Friday, August 15, 2008


Congratulations to Oussama Mellouli, the first Tunisian to win an Olympic swimming gold medal in the 1,500 meter freestyle.
Our cruise ship arrived in Tunis, Tunisia on Saturday, July 5th. From the port of La Goulette, which means "the mouth" in French, the 2nd language of Tunis, the tour bus took us thru the modern part of Tunis as shown in the above photo of high rise buildings and the round-about to accomodate the growing traffic demands. Here is my transportation report - Tunisians drive on the right, that was so much better for my nerve! Our tour included a visit to Carthage to see the archaeological site of El-Jem, the Bardo National Museum and Tunis Medina, a typical Arabic market.

I learned that El-Jem, this ancient colosseum (photo above), was built between 230 and 238 AD, as big as the Colosseo in Rome, rated as one of the most impressive Roman monuments in Africa. The colosseum was once a thriving market town of the ancient Thysdrus and the main trade routes during the 1st century AD. It also served as an arena with seatings that accomodated up to 30,000 people.

Similar to Malta, Tunisia was conquered by foreigners for over 2,000 years. The Phoenicians founded Carthage, then the Romans (photo above and photos below showed the ruins of structures that were built by the Romans), the Normads from Central Europe, Byzantines from Constantinople, Arabs, Turks and Normans from Scandinavia. Tunisia (Viet Nam shares similar history) became a French colony from 1881-1956 and the French influence still is evident in Tunisian life, particularly in cuisine.
This is the site of the 2nd century Roman temple. Photo below showed the temple sunk below the road and the broken white Italian marble columns are what were left.
Without knowing, you might think the photo below was taken at Roman Forum in Rome. In my limited knowledge of the world, I never heard or knew anything about Tunisia. Now I am very interested in reading more about the country and about its rich history, about the Second Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage between 264 and 146 BC. I did not even know about the First Punic War!

The above photo shows one of the underground passageways at El-Jem that were used to hold the animals, gladiators and slaves before they were forced to fight against each other as entertainment for the crowds, just like the colosseo in Rome.
A shop in the village of Sidi-Bou-Said with display of typical local products of hand-painted ceramic, souvenirs that are made of wood, copper and fine leather, brass and clay containers, handbags, paintings, mosaics, precious essences of oils and spice extracts. Some shops carried thick, hand woven carpets of soft wool and cashmere with price tags in the thousands. US dollars and Euros were widely accepted in Tunis.
The above photo showed a typical house with blue doors and white window frames, as in harmony with the sea and heaven. Photo below showed the market with mostly pleasant and a few less than honest merchants. A person in our group made a purchase that was 7 Euros. The merchant gave her back only 3 Euros and the tour guide had to intervene as the woman claimed that she presented a bill of 20 Euros while the merchant insisted that it was only 10 Euros. Lesson of the day - when making purchases in foreign market, it is best to pay with exact change or close to the amount.

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