Christmas in Tunisia - The Punic Wars
As this tour takes places at a festive time of year, you spend Christmas Day exploring Tunisia's most important religious city, namely Kairouan, and the incredible museum of Sousse.
This a land where dramatic events shaped ancient history - the superpowers of Carthage and Rome clashed in three Punic Wars which determined the course of Western history. Lasting more than 100 years, the conflict ultimately resulted in the destruction of Carthage and assured Roman ascendancy. Join us to explore the ruins of the Roman era in the beautiful, verdant North African countryside. Travel from the ruins of Carthage itself to the magnificent Roman cities and monuments of Roman Tunisia: the amphitheatre at El Djem, the beautiful, remote site of Dougga and vast intricate mosaics. These all bring the world of Roman Africa vividly to life.
From 2020 we have been able to return to Bulla Regia, with its characteristic underground houses. The site covers more than 60 hectares with its range of Berber, Roman and Numidian archaeological influences.
Deposit: $500 Single supplement: $330
Keeping you safe on your next tour
Day 1 - London - Tunis
We meet as a group at our hotel in Tunis.
|Hotel||El Mouradi Hotel Africa Tunis|
Day 2 - Tunis
This morning we begin with a visit to the famous Bardo Museum, situated in an old Beylical palace. It houses one of the most important collections of mosaics anywhere in the world. Highlights include the Virgil Mosaic and the Odysseus Mosaic, as well as many depicting beast hunts. There is a wonderful collection of Carthaginian aftefacts and Paleochrisitian baptisteries. In the afternoon, we venture to the Byrsa Hill where we see the haunting remains of pre-Roman Carthage. Afterwards, we explore remains from Roman Carthage, when the city was the capital of Africa Proconsularis; in particular, we explore the Roman Antonine Baths, one of the largest in the whole of the Roman empire. We proceed to the disquieting Salambo Tophet, a cemetery which contained the remains of children who were sacrificed to Tanit, after they were already dead, or, more likely, as live victims. We end the day with a visit to the Cothon, or harbour, testament to Carthage’s famous maritime might.
Day 3 - Kerkouane
Today we venture to the gorgeous Cap Bon peninsula, the point of Tunisia which is closest to Sicily. The morning will be spent at Kerkouane, a UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking the sea. This extraordinary site was inhabited from the seventh to the third century BC and was abandoned after the First Punic War, making it the only purely Punic site in Africa. The highlight of this site are the houses which typically contain bath tubs waterproofed with a pinkish mortar. We will also see remains of Punic industry, as well as an enigmatic sanctuary. Afterwards, we will visit the site museum which has interesting remains from the nearby necropolis. We return to Tunis in the late afternoon.
Day 4 - Dougga
Today we visit Dougga, one of the best preserved and famous ancient sites in North Africa, enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Located in the Tunisian hinterland, in a wonderfully fertile plan, ancient Thugga was a Numidian site, located on a hill top, in a defensible position. Evidence of its Numidian origin can be seen in its extensive circuit wall, as well as the magnificent Mausoleum of Ateban, located on the bottom of the hill and which can be seen from afar. That said, the site we see today belongs to the prosperous period of the Roman empire, when Africa was the breadbasket of Rome. Walking down the winding streets, you will start out with a wonderfully preserved theatre, and meander down to the fantastic Capitolium, past walls hastily erected in the Byzantine period in order to protect the city against Arab invaders. Further down the hill, you will explore bath complexes, one complete with an intact latrine, houses and sanctuaries – all in the kind of peace no longer found on European sites. Dougga is truly one of the best Roman sites in the world and one you will never forget.
Day 5 - Zaghouan aqueduct & Thuburbo Majus
We start the day with a visit to the impressive Zaghouan aqueduct, a monument to Roman engineering which carried water from Gebel Zaghouan all the way to Carthage, at a total of 132 kilometres. In total, including later additions, the aqueduct carried a total of between 17 and 32 million litres of water a day to Carthage. This morning, we will view the aqueduct in Oudhna, in one of its best preserved sections. Afterwards, we move on to the little known site of Oudhna which offers a plethora of monuments, including a sizeable cistern, a theatre, amphitheatre and basilica, complete with a crypt. Our last visit will be to Thuburbo Majus, a delightful and little visited site which has even better photogenic remains. Originally Punic (though it has a characteristic Th sound associated with Numidian cities), the city was later re founded as a Roman veteran colony in the Augustan period. Here we will explore the forum, dominated by the Capitolium, before moving on to the Winter Baths and Summer Baths. In between the two, there is the well preserved Palaestra of Petronius, which belonged to the Summer Baths, and a memorable latrine. We walk up to view some temples with a Punic flavour: the Temple of Baalit and Temple of Caelestis, both Romanised names of Punic goddesses.
|Hotel||La Kasbah Hotel, Kairouan|
|Meals included||All meals included|
Day 6 - Kairouan
We start the day by exploring Tunisia’s most important religious city, namely Kairouan. Founded by the Umayyads in the seventh century AD, the city quickly became important as a centre of Islamic scholarship and as a pilgrimage site. We explore the city by foot, starting from our hotel, which used to be part of the city’s kasbah, or fortress. We walk to the Great Mosque of Kairouan, which was founded in AD 670, making it the oldest mosque in Africa, and one of the most important in the world. From the rather austere Aghlabid enclosure, we walk through the main gate, reserved from non-Muslim visitors, to the central courtyard in which there is a ninth century cistern. All around, you will see pillars and lintels which were reused from the Roman and Christian periods, linking this mosque to the antique period. We will gaze inside the prayer hall from the outside and note the ninth century mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca. We continue the day by considering the ninth century Aghlabid period, in which the city became one of the most prosperous in the Islamic world. We view one of the most splendid sites from the Aghlabid period, namely the Aghlabid pools, which pay testament to the wonderful water system constructed in the period.
After lunch, we visit the museum of Sousse, which is located in the city’s twelfth century kasbah and has the second largest collection of mosaics in the world, after the Bardo. The earliest artefacts in the museum date from the city’s Punic period, when it was called Hadrumetus. The most splendid, however, date from the prosperous Roman period, when the citizens of Hadrumetum, made rich from trade, could afford the best mosaics in the Roman empire. Here we will see mosaics which testify to this maritime background, the most famous of which is the large mosaic of Neptune on his charity. We will also admire Paleochristian remains, notably the baptismal font found in Bqalta.
|Hotel||La Kasbah Hotel, Kairouan|
|Meals included||All meals included|
Day 7 - El Djem
We have saved one of the most important archaeological sites in Tunisia for today, namely El Djem. Originally a Numidian city called Thysdrus, El Djem was particularly wealthy in the second century AD and into the late antique period when it was an olive oil production centre. On the back of this wealth, the city built several amphitheatres, the most important of which was built in the third century AD and is one of the largest in the empire. Alas, the city’s fortunes declined sharply after its citizens proclaimed Gordian I emperor in 238 AD and was sacked by soldiers loyal to the erstwhile emperor, Maximinus Thrax. The amphitheatre itself survived the siege but was later severely damaged in the seventh century AD when the Berber queen Kahina used it as a defence against Arab invaders. Today we explore one of the empire’s largest and best preserved amphitheatres – visible for miles. We will admire the arena area, climb up the seating area and finally descend into the service areas where animals and gladiators were kept and from where they were pulleyed up during performances.
Day 8 - Tunis - London
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to Tunis airport for our independent onward journeys.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Professional Tour Manager
- Local travel aboard a private air-conditioned coach
- Entries to all sites as per the itinerary
- All taxes & gratuities
- Field notes
- Meals as per the itinerary, wine and tea or coffee with dinner
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single supplement||Availability|
|19 December 2022||ATUX221219||19 December 2022 (Monday)||26 December 2022 (Monday)||Tony O’Connor||$3,210
|$500||$330||Book your trip|