Carthage - still not destroyed

Carthage Travel Blog

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I am back in Tunis for a couple of days and I figure I would like to go back to Carthage once more. The old area around Carthage is huge and I didn’t really get to see it all on my last quick visit to town.  I go down to the local train station in Tunis to catch the train to one of the 6 stations in Carthage.


When I get down to the train station it seems more chaotic than the previous times I have been down there - a few people are going out of the station with their tickets trying to get them refunded at the ticket booth.

It takes forever and I wait for them to get their refund so I can get my ticket for the train. But I can’t buy a ticket - the reason people wanted a refund seems to be the trains has been cancelled. Great - how will I get to Carthage now?


I am told to go out of the train station - or at least I assume I am told to go out of the train station but my Arabic isn’t quite good enough for me to be certain about what I am being told. There are some busses coming outside the train station and they drive in the direction of Carthage - so I get on. I don’t know where to buy a ticket - considering the people at the train station didn’t sell tickets anymore - and you can’t buy tickets on the bus - so I just go onboard. I think it is ok because I don’t see any locals buying tickets either.


We drive down the road along the salt lake just outside Tunis and we make it to La Guilette Vieille - I can recognize the place so I know where I am.

Great now I just need to figure out where to get out in Carthage - I miss the train it is so much easier on the train you can just count the number of stations or look at the name of the different stations. We drive along and I am not quite sure where we are - but I think I can recognize some of the places - we are now in Carthage but not in the part of Carthage I want to be in - so I take a change and go along for another couple of stops - then I leave the bus - not quite sure where I am at.


As I get out the bus I figure I need to walk a bit down the road to find a couple of road signs to establish where I am actually at. I can’t seem to find any road signs but I do find a sign pointing down towards an old attraction down towards the beach - I figure why not it might be interesting down there. It is the remains of an old basilica which is not really made into much of an attraction - but it does attract some younger people who appear to be students from the nearby colleges. They have gone down there to enjoy an early lunch at the old remains of the basilica.


I leave the basilica - it is not big enough to keep my attention for more than a few minutes - and I still got to figure out where I am.

Beside I am in Carthage Tunisia - at least I am pretty certain of this. I walk on for a little while and finally find a road sign pointing towards the American military cemetery of Tunis. Finally I know where I am - more or less.


I go down the street towards the cemetery - it is a big cemetery with 2840 marked graves and the names of 3724 others who were never found.  The dead have been brought here from the battle fields of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia during the American invasion of western North Africa during World War II. The graveyard is marked by bright white Latin Crosses for most people and Stars of David’s for the Jewish dead. The graveyard is in a quite area a bit away from the houses around the area - there is an American guard present during the opening hours if you want any information about the place.


Leaving the cemetery I walk down Rue Roosevelt towards La Marsa Cisterns. The huge cisterns used to house the water supply for Carthage. The water was brought in from a distant spring by an aqueduct before it was collected in the cisterns which were a kilometer long. You can still see the roof of the cisterns which look like giant tubes. It is great to walk around this area with the cistern because it is so quite - there is nobody else around. It’s always amazing to have one of the world class tourist attractions all to yourself.


I leave the cisterns to go to another of the sights in the area - the old amphitheatre. This place is slightly more tourist than the cisterns - the touristy part consists of a German couple walking around the area and a man actually selling tickets to visit the different sites in Carthage - I get my multi entry ticket good for all the sights of Carthage and a photo ticket as well.

Then I go in - it is not like I am going in through a gate or something like that - there is no gate to the amphitheatre or a fence for that matter. The German couple leaves the area so once again I got the pleasure walking around an ancient sight without other tourist - it is not the greatest Roman ruins in the world but the feeling of having it for myself compensate for this. I am not alone though because a few local kids are hanging around the area.


I leave the amphitheatre to go to an old basilica but on the way I pass a place with some old pillars standing next to the road. This is one of those things that will happen in Carthage - suddenly you see something interesting and you just need to have a closer look at it. I stop and walk up to this place which is actually fenced off from the road and a man is sitting there looking after the place. He wants to sell a ticket when I enter but when I am reaching for my pocket to take out the multi entry ticket I got at the amphitheatre he quickly indicates he don’t want to see it and let me walk around for a while. I look at the columns of the old small temple before I continue towards the old basilica.


En route to the basilica I pass a big new mosque next to the road it is the only modern building in Carthage area which really stands out and can be seen far away.


I get down to the old basilica and once more there are no fence around the area - there are a man present who walks away - he looks like a homeless man who sleep in a little hideout in the old ruins. But he pretense to be a guide and wants to see my entry ticket and when he realize I actually got a ticket he starts to take me around the ruins and show me a few of the hidden places which are hard to see when you just walk in because large part of the basilica is covered by centuries of sediments. He clearly works for tips and not his salary as an “official” guide of the area.


From the old basilica I move on to an even older theatre which was one of the big centers of every Roman cities.

Unlike some of the other sites in Carthage this theatre has been thoroughly restored and is still in use for big events in the Tunis area. The theater doesn’t look really old and is a bit of a disappointment - hence I quickly move on to the old Roman villas next door. The villas take up a huge area and each of the villas used to have nice mosaics floors and great inner courtyards with columns around them. A few of the houses has been restored enough to give an impression of how they used to look in their glory days when the rich locals where residing in these villas.


It is getting a bit later in the day so I am about to finish up my revisit to Carthage but there are still a couple of places I have not been to so I figure I am not coming back any time soon so I better try to go and take it all in today. I go by a little area which used to be a place where local workshops where housed - there are not really much to see except a bit of a view over the sea so I quickly walk back to the main road where I pass yet another ancient Christian place which used to house an old Byzantine church but only the foundation remain today so I make it a brief visit before heading down to the ancient Roman-Punic harbor where there are a small museum which have a few models of how the ships used to be housed in the war harbor.


The last stop I make for the day is the only place which is actually an old Phoenician sanctuary - so total where the Roman destruction of the old city of Carthage that virtually noting of any significance were left in the area. But down at the sanctuary are a lot of smashed up remains from the Phoenician era. According to Roman sources this was a place where the people of Carthage would go to sacrifice babies to the local deities. But other sources claim that they only took children which had already died down to be burn and hidden in urns at the sanctuary.  Whatever is the truth one thing is certain - the remains of hundreds or thousands of children were found around the sanctuary.


It is getting a bit late now and I want to go back to Tunis - I go to the closest train station hoping the trains has resumed operation.

Fortunately it seems to be the case and I can get on a train - which is extremely crowded but I manage to get inside and we make it slowly back to Tunis.

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photo by: Biedjee