El Djem is a town in Tunisia. It is home to some of the most impressive Roman remains in Africa, like the world-famous “Roman amphitheatre of Thysdrus”.
I visited the amphitheatre in 2009, and have never forgot my visit, nor the hospitality of the remarkable Tunisian people.
The impressive ruins of the largest Colosseum in North Africa could hold up to 35,000 spectators. The 3rd-century monument illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome.
Thysdrus was a Roman-Berber colonia near present-day El Djem. It served as the centre of olive oil production in the province of Africa proconsularis, situated in the north-central area. The local Amphitheatre of El Jem has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.
- Tunisia is one of the world’s biggest producers of olive oil — a little-known fact to most people who aren’t olive oil cognoscenti. Across all its landscape, olives are found. There are about 82 million trees – more than the population of the United Kingdom!
The amphitheatre was built around 238 AD in Thysdrus, located in the Roman province of Africa Proconsulare in present-day El Djem, Tunisia. It is one of the best preserved Roman stone ruins in the world, and is unique in Africa.
As other amphitheatres in the Roman Empire, it was built for spectator events, and it is one of the biggest amphitheatres in the world.
The estimated capacity is 35,000, and the sizes of the big and the small axes are respectively 148 metres (486 ft) and 122 metres (400 ft).
The amphitheatre is built of stone blocks, located on a flat ground, and is exceptionally well conserved. The amphitheatre of El Jem is the third amphitheatre built on the same place.
The belief is that it was constructed by the local proconsul Gordian, who became the emperor as Gordian III. In the Middle Ages, it served as a fortress, and the population sought here shelter during the attacks of Vandals in 430 and Arabs in 647.
If you ever get the chance to visit Tunisia, I would highly recommend a visit to El Djem. Forget the expensive Rome Coliseum with a hundreds of crazy tourists and plenty of restricted areas. At El Jem, there are no restrictions, and a handful of people experiencing fantastic history.
As a side note to all of the above, I’d like to touch on the tragic events of 2015, when 38 people were killed by a gunman in a terrorist attack, at the tourist resort at Port El Kantaoui. The attack received widespread condemnation around the world, and rightly so.
Following the attack, Tunisia has been affected badly with the tourist industry suffering almost complete collapse.
- There are bad apples in every walk of life, and a cowardly terrorist attack will not cower me.
- It could happen anywhere in the world, and a mass shooting did indeed happen on my doorstep in 2010.
- I’ve visited Tunisia more than once, and wouldn’t hesitate to visit again. I’d even return to the very same beachfront hotel in Port El Kantaoui, where the attack took place.
The people of Tunisia are inherently good.