Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia.

Dazzling blue and white haven

The extremely photogenic and popular artist’s village of Sidi Bou Said is located 20 Kilometres north of Tunis, capital of Tunisia.

Positioned on a steep cliff top overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Sidi Bou Said was originally known as the village of Jabal el-Menaris.

The town was renamed Sidi Bou Said to honour of Abu Said Ibn Khalaf Yahya al-Tamimi al-Beji a 13th century Sufi Saint who settled here on his return journey from his pilgrimage to Mecca.

The 19th century French baron Rudolph d’Erlanger was responsible for the distinctive blue and white scheme in the village which is reminiscent of a Cycladic Greek island with its whitewashed cubical homes with blue shutters and colourful doors and cobbled and narrow alleyways overflowing with bougainvillea.

Sidi Bou Said. Tunisia.
Sidi Bou Said. Tunisia. View of a blue door with studded ornamentation in the clifftop village of Sidi Bou Said.

Click to view the complete Sidi Bou Said image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Bulla Regia, Tunisia.

Subterranean Roman City.

Bulla Regia is a notable archaeological site in a highly fertile region of northwestern Tunisia. It is officially recognized as Colonia Aelia Hadriana Augusta Bulla Regia.

The ancient city was under the influence of the North African powerhouse Carthage around the 3rd century BC. With the collapse of Carthage, the Romans eventually obtained absolute authority of the city in the 1st century BC.

Prosperity for the city was the greatest between the 1st and 3rd centuries as it became a major producer and supplier of wheat, grains, grapes and olives to the Roman Empire. 

Bulla Regia and other Roman towns in the region have been referred to as the breadbasket or granary of Rome.

Roman ruins. Bulla Regia. Tunisia.
Bulla Regia. Tunisia. View of remains of buildings, including the House of the Fishing at northern end of the archaeological site.

Abandoned after a catastrophic earthquake, the city was buried by drifting sands and lost to the world for many centuries.

A French company constructing a railway through the region accidentally rediscovered the city it in the late 1800s. Unfortunately, some of the well-preserved buildings, including the monumental gateway to the city, were recklessly destroyed.

Thankfully, the site is home to various fine remnants of its history, including a well preserved Roman theatre. However, the site is famed for its unique and distinctive underground villas that distinguish it from all other Roman towns.

The subterranean villas are adorned with magnificent exquisite mosaics in situ built by the town’s wealthy Romans residents in the second and third centuries AD. The Villas provided an escape from the baking Tunisian summer heat and provided warmth in the Winter.

Click to view the complete Bulla Regia image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

El Jem, Tunisia.

In Southern Tunisia, the sleepy agricultural modern town of El Jem was known as Thysdrus during the Roman period around the reign of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-38).

Strategically situated on a major crossroad on the Afro-Roman trade route (on an originally Phoenician, Punic site), ancient Thysdrus (El Jem) was a thriving town, because of its endless olive groves and olive oil production. At its peak during the Roman period, the ancient city had a substantial population of 40,000 inhabitants.

Today, El Jem’s claim to fame is its magnificent honey-coloured stone Roman amphitheatre or Colosseum, which is the third largest in the Roman world (after Rome and Capua). Without question, it is one of the most impressive Roman monuments in Africa.

Dating from 230 to 238 AD and oval-shaped, its size, and splendour and preservation rivals and in some cases exceeds the Colosseum of Rome and illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome. 

The ancient stadium seated over 35000 people and was used for gladiatorial games. It was intact until a few hundred years ago when residents started using the stone blocks for other local constructions. The Colosseum of El Jem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The El Jem Archaeological Museum houses a superb and sumptuous collection of ancient mosaics discovered during excavations carried out at ancient Thysdrus. They mainly originate from the town’s former Roman villas and from the Roman Amphitheatre. In a peaceful setting, the well-presented museum itself is a restored Roman Villa known as the House of Africa. The mosaic collection is one of the finest of Roman antiquity.

Click to view the complete El Jem Amphitheatre image gallery.

Click to view the complete El Jem Museum image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Dougga Tunisia.

The wonderfully intact ancient Roman settlement of Dougga is located 110 km south-west of Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia.

On a hilltop (571 metres elevation) overlooking a fertile valley with olive groves and fields of grain, Dougga provides an intimate insight into life in antiquity and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Originally named Thugga by the Numidians founders, Roman Emperor Caesar annexed the city and it became part of the Roman Empire. From the 2nd to the 4th century AD, under Roman rule, the city experienced its greatest period of growth and splendour when its landowners grew wealthy from the region’s agricultural production.

The region became known as the breadbasket of Rome.

The city continued to prosper under Byzantine rule, however declined in the Islamic period. Dougga has been described as the best-preserved small Roman town in North Africa and one of the contributing factors to its preservation is that families continued to live among the archaeological site ruins until 1961. Most of the inhabitants were moved to a new village, Dougga-al-Jadida.

The archaeological site of the ancient town covers around 75 Hectares, and within its borders are fine preserved examples and remnants of life in antiquity. Highlights include the impressive town centre (capitol, forum, market, square), there is a very impressive and well-preserved theatre, public baths, and even a brothel.

The complete Dougga image gallery can be viewed via this link – Dougga Tunisia.

All images, text and content on this website are copyright Steven Sklifas