Newest Review: ... cannot fail to notice this monumentally massive structure. Most of it is still in good condition although on one side of the amphitheate... more
Definitely give the thumbs up for this magnificent structure.
El Djem (Tunisia)
Member Name: garymarsh6
El Djem (Tunisia)
Advantages: Superb structure which gives you a feel for what it must have been like in ancient times.
Disadvantages: Not really accessible for those with mobility problems.
Talk to most people about a Colosseum and one will automatically think of the Colosseum in Rome however ask people about El Jem and most people will never have heard of it let alone imagine there is an almost perfect example on the African continent.
El Jem can be found in Tunisia more towards the Eastern side of Tunisia. Many tourists who visit the coastal resorts can make a day trip to this magnificent site. Built in the second century AD it was built by the Romans and can seat 35,000 people although some say that up to 60,000 could sit and watch chariot racing and wrestling with wild animals such as lions and gladiator fights.
It is situated approximately 30 odd miles from the seaside resort of Sousse so it is an easy day trip from there.
The town of El Jem was known as Thysdrus in Roman times and was an important village manufacturing Olive oil. The Colosseum was built on flat ground as opposed to the side of a hill and is elliptical in shape. The massive structure consists of three tiers of the stone structure although there is some suggestions that it may have in fact been four tiers high in its heyday. When approaching El Jem you cannot fail to notice this monumentally massive structure. Most of it is still in good condition although on one side of the amphitheater part of it is missing following an attack by the Turks in the 17th Century. Also some of the large stones that were used to build the amphitheater were used to build some local houses but essentially most of what we see today is the original building from the 2nd century.
My visit to El Jem.
I was looking forward to visiting El Jem and as the tour coach approached the town I was not disappointed by the looming structure that is situated in the town centre. It is quite an impressive structure and a sight that will stay with me for a long time. We got down from the coach and walked about half a mile to the entrance of the building. We headed straight to the arena and gawped at the sheer size of the building feeling quite miniscule in the centre of the arena. Along the centre of the arena is an underground passage where the animals, gladiators and prisoners were kept until it was time for them to fight. They were lifted up from below on something similar to a dumb waiter where they were brought up to the arena and set free to fight often to the death.
We made our way down the stairs to the dungeon type basement and walked the whole length of the below ground storage area. It was quite long with cut out areas where the animals prisoners and gladiators would be waiting their turn. After walking along the central corridor we came back up the stairs at the other end of the arena. The pit was covered by a metal grill which enabled people to walk all around the arena. In old photos this was open to the air but I guess for safety this allows people to walk all over the arena and for the people walking along the corridor to experience what it must have felt like being below ground and seeing the light above although not quite seeing what awaited them.
Our guide pointed out the seating area where the emperor would have sat and gave the thumbs up or thumbs down indicating whether the person or animal would live or die. We were then left to explore the structure ourselves. We mounted the stairs to the first tier and walked the perimeter of the Colosseum giving us a bird's eye view of the arena and seating areas on the opposite side. It really was quite impressive and fortunately for us not very busy with other tourists due to the fact that we were there quiet early. We mounted the stairways to the second and third tiers and the views were quite impressive looking down on the arena. It must have been quite intimidating for both the animals, gladiators and prisoners with so many people surrounding the arena watching and cheering and encouraging them to fight.
We spent approximately two hours inside the amphitheater and enjoyed our visit very much indeed. I would definitely recommend a visit here if you were ever to visit Tunisia as it is a worthwhile site to visit and looks almost a perfect building.
There were two smaller amphitheaters built around the town one about half a mile away and another larger one built into the side of the hills but this has to be the icing of the cake and well worth a visit.
It was made a world heritage site in 1979 and the Film the gladiator was filmed here.
I understand it is about 10 dinar to enter the Colosseum although entrance fees were included in our tour but we did have to pay 1 dinar to take photos which worked out at about 50P well worth it in my opinion. I must say that we were pestered outside by hawkers trying to sell post cards, hats and other tat however a firm ' La Shukran' (No Thank you in Arabic) would have them scurrying off to pester other people.
Summary: An excellent amphitheater and well worth a visit. Certainly worth 5 Dooyoo Stars.
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