El Jem

El Jem is a small town in the east of Tunisia that holds the remains of a UNESCO World Heritage listedRoman amphitheater.

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El Jem used to be the Roman town of Thysdrus, one of the most important towns in North Africa after Carthage (now to be found in the suburbs of modern Tunis). The amphitheater was built around the middle of the 3rd century CE and was thought to house up to 35,000 spectators.

Having fallen into some state of disrepair, its blocks being used for building the surrounding town and also contributing to the Great Mosque in Kairouan, the amphitheatre was declared a World Heritage site in 1979. More recently it has been used for filming some of the scenes from the Oscar winning film Gladiator.

It is worth mentioning that the site features one of the cleanest public bathrooms in Tunisia, located about 150 meters to the right of the entrance.

El Jem is more or less equidistant from Sousse and Sfax, lying just off the main road that links those two towns.

  • By train – a return ticket from Sfax should be around 10 DT, and take approx. 45 minutes. Alternatively, trains depart for El Jem from Tunis (1st class around 14 DT, ~3.5 hours) and Sousse (~1 hour) in the morning and evening. You can just see the top of the coliseum from the train station. Trains call at 35.29264910.7095041 Gare El Jem, 300 m away from the Amphitheater.
  • By louage – louages depart for El Jem from Sousse louage station (around 6 DT, ~1 hour). There is no direct public transport between Kairouan and El Jem, you’d need to change in Sousse. 35.2927710.7053221 The louage station in El Jem is a few minutes to the west of the train station along Avenue Hedi Chaker.
  • By taxi – one of the most expensive options, this gives you the most flexibility. Either arrange a time for your driver to return or ask him to wait for you. Arrange a price before setting out, and expect to pay 50 Dinar or higher for a return from Sousse or Sfax.
  • By car – head south from Sousse (north from Sfax) for about 1 hour; the amphitheater is clearly visible as you approach the town and the turn off well signed.

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