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Amphitheater of El Djem





Fast Facts

  • Location:Approximately 45 miles north of Sfax
  • Attraction type: Ancient Roman amphitheater
  • Significance: Third biggest amphitheater of ancient Roman Empire; also a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Best Time to Visit: All through the year
  • Visiting hours: Daytime
  • How to Reach: By road P1 from Sfax; OR by train from Sfax
  • Nearest Airport: Sfax Airport
Amphitheater of El Djem symbolizes Roman power and prosperity of ancient times. The impressive remains of this well preserved structure provide an in-depth knowledge about the grandeur and regality of the Roman civilization. This amphitheater is comparable to the Colosseum in Rome and Capua Theater.

Located at an approximate distance of 210 km south of Tunis, El Djem Amphitheater has not only its seating areas well-preserved but also its working areas. The origin of El Djem goes back to 1st century BC when the Romans founded the city of Thysdrus on Punic settlements. Based on local olive plantations, Thysdrus prospered fast and emerged as an important Roman town in North Africa. With increased flow of wealth, authorities in Thysdrus initiated a program of constructing public buildings, the El Djem amphitheater being one of them.

Built of red sandstone, this amphitheater measures about 150 meters in length, 125 meters in breadth, and 25 meters in height. The entire structure is of three stories with each storey composed of columns and a series of arches. At each level, a covered walkway was constructed along its circumference allowing spectators access to their seats. With a seating capacity of 30,000 it was the third highest in the entire Roman Empire.

In the basement discovered in 1904, two distinct vaulted galleries is observed. One gallery comprised of rooms meant for gladiators, the other of cells meant for wild beasts. The floor of the arena still has the openings which allowed the animals to be lifted and lowered from the cells. At the center of the arena you would find a removable strip, which was actually the roof of the basement cells and used to be removed in order to allow air and sunlight to enter when the arena was not in use.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, El Djem Amphitheater in Tunis served as a fortress against Arab invaders till 7th century AD. In 17th century El Djem village developed around this amphitheater. After about two centuries, restoration work on this remarkable structure began in 1974 and continued till 1980. As on date it is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.

El Djem tour

For visiting El Djem you should stay in Sfax for all practical purposes. You might choose among Hotel Mercure Sfax, Sangho Le Syphax, Les Oliviers, and Naher El Founoun for putting up. The culinary delicacies served in Sfax restaurants are wholesome and yummy. At La Sirene you would be served delicious seafood preparations, while La Perla specializes in local recipes. Cafíé Diwan, the coffee house is renowned for mint tea, rosewater coffee, and delectable snacks.

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