My dear travellers and lovers of unusual trips, welcome to the new series of travelogues on the Mr.M blog. The month of August will be dedicated to an unusual country on the African continent – Tunisia, a country known for its olives. At the very beginning of this sixth post in the series of travelogues, I would like to thank the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Tunisia – Discover Tunisia for the kind invitation and hospitality. With their help, travelogues and fashion stories were created that you could read during the month of July, but you will have the opportunity to read them during August as well, and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy the summer season of posts on the Mr.M blog.
If by any chance you missed reading the previous travelogues from Tunisia or you want to remind yourself of some interesting things, take the opportunity to visit the following links:
- Letter from Tunisia: The Magnificent Amphitheater in El Jem…
- Aurélien: Refined Fashion in Sousse on the Mediterranean Coast… (fashion story)
- Letters from Tunisia: Sousse and Port El Kantaoui, meet the beauties of the African Mediterranean…
- Letters from Tunisia: Tunis and Sidi Bou Said, places you must visit…
- Letters from Tunisia: Kairouan, the holiest Muslim City on the African Continent…
- AURÉLIEN: Sahara Desert Elegance in the Heart of Tunisia… (fashion story)
- Letters from Tunisia: The Sahara, Oasis of Chebika and Nefta, the lost desert Jewels of North Africa
The Republic of Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa. It is part of the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordering Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. It houses the archaeological sites of Carthage dating back to the 9th century BC, as well as the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
Tunisia is known for its ancient architecture, markets and blue shores, it covers approximately 164,000 km2 and has a population of around 12 million. It contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern part of the Sahara Desert, and much of the remaining territory of Tunisia is arable land. With almost 1,300 km of coastline, it includes the African junction of the western and eastern parts of the Mediterranean basin. Tunisia is home to the northernmost point of Africa – Cape Angel, and its capital and largest city is Tunis, located on its northeastern coast, after which the country gets its name.
The sixth blog post in the series of travelogues about Tunisia will be dedicated to Carthage, the center of ancient power. Carthage is a city in Tunisia located northeast of the capital city of Tunis. The ancient Punic city was destroyed and then rebuilt by the Romans who made it the capital of the province of Proconsular Africa, today it is one of the most exclusive municipalities of Greater Tunisia, the official residence of the President of the Republic, which consists of many residences of ambassadors, wealthy Tunisians and expatriates.
The city still has many archaeological sites, mostly Roman with some Punic elements, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 27, 1979. The municipality of Carthage, which in 2014 had a little over 17,000 inhabitants, is today home to the presidential palace, the Malik ibn Anas mosque, the national museum of Carthage and the Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts.
How did Carthage get its name? The name Carthage comes from the Phoenician Karth-Hadasht, meaning “New City”, which might suggest “New Tyr”. Under Roman rule, the city was named Carthage. Carthage was founded by Phoenician settlers from Tire in 814 BC. According to legend, Queen Dido or Elyssa, sister of King Tyre, Pygmalion, founded the city. It is said that the queen asked the neighboring ruler Hiarbas, a Berber king, for permission to establish a kingdom on her land. Then he offered him a piece of land as big as a cow hide. The cleverer queen had a cowhide cut into very thin strips and drew the boundaries of Carthage. In reference to this mythical founder, the Carthaginians are sometimes called “the children of Dido” in literature.
The city became the dominant power in the western Mediterranean in the 4th century BC. The Carthaginians practiced a polytheistic cult originating in the Middle East. They especially worshiped Baal and Tanith. Rome has long accused them of child sacrifice (ceremony of silence). One hypothesis, among others, suggests that the ritual of cremation was mainly intended to return the souls of deceased children by the shortest route to Ba’al Hamon, at a time when infant mortality was more than high despite advances in hygiene.
According to other sources, it seems that the sacrifice of living children, usually the eldest in a noble’s family, to prove the sincerity of their loyalty to Carthage, gave rise to the custom of the latter adopting a child slave for this purpose. The Carthaginians introduced the short iron sword into the Mediterranean Sea, because until then warriors fought with spears and slings. Carthage conquers Hispania as well as Sicily where it meets the Romans. The ancient city of Carthage is at the heart of the novel Salambo, written in 1862 by Gustave Flaubert, and the action takes place in the time of Hamilcar Barca, that is, in the youth of Hannibal Barca.
The Carthaginians were defeated by the general Scipio, called Africanus, in alliance with the Numidian king Massinis at the Battle of Zama. Indeed, a series of three conflicts between the two powers, better known as the Punic Wars – the Romans called the Carthaginians Poeni. The conflict begins in the 3rd century BC. BC and ends with the victory of Rome and the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. AD, after four years of siege. After an aborted attempt by Gracchi, Julius Caesar later founded a city on the ruins of the Punic city. This becomes the capital of the new African province. In the Lower Kingdom, the city, favored for Christianity, suffered imperial persecution. In the 4th century, Carthage became one of the greatest spiritual capitals of the West. It was conquered in 439 by the Vandals led by Genseric, who established a kingdom there.
At that time, the Church was a victim of persecution and suffered especially. The takeover by the Romans (Eastern Roman Empire) in 533 brought prosperity back to the African capital. Emperor Justinian I made it the seat of his African diocese, but after the Monothelite crisis, the emperors of Byzantium, opposed to the African Church, quickly turned away from Carthage, which became the seat of the Exarchate. Carthage then gives Constantinople a succession of emperors following Heraclius, the son of the Exarch of Carthage.
At the time of the Arab conquests, the latter took the city in 698, but they preferred Tunis, the neighboring city, which gave its name to the country, the African which henceforth denoted the whole continent. After this siege led by Hassan Ibn Numan, the city was sacked and the population moved to Tunisia. Materials from the destruction of Carthage would later be used to expand the infrastructure of the neighboring city.
In the Middle Ages, Saint Louis captures the city during the Eighth Crusade, during which he dies of dysentery; he then hoped to convert the Hafsid sultan to Christianity and oppose him to the ruler of Egypt in order to force him to withdraw from Jerusalem. The failure of this strategy marks the end of the Crusades. The cathedral was built in the 19th century on Birsa Hill, on the supposed site of his burial. Until the rediscovery of Carthage in the 19th century, the ruins were looted for marble to build public or religious buildings in Africa as in Europe. As a place of residence, there are only two hamlets left, inhabited by peasants and farmers, located in Douar Chott and La Malga.
It was in the 19th century that certain high dignitaries of the Beylik state chose Carthage for their summer vacation. The first to settle there was Mustafa Haznadar with a palace in Salambo, next to the sea near the Punic ports, then another one on the heights of Birsa, which became a school for managers. Then, the Mamluk general Ahmed Zarruk builds the Zarruk Palace, which became the official residence of Lamina Beg, then a nightclub after the abolition of the monarchy, to become the seat of the Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts.
An influential favorite of Sadok Bey, the minister Mustapha Ben Ismail also built the palace, which became the police academy in Douar Chott after being owned by Hedi Bey and his descendants from 1882 until the confiscation of the palace. These Tunisian-style residences were gradually surrounded by smaller summer residences belonging to the Tunisian nobility and bourgeoisie.
It was only in 1906 that we note the appearance of the first villas in the European style, the most important of which are those of the Secretary General of the Tunisian government, a French colonial official and the real prime minister of the country. Habib Bourguiba will choose this villa to become the presidential palace of Carthage in 1960. We also note in Salambo, near the Punic ports, around 1930, the construction of the villa of General Lanjelo, the commander of the French army and the Bey’s minister, which became the Villa Terzi, as well as the villa of Caid Habib. Djelluli and Salem Snadli near Birsa Hill. Between 1928 and 1929, Le Corbusier produced his only Tunisian work in the Carthage-Presidence: Villa Bezo.
The municipality of Carthage was created by the Beylic decree on June 15, 1919. The development of its communal perimeter, as well as the growth of its population, led to the creation of the Carthage-Mohammed municipal district. In February 1985, Ugo Vetere and Chedley Klibi, mayors of Rome and Carthage, symbolically signed the Treaty of Carthage, a peace treaty that officially ended the last war between the two cities, the Third Punic War. Since then, Carthage has become a small residential city in Greater Tunis. It became a sought-after place of residence for high-ranking civil servants, diplomats and industrialists. The Malik ibn Anas Mosque was inaugurated on November 11, 2003, on Odeon Hill after the destruction of residential buildings from the colonial period.
The archaeological site of Carthage, scattered throughout the modern city, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. The archeological site is dominated by the hill of Birsa, which was the center of the Punic city, and is distinguished by the massive silhouette of the Saint-Louis Cathedral built on the supposed burial site of King Louis IX, who died there during the Eighth Crusade. For the record, King Louis-Philippe I, descended from Louis IX, sent an architect to Carthage to find the most precise location.
Given the impossibility of such a mission, he simply chooses the most beautiful place. Near the cathedral, opposite this empty tomb, the remains of which were returned to France, are the remains of the most important quarter of the city, of which only a few foundations and a few fragments of columns remain. Based on its historical heritage, Carthage has developed into a vast residential suburb of Tunis around the presidential palace. However, the rapid development of the modern city risks destroying the remains forever, leading Tunisian archaeologists alarmed public opinion and between 1972 and 1992 UNESCO launched a huge international campaign to save Carthage. This milestone was completed by the World Heritage classification. The difficulty for today’s visitor lies in the extreme dispersion of remains even if specific remains can be distinguished.
The Malik ibn Anas mosque was built on a place called “the hill of the cloak”, on a site of three hectares. The then President of the Republic of Tunisia, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, opened it on November 11, 2003. Built on a 2,500 m 2 esplanade, it has a 55-meter high minaret and a prayer room that can accommodate more than 1,000 worshipers 22 . St. Louis Cathedral in Carthage, located atop Beersa Hill, is a former Catholic cathedral that is no longer used for worship. The building is of Byzantine-Moorish style in the shape of a Latin cross and a facade framed by two square towers. On the walls are the coats of arms of the donors for the construction of the basilica. The windows are also decorated with arabesques. Built between 1884 and 1890, under the French protectorate, the cathedral became the Primate of Africa when the title of Primate of Africa was restored in favor of Cardinal Lavigerie.
The Carthage International Festival is a renowned cultural event held every summer in the Ancient Theater. The Carthage Cinematography Days, a biennial film festival launched in 1966 by the Tunisian Ministry of Culture, has been held continuously since its inception, alternating with the Carthage Theatrical Days. On Birsa Hill is the National Museum of Carthage in the premises occupied by the White Fathers. It allows the visitor to understand the extent of the city’s buildings during the Punic and then Roman periods.
Some of the most beautiful pieces found in excavations since the 19th century are there, and others are presented in the Bardo National Museum near Tunis. In the immediate vicinity, the former Saint-Louis Cathedral is today used as a cultural space and is called the Acropolis. It regularly hosts exhibitions and concerts, especially the Jazz a Carthage festival created in 2005.
Among the other institutions located in Carthage is the Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts, which has been installed since 1983 in the old palace, the property of General Zarrouq, Minister of War Sadok Bey, acquired in 1922 by Habib Bey and bequeathed to Lamine Bey, the last representative of the Hussein dynasty. The National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technologies, founded in 1924, is a public research institution based in Salambo. It has a small museum: Salambo Oceanographic Museum. In terms of education, the city is home to some renowned institutions such as the Carthage Institute of Advanced Commercial Studies and the Higher Institute of Childhood Executives. The educational network also includes five schools and four high schools including Carthage Presidency High School built in 1952.
My dear travelelrs, we have come to the end of this sixth special travelogue in the series of travelogues about Tunisia where we had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this unusual country in the northern part of the African continent. Today’s travelogue would not be possible without the selfless help of the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Tunisia – Discover Tunisia in collaboration with local partners who allowed me to feel the spirit and beauty of Tunisian culture and tradition. Of course, as always, I tried my best to convey to you my impressions of this unusual experience from Tunisia.
A person is rich in soul if he has managed to explore the world and I am glad that I always manage to find partners of my projects who help me to discover new and unusual destinations in a completely different way.
I am honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with companies that are the very top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Tunisia once again for this incredible adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of this unusual Tunisian culture in a completely different way.
How did you like my story about Tunisia and the presentation of Carthage, the center of ancient power that adorn the heart of this unusual country? Have you had the chance to visit Tunisia so far?
If you have any question, comment, suggestion or message for me you can write me below in the comments. Of course, as always, you can contact me via email or social networks, all addresses can be found on the CONTACT page. See you at the same place in a few days, with some new story!
In the following stories from Tunisia, we will discover some other interesting sights that you should visit if your journey takes you to this unusual country!
From Love from Carthage,
This post is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Tunisia – Discover Tunisia, as well as other local partners. This post is my personal and honest review of the destination experience.