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Published: April 6th 2010
Bulla Regia is a huge site of Roman ruins in Northern Tunisia. When the Romans were here, the summer heat got too much for them so they built their villas underground. Did this happen anywhere else in the Roman world? Who knows but it's certainly the first time we've seen anything like it.
It takes a good few hours to explore the site and, with the help of our guide books, we felt we did it justice. The local guides were not pushy at all and we didn't feel guilty in giving them the brush off.
In some of the villas it is still possible to go downstairs and wander around the subterranean courtyards. Not all of them though. Most are named after things that were found in them or the mosaics which adorn the floors. Therefore you have the House of Treasure where coins were discovered and there's the House of the Hunt where wonderful hunting mosaics can be seen. It's quite obvious what you can see in the House of Fishing but not so in the House of Amphitrite. A quick check on Wikipedia
should give a clue. The mosaics are underground and completely protected from the
sun. They didn't seem to have anything to do with Poseidon's wife as all we saw were images of Venus and various cupids riding dolphins. They were great mosaics though.
The sun shone brightly all the time we were there and temperatures actually got well into the thirties. Not bad at all for March. Our drive then took us an hour to the East and the city of Beja. We stayed there simply to break up the journey to ruins at Dougga and were far from disappointed. It was a much bigger place than expected and we treated ourselves to a room at the comfortable Hotel Phenix. Russ bartered the price down to an acceptable level (60 Dinars - £26) but it was still twice the price of other options in town. The problem was the lack of hot water in the other places!!
So what to see in a non-touristy city in the middle of nowhere? The Commonwealth War Graves are beautifully kept but they are overlooked by some rather dodgy looking high-rise apartment blocks. The old colonial cemetery next door is in dire need of some attention though. The old church was nice: it now contains
an indoor craft market whilst the outdoor street market was colourful and lively. The looks we attracted as we shopped for fresh fruit and wandered around the medina to find the mosque suggested not many foreigners make it to Beja! The whole city had a uniquely vibrant feel to it and we are so pleased we took the time to stay the night.
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