsa hill

If you start at the right end you can walk through them all, but we didn't. We didn't do much research beforehand and just went straight to the Carthage museum which is on top of the Birsa hill with the remains of the Punic quarter. This is where people of Carthage tried to go to escape the crazy Romans, and built themselves small temporary houses. Unfortunately, that didn't help. The remains are cool, the museum is very small, it's trying but in all honesty failing. Some pieces are lacking description, some have it only in French or only in Arabic, basically a bit disappointing.

Roman theatre

From there we went to the Roman theatre. Now this is the same one that hosts the Carthage music festival every autumn, it's in great shape but all the modern installations take a little bit from its ancient charm.

Roman villas

From there the Roman villas were a short walk away, but guess who started walking the wrong way and then realized there's no way in from there? 😂 So we walked back and then walked the right way and got there, this place used to be part of the city and one of the houses (the aviary house) has been restored to give an idea of how this looked. And if you walk a bit further toward the huge mosque there, you'll also see the remains of a little theater called the Odeon.

Antonin's baths

Then we asked the man at the tickets office where the closest site was: This turned out to be Antonin's baths, it's less than 10 minutes to walk there, and this was really impressive! Of all the sites we've been at this was definitely my favorite. The baths are a huge structure by the sea, and a lot of it has survived so you get the idea of how this looked and all the rooms and pools. Pretty cool! One must say that this is a Roman build though, not Phoenician.

At this point we decided to stop for a coffee and some soldiers we met on the way pointed us to the direction to go. I've had a bit of a headache all day, but the moment I sat down, it just got mega worse. So instead of heading to the Punic port after a food stop, we had to get back home.

Entrance from the sea into the Punic port

We did go to the Punic port the day after though, what remains of it today is the shape, this is a donut of water pretty much, with an entrance from the sea. Some small boats do moor here today, but back when it was build it had "rooms" around both inner and outer walls of this donut where you could get the boat in. Impressive!
The Punic port

Carthage is impressive and is absolutely worth a visit if you're in Tunisia, but plan beforehand, find out where everything is and make a route for the day. And if you don't understand Arabic or French, read up beforehand 😎

(wow! this was a very big biscuit, more like shortbread 😄)

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