All You Need to Know About The El Djem Colosseum

The immediate thought when most people come across the term “Colosseum” is Rome. Fortunately, there’s more to life than just this Italian city and if you make the trip to Tunisia, you’ll find one that’s in equally as good condition.

el djem

The El Jem Colosseum is world-renowned, and rightly so. It’s been preserved fantastically well and while its location might almost be questionable, it makes for an excellent day trip.

When we talk about the location-factor, we’re really just suggesting that it’s all a bit random. The area is certainly very pleasant, but it’s quite remote. Few houses exist, and are seemingly replaced by thousands of olive trees. The town itself is now quite focussed around tourism; from the individual sellers who are looking to trade souvenirs to the stores which are doing the very same thing. Large buses pass in and out, while there are two car parks for those that decide to make their own way there. Suffice to say, it does attract the crowds.

The site has just one entrance and for those of you who are looking to reach it as quickly as possible, try and access it via the front. Unfortunately, you will have to venture down a steep 25m slope which can be difficult for those of you who might be wheelchair-bound or have a baby in-tow. Once you do reach the entrance, it’s quite a simple process. If you happen to be a local, it’s completely free, while for everyone else it will cost about 8 dinars.

Of course, for those of you who are already familiar with Tunisian tourism, the costs don’t have to stop there. For example, some people decide to pay 3 dinars to get access to the electronic guide.

Once you have finished with the formalities, be prepared to be enlightened. El Jem is regularly compared with the Colosseum in Rome, and it’s no surprise why. Large parts of it are accessible, and it has been preserved in a manner which means that you can almost feel as though you are stepping back in time and imagining lions and chariots gallivanting by. Back when it was first built, it had a capacity of up to 35,000 spectators. Sure, it’s current state hardly demonstrates this, but you can still sense the size of the colosseums and appreciate the beauty of what was brought to Tunisia.

The vast size of El Jem means that there are plenty of areas to explore for all, regardless of your mobility. With that being said, it is possible to climb to some very high parts of the structure, and this is something that is obviously not going to be practical for those who might have a disability or small children. On the subject of the latter, the site hasn’t specifically been designed for little people, meaning that they really should be accompanied at all times to avoid the risk of falls.

As well as the upper levels of the structure, which often receive the most attention, we should give a special mention to the other areas which can be explored. For example, there is a VIP section, which is still accessible to tourists. Elsewhere, in the centre of the structure, you can venture to the playing surface and absorb everything around you. Sure there aren’t going to be tens of thousands of people dazing at you, but on a popular day you might have thousands of tourists mulling around the structure and this can at least give an insight of what life used to be like for those competing on the centre stage.

Some areas of the structure you just have to look a little more closely at. For example, if you look at the walls in the centre of the arena, you’ll quickly find that they are constructed of marble. It is the small details like this which simply highlight the prestige that surrounds El Jem, and shows just how highly it was regarded back when it was first constructed.

We should also add a small note about how the structure has been preserved. In short, it’s impeccable. Unfortunately, a lot of people do look back and suggest that it could have been even better, had it not been for an altercation between the Turks and Mohammed Bey. This altercation resulted in several walls being blown up, with the stone then being stolen to build surrounding buildings.


What is the history of the amphitheatre?

el jem

The fact that EL Jem was the largest ancient stadium, apart from the Colosseum in Rome of course, speaks volumes about its history.

It’s at this point when many people question just why such a large amphitheatre was chosen for Tunisia. Well, if we cast our minds back a couple of thousand years, this was a country that was a big player. Alongside Rome, it was regarded as one of the most dominant places in the world. Carthage in particular was very prominent, and if we turn to the El Jem region this was major because of its olive oil trade. It was based closer to the sea than it is now, and completely independent from Rome and Carthage. This gave it a lot of leverage, and resulted in the amphitheatre heading its way.

It’s understood that the amphitheatre was first talked about in AD230 by a man called Proconsul Gordian. He would incidentally commit suicide in the structure, following his failed rebellion against Emperor Maximus.

It was created to both entertain the public, and enter as a centre for politics. In relation to the former, this meant that it attracted people from afar as the capacity of the arena was significantly higher than the local population. As such, when sporting, civic or judicial functions were held, people travelled from a long way to see them.

One of the most interesting elements of the amphitheatre is the way in which was designed. Those behind it wanted it to reach capacity quickly, whilst also empty quickly. To do this, they created various passages that meant people could quickly find and access exit routes.


The Festival of El Jem

el djem festival

On a slightly more modern note, we have to give a mention to the Festival of El Jem. If you happen to be visiting the local area around the time that this is being held, then it is most definitely worth a visit.

In short, it’s all about classical music. Thousands of spectators flock to it every year and it really is a way to celebrate not just the music, but also how the amphitheatre can still be used very well to this day.


The fine print

All in all, El Jem is certainly worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. Fortunately, even though it might be located very remotely, it is easily accessed. Most hotels will offer tours that take you to it, while renting a car is easy and will only take an hour from the likes of Sousse or Mahdia.

A slight point should be made on the climate. Depending on the time of year that you visit, it can vary considerably. Due to its open nature, it can either be exceptionally hot or cold, so make sure you take this into account as you pack for the day trip.

5 trails you have to hike when you are in Tunisia

There’s no doubt that Tunisia has always been something of a tourist hotspot, but most of the visitors that are attracted to it do so because of the golden beaches and immense culture that it provides.

prepare to hike

Something that is sometimes overlooked is its stance in relation to hiking. Sure, the travel brochures might not always talk about this, but few would disagree that Tunisia has some of the best hiking routes around and you really can get more out of them than most people imagine.

Some people will take a chance and touch down in the Sahara, although most of the time groups will hit the countryside and taste the very best from the country in this regard. With so many sightseeing attractions there really is an immense amount of opportunities, as we take a look at the five best hikes followed by some typical advice that you should look to follow if you opt for this experience.


Hike #1 – Chenini

We’re going to start with something of a long hike and for anyone who likes to experience mountain life, this could be a favorite. Starting in Chenini, the idea is to hike over to Douiret. As the route can be somewhat difficult to navigate, a local guide is always advisable but never absolutely necessary.

The best part of this hike is that you will learn all about Berber culture. You will find out how the people in these villages live and in doing so, you will be walking almost 13 miles. While the official guides will say that you can complete this in over four hours – most people will walk at a slow pace to really get to grips and enjoy the local culture.


Hike #2 – Korbous (incorporating Ain Kanessira and Robinson’s Creek)

This next hike is somewhat deceiving. In terms of mileage, you’ll only be trekking 3.5 miles – which naturally makes a lot of people feel that it will be relatively easy to combat.

However, don’t let the length fool you. While short, the rocky terrain can make it very difficult to complete and some inexperienced hikers might have difficulty. It’s for this reason that the average time that people complete it tends to be around seven hours.

Nevertheless, don’t let the potential complexity sway you away. The route, starting from Korbous and incorporating Ain Kanessira and Robinson’s Creek, offers everything from unique rock formations to hot baths. Suffice to say, it has plenty of exquisite views as well.


Hike #3 – Djebel Boukornine

Next on the list is a hike that certainly has a degree of uniqueness about it – mainly because of the potential to bump into the military.

That’s right, if you venture too far up this mountain, you will stumble into a military base and it should go without saying that you shouldn’t be there.

However, military aside, there’s plenty to see on this four-mile hike. You’ll be climbing over 2,350m, meaning that it’s not for the faint-hearted, while you will pass through the now abandoned Boukornine National Park which offers some purely breathtaking views.


Hike #4 – Mides to Tamerza

This is another suggestion which involves you hiking from one village to another. Again, the beauty of this is that you really can dive into local culture, but in the case of these two villages they are surrounded by canyons and gorges which just make the whole experience even more fascinating.

You can expect to walk around 2.8 miles for this route – which makes it absolutely perfect for those of you who don’t want to spend the whole day out on your feet.


Hike #5 – Zaghouan (via Sidi Bougrabine)

We’ll conclude with another long hike – with this Zaghouan route being approximately 12.5 miles in length. There’s no doubt that this is the most difficult on our list either, for the simple reason that as well as being relatively long you’ll be climbing almost 4,000m.

If you can locate the southwest and west face of the mountain you really will be in luck, and be able to see some of the most breathtaking views around. The other side of the mountain is much more difficult to navigate (some would suggest almost impossible) but even if you do lose your way a little you still have the beautiful village of Zaghouan to return to.


What physical preparation should you engage in prior to hiking?

If you’ve been convinced from the above, it’s time to get your body prepared. There’s no doubt that if you’re taking a casual approach to this, you really don’t need much preparation. In other words, anything that’s just a couple of miles isn’t going to strain your body – although the heat might start to get to you.

In fact, it’s in the above cases where the only things you really need to think of is equipment. This generally comes in the form of clothing and water – ensuring that your body is offered sufficient protection from the sun in peak months, and also making sure that it receives enough hydration.

It’s only when you start to get on the more advanced routes that you need to take a more detailed look at preparation. In fact, on the most part, this will revolve you taking the necessary steps long before you travel.

We’re specifically referring to fitness and exactly what your body is going to be able to cope with as you embark on your hike. As we’ve already seen, some of the treks are long to say the least, and just turning up and expecting to complete them just isn’t going to be sufficient. Instead, try and look to train in the following areas:


Weight training

For an experience that most would associate with cardio training, there might be some raised eyebrows at this first suggestion. However, if you can train your upper and lower body, it will be invaluable on those occasions where your body is starting to tire from the backpack.

The aim here isn’t to “bulk up”, but rather improve your strength and conditioning. This means that you should be looking to focus on 12-15 reps – concentrating specifically on the arms, shoulders, legs, back and chest.

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Cardiovascular training

Now for the type of training that most people will expect. You’re potentially walking for an entire day, so it stands to reason that your cardiovascular system needs to be in optimum shape. You should be looking to train three to five days a week – with your sessions being up to sixty minutes in length.

You’re not looking for ultra-high intensity here, just something to get your heart pumping. In terms of specific examples, something like cycling or stair-climbing are perfect ones.


We should also conclude this preparation section with a mention of your nutrition. As anyone who has embarked on any form of training will testify, a lot of success is related to what goes into your mouth. Suffice to say, eradicating as many fatty foods as possible should be one of your aims, and replacing them with lean proteins, fruits and vegetables should follow. If you can drop a belt size, it will make your hike much easier to manage.


Summarizing the best hikes in Tunisia

As you can see, the variety of hikes that are available in Tunisia is pretty wide. While some visitors will simply enjoy a couple of hours around local villages, any hiking enthusiasts out there really can sample some of the best walks around courtesy of the immense culture and beauty that this country provides. Of course, if you are considering one of the longer routes, also think about your physical condition which really will be put under the microscope in some of these options.

How to get the most out of a physically challenging Sahara desert trek

It sounds like something from the movies – but trekking through the Sahara on a camel is very much possible, and naturally in-fashion.

sahara trek preparation

Tunisia is one of those countries that really takes advantage of this experience and provides it to umpteen tourists every single year. Additionally, and as we’ll soon find out, it’s not all about riding the animal – there are plenty of sights and attractions to see as well.

With some of these tours being days, or even weeks in length, it means that some people really have to prepare well before even considering the experience. It’s for this reason that we have put together this guide, as we take a look at everything which camel trekking in Tunisia can involve, as well as some key preparation advice that you will need to take into account.


What does a Sahara desert camel trek involve?

Let’s start things off with a basic overview of what you can expect when you turn to one of these experiences.

In some ways, it’s a difficult question to answer – but this is only due to the sheer amount of choice that is now available in Tunisia in relation to these rides. In other words, tour operators tend to be happy to provide a one-hour tour – or one that lasts for a couple of weeks.

Naturally, if you opt for the latter, some form of accommodation will be necessary. In a lot of people’s eyes, this is something which actually makes the entire journey. Sure, riding on a camel is a unique experience in itself, but at the end of the day sleeping under the stars is something else. Additionally, a lot of these camping facilities will be strategically set, with many based in Berber villages. It means that as well as the stars, you will be surrounded by some fabulous local culture. You will also tend to sleep in a Bedouin tent during this – so the quality of accommodation certainly won’t be a problem either.

As you will have already seen, the length of your experience is going to have an impact on some of the attractions that you set eyes on. If you do happen to choose a camel trek that lasts more than a day, here are some of the most popular types of tours that providers around Tunisia tend to offer. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it should at least paint an accurate picture of what you can expect.


Silk Trade Route

If you’re looking for a bout of history along your camel trek, it doesn’t come much better than the Silk Trade Route. Again, different providers will suggest a variety of routes, but the basic premise of this is to experience the route which was so key for trade many years ago.

Once upon a time tens of thousands of camel caravans went along this route. Now, you have the opportunity to repeat this journey.


Djerbil National Park

In truth, most tour operators will incorporate this in a trek of several days. When you do arrive at Djerbil National Park, you will start to mix with the locals before heading through the hills and towards Timbain (a sacred mountain).


Oasis treks

We’re not going to name a specific oasis here, for obvious reasons. Pretty much every tour across the Sahara on a camel will involve seeing at least one (although usually many) oasis’. For most tourists, they are one of the most interesting sights around and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to use one of them.


How should you prepare for one of these treks?

If you have opted for a short-term tour, it goes without saying that the preparation is going to be minimal.

The nature of the Sahara means that few of these camel treks fall into this category though, and this is where you really will have to prepare yourself in multiple ways before you travel.



The biggest precautions that you will need to take relate to the weather. In the summer, prepare for the hottest temperatures of your life. In the middle of winter, particularly at night, things take a drop for the ridiculous and it’s not been unheard of for water to turn into ice.

All of the above means that it’s absolutely crucial to select the correct clothing. Dressing in layers is paramount as while the seasons will provide some guidance of the minimum and maximum temperatures, what you will find is that these still vary enormously over the course of the day. By opting for a layered approach, you can manage your own temperature very easily.

There is one item of clothing that we are really going to hone in on though – the scarf. For the hot days, it’s something which can offer unrivalled protection to your head as the sun beats down. However, it’s the windy days where this becomes even more important, with a scarf protecting your face from all of the sand that is bound to fly into it at one point.


Health and Fitness

Perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of advice revolves around your health. Sure, it might seem as though the camel is doing all of the work, but particularly when you participate in a trip which stretches over a few days you may thank yourself for some preparation beforehand.

We’re specifically referring to your hips, legs and core – all of which should be in “decent” condition before you venture away on the back of the camel. The basis is to have impeccable balance, and strength in these areas will provide more of this and just give you a much easier ride. Traditional exercises will suffice here as well; things like sit-ups are perfect and will make a huge difference when it comes to the crunch. Click here to visit Men’s Answer website to get more information around the subject.

As well as the above, hopefully it should go without saying that having water readily available is a given. It’s worth noting that often you won’t stop overly frequently whilst riding your camel, so always make sure you can gain quick access to refreshment.


A final word on Sahara desert camel trekking

To say that Sahara desert camel trekking varies would be an understatement. As we have explored, all tours can be different, but in the vast majority of cases it’s not just about the actual riding experience. In other words, you will see and experience far more – and this is what a lot of people don’t understand before they research camel trekking in Tunisia more.

Of course, as you are likely to be “aboard” your camel for long periods, there is significant preparation advice that you will have to adhere to. Again, this often comes as a surprise, but in a bid to guard against the conditions and injuries its absolutely essential so you get the most from your camel trekking experience.