Tunisia: Phoenicians to Romans
Tunisia & Malta
“It is absolutely amazing! Everyone who is interested in archaeology should make the effort to come here.”
– Joyce, San Diego, CA (AIA Tunisia tour, 2013)
STUDY LEADER & GUIDE
Professor Nejib ben Lazreg is an archaeologist and researcher with the Institut National du Patrimoine in Tunisia. He is the Curator of the Salakta Archaeological Museum, the Lamta Museum, and Roman sites in Tunisia’s Sahel region (Leptis Minor, thapsus, and Sullecthum).
Nejib’s area of specialization is Tunisia’s Roman and Early Christian mosaics, though his career has also spanned other topics such as Punic, Roman, and Christian necropolises; and Roman pottery kilns, baths, and houses. He has conducted archaeological surveys in central Tunisia and excavations mainly in the Roman port cities of Leptis Minor, thapsus, and Sullecthum, but also occasionally in the Kairouan region. Some of his major discoveries in Tunisia include an underground 4th- century Christian chapel and catacombs, and the mosaics of Venus (A.D. 300) and of the birth of Helen and the Dioscuri (A.D. 400), at Leptiminus (Lamta); the 3rd-century A.D. athletes mosaic and 6th-century A.D. mosaic-covered baptistery at thapsus; and Christian catacombs at Sullecthum. In 2017, Nejib received the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters medal from the French Minister of Culture; and he organized the exhibition called “Shared Holy Places:
Coexistence in Europe and the Mediterranean” at Tunis’s Bardo Museum, in cooperation with the Museum of Civilization of Europe and the Mediterranean of Marseille (MUCEM). Nejib was the AIA’s Kress Lecturer for 2009-10, and he has led this AIA tour of Tunisia three times since 2012, to excellent reviews.
“I’ve traveled to Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece, and Turkey in order to study classical sites, but nothing prepared me for the number of sites, their extensiveness, the quality of the mosaics, and the way in which these sites revolutionized my view of the Roman Empire…Nejib was a very effective lecturer, both as an archaeologist of classical antiquity and as a commentator on modern political developments…Nejib was at his best on the sites, pointing out the various features of baths, temples, houses, etc., teaching us to ‘read’ the site for ourselves. I learned a ton.”
– M.C., Iowa
“Dr. ben Lazreg was the perfect scholar to provide the information and the perfect man to coordinate all aspects of the tour…His presence was the highlight of the tour.”
– Rosemary, Washington D.C.
Friday, November 29: Arrive Tunis, Tunisia- Welcome dinner
Arrive today at Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN), where you will be met and transferred to our hotel near the seashore.
Saturday, November 30: Carthage | Bardo Museum | Sidi Bou Said | Tunis
This morning we visit the world famous Bardo Museum, whose earliest exhibits (Punic) date to the 7th century B.C., and whose most exquisite exhibits (Roman and Byzantine) are mosaics from sites all over Tunisia, many virtually intact. After lunch we explore the vast site of Carthage, founded in 814 B.C. by the Phoenicians and sacked by the Romans in 146 B.C. It was not until the 1st century A.D. that Rome rebuilt the city, and within a few years it expanded and prospered to the point where it was second only to Rome. Our visit will include the tophets, Punic ports, Antonine Baths, Byrsa Hill, cisterns, and the Carthage museum, which houses an unparalleled collection of Punic artifacts. Continue on to the cliff top village of Sidi Bou Said, whose gleaming houses and stunning location above the Gulf of Tunis make for a wonderful stroll through its maze of lanes and alleys. The village has attracted generations of European artists and writers, and is often called a “living museum.” Dinner is at our hotel in Tunis this evening. (B, L, D)
Sunday, December 1- Cape Bon Region | Tunis
Set out early this morning for Cape Bon, a fertile agricultural region that was developed by the French as the heart of Tunisia’s wine industry. As we travel the Cape, we will have opportunities for scenic stops, such as at the Punic city of Kerkouane and in Nabeul, at the southern base of the peninsula, where there is a small but interesting archaeological museum. Late this afternoon we return to Tunis, where the balance of the day is at leisure. Restaurant suggestions for dinner will be provided, as there are many enjoyable dining options. (B, L)
Monday, December 2- Tunis walking tour | Oudna | Tunis
Take an in-depth walking tour of the medina of Tunis, the historic heart of the city, including a visit to the 7th-century Zitouna Mosque.
After lunch we drive to Oudna (Roman Uthina), one of Tunisia’s more recently excavated sites that is still a work in progress. See the fine amphitheater and nearly a dozen villas with many mosaics, cisterns, and storage areas. We return to Tunis and have dinner at our hotel this evening. (B, L, D)
Tuesday, December 3- Bulla Regia | Tabarka
Depart Tunis, driving northwest along both scenic back roads and main roads. This area remains relatively undeveloped, with beautiful rural scenery and fertile farmland. Make a visit to Bulla Regia, an unusual and very well preserved site that features underground Roman villas; a Temple of Apollo, the oldest extant structure on the site; a 4th-century theater; and an excellent museum. Arriving in the seaside town of Tabarka, we check in to our beautifully-located hotel and gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 5-star La Cigale Tabarka Hôtel. (B, L, D)
Wednesday, December 4- Dougga | Kairouan
This morning we drive along scenic country roads to Dougga (ancient Thugga), Tunisia’s most extensive archaeological site. Covering some 60 acres on a steep slope some 2,000 feet above the plain, Dougga was known as the “city of temples.” Visit the theater, which accommodates almost 3,500 people; the Temple of Saturn, under which was found evidence of a pre-Roman sanctuary dedicated to the Carthaginian god Baal; the Temples of Augustan Piety and Mercury; and the grandest structure— the Capitol that was dedicated to the gods Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, and to the glory of co-emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Continue on to Kairouan, where we check into our hotel and have dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Hôtel La Kasbah. (B, L, D)
Thursday, December 5- Kairouan walking tour| El Jem | Sousse
Kairouan’s location along the old caravan routes provided a base for a flourishing crafts industry, which lives on today in its rugs and textiles. Today we walk through the heart of the city’s medina, past sellers of carpets, leather goods, brass works, and spices to the Great Mosque, which has been rebuilt several times since its original construction in the 7th century.
Set out on a drive to El Jem, one of the most extraordinary sites in Tunisia thanks to the marvelous, 3rd-century A.D. amphitheater in the heart of the town. Nearby is the museum of El Jem, which houses some lovely mosaics and the remains of some recently-excavated luxury villas. Continue on to the seaside city of Sousse, Tunisia’s third largest city, where we have dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa for two nights. (B, L, D)
Friday, December 6- Sousse walking tour | Lamta | Sousse
Visit the historic heart of Sousse, long a thriving trading center and major port. Visit the Great Mosque, originally constructed in A.D. 850; walk through the souk, dominated by wool workers; and continue on to the Kasbah, constructed around the 9th century. Continue south to Lamta, which was the Roman port city Leptis Minor. Even though Lamta is not open to the public, our group has this special opportunity to visit the site and learn about important discoveries made here under the direction of our AIA study leader, archaeologist Nejib ben Lazreg. Return to Sousse, where we have the balance of the day at leisure. Dining suggestions will be provided. (B, L)
Saturday, December 7- Thuburbo Majus | Zaghouan | Tunis | Farewell dinner
Travel inland to the vast, sprawling site of Thuburbo Majus, one of Tunisia’s best-preserved sites. It was occupied by the Berbers, Phoenicians, and (in 27 B.C.) the Romans. Its imperial remains are typical of a Roman city and include the towering, 2nd-century A.D. Capitol and Forum.
En route to Tunis, stop at Zaghouan (ancient Ziqua), with its monumental, 2nd-century A.D. fountain (nymphaeum), whose mountain springs were an important water source for Roman Carthage. We arrive in Tunis mid-afternoon, and have some free time to re-visit the medina, a short walk from our hotel, or pursue other interests. Gather this evening for a farewell dinner in a wonderful setting. Overnight at the 5-star El Mouradi Hôtel Africa Tunis (or similar). (B, L, D)
Sunday, December 8- Fly home
Transfer this morning to Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN) for flights homeward or onward to Malta, for those on the post-tour extension. (B)
Sunday, December 9- Depart Tunis | Arrive Malta | Medina walking tour | St. Juliens | Welcome dinner
From Tunis, take a 50-minute flight to Malta, where we will be met at the International Airport (MLA). Begin our exploration of the island with a walking tour of Malta’s old capital, Medina, including the exterior of the Cathedral whose imposing bastions provide a panoramic view of most of the island; and visit the 1st-century B.C. Roman Villa, featuring fine floor mosaics. Continue along the narrow, winding roads to St. Paul’s Catacombs, which date to the 4th and 5th centuries. In the late afternoon, drive to the seaside town of St. Juliens, where our hotel is located within a short walk of café’s, shops, and the seaside. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner of Maltese cuisine. Overnight at the 4-star Golden Tulip Vivaldi for three nights. (D)
Monday, December 10: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum | Tarxien | Hagar Qim | Mnajdra | Valletta city tour | Sliema
For this morning’s excursion we will be joined by special guest Dr. Nicholas Vella, a noted Maltese archaeologist from the University of Malta. Begin the morning with a visit (permission pending) to the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a UNESCO World Heritage site. the Hypogeum (“underground” in Greek) is a subterranean structure dating from 3600-2500 B.C. that is the only known underground, prehistoric temple in the world. (Only 80 visitors are allowed per day, by advance arrangement.) Drive to the southern portion of the island to visit the intriguing megalithic temples at Tarxien, dating from 3600-2500 B.C., which are renowned for their detailed carvings; plus the temples at Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, overlooking the sea. Bid farewell to Dr. Vella and continue on to the capital city of Valletta. After lunch at leisure, enjoy a guided tour of the city, including St. John’s Co-Cathedral, featuring impressive Baroque architecture and precious works of art, and the Grand Master’s Palace. Return to Sliema and gather for dinner at our hotel. (B, D)
Tuesday, December 11: Gozo | Sliema | Farewell dinner
Set out early today to visit Malta’s sister island of Gozo, barely 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry. Visit the Ggantija megalithic complex, dating from about 3600 to 3200 B.C., which is among the oldest and best preserved temples in the world. Continue on to Ta’ Pinu Church, Xlendi Bay, and Victoria’s Citadella, which presents the opportunity to visit the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, and the Old Prison. Gather for a farewell dinner in Sliema this evening. (B, D)
Wednesday, December 12: Depart Malta | Arrive USA
Transfer this morning to the International Airport (MLA) for flights homeward. (B)
HOTELS IN TUNISIA
★★★★★Tabarka: La Cigale Tabarka Hôtel
★★★★★Sousse: Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa
HOTEL IN MALTA
$6,195 per person, $875 Single Supplement
All hotels with breakfast and meals included, as indicated by B, L, D
Entrance fees at sites noted on itinerary
English speaking guide
Private vehicle and driver
Alcohol, additional beverages and any items of a personal nature