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Published: December 11th 2009
An hour away from Sousse on the train is the small town of El Jem. Trains are not very frequent though: we avoided the 8am departure in favour of the more palatable time of 1141! We were surprised to find so many tourists joining us on our day out. After all, we’re not tourists, we live here now!!!
On arrival everyone seemed to head straight towards the impressive colosseum. It was impossible to miss and looms above the centre of the town. We had a quick wander around the market area first though, and then a spot of lunch. Briq
, pronounced brick, is something which Russ had heard about from his students. Essentially it is a thin sheet of pastry which is folded over to make a sandwich containing meat or fish and an egg cooked somewhere between soft and hard. The sandwich is then lightly fried giving a tasty snack to go with a somewhat healthier Tunisian salad.
Outside the colosseum camels await tourists but nobody seemed to be willing to ride them. The gift shops, some tacky, some tasteful, were devoid of customers too. Like everyone else we then headed into the ruins of ancient Rome’s third
biggest colosseum. Wow, now that was impressive. At least one side of it was impressive anyway. The other side has been rather over-restored but without this, there would be nowhere for people to sit and admire the views, nor would there be the El Jem music festival in the summer. We must have spent a good hour wandering around the ruins exploring narrow passageways and the dark underground system where gladiators would have awaited their fate.
An hour or so is normally about our limit for ruins so we went for a wander around the back of the colosseum site popping our heads into one or two of the souvenir shops. Typically, the only one where we found something we wanted to buy, had lost its shop-keeper! So, no sale, and we wandered through the streets of El Jem to find the town’s museum.
Now, museums are normally a small collection of pots and rocks
with little or no explanation in a language we can understand. This, however, was different. A fabulous collection of mosaics adorn the walls and floors of several rooms, all with information in clear and concise English. Some of the pictures were moving, some
were downright gory, but together they kept our attention for quite some time. Alongside the main building of the museum is a reconstructed Roman villa. It is far better to see something like this than to use your imagination all the time!
No matter how good a museum is, there comes a point where enough is enough! The train station is never too far away but we expected to have a long wait for a return train to Sousse, or to get a bus or louage
should one be waiting. This is Tunisia though, and development is on the horizon. A new modern train runs a couple of times a day from Tunis in the North to somewhere in the South. No times were available in Sousse but as luck had it, we were just in time. It didn’t take us quite into Sousse, instead dropping us at Kaala Sghira (yes, that’s the correct spelling) some 5km from Sousse. The only way into town was by taxi so it turned out to be a bit more expensive than we had planned on!! Still, a great day’s excursion from Sousse.
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