Christine Petré
Last updated: 15 October, 2013

Tunisia’s hidden gem of archaeology

Tunisia has many must-see ancient sites in store for its residents and visitors. Your Middle East’s editor Christine Petré visited one of them, the old Roman colony of Uthina.

A cloudy sky is hovering over the more than 100 meters long and 90 meters wide amphitheatre as we walk through one of its four principal entries. Restored in 1993, it used to welcome 16,000 visitors and its impressive acoustics and dark underground corridors take us back to the beginning of the 2nd century B.C when this was a Roman colony called Uthina.

Climbing the amphitheatre’s stairs, we suddenly stand face to face with a herd of sheep. The sound of music is filling the air as we join the sheep in the direction of the tunes. Around the corner, sitting on the top of a cliff, is a shepherd playing the flute. It is like a scene out of a movie or a book. Accompanied by nothing but the melody of Egyptian singer Om Khalsoum and a few bleating sheep we allow ourselves to drift away as we gaze across the still landscape.

“It’s a pity we don’t promote these archaeological sites, it’s a real cultural heritage,” 

“M3ALEM,” (maestro) calls a Tunisian woman when he stops, he smiles timidly at his admirers’ applauds before he disappears over the hill. The sheep follow his every footstep.

Astonished and a bit star struck, we continue touring the three miles of hilly terrain of the old roman colony. We cross through an aqueduct, ancient baths and big plateaus of mosaic. The last site is the Capitolium of Uthina, a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva with one of its six columns still fully intact.

As hard as it is to understand, few people actually know about this place. Located only 30 kilometres south of Tunisia’s capital, little, if any, advertisement has been done to promote this hidden gem of archaeology. 

“It’s a pity we don’t promote these archaeological sites, it’s a real cultural heritage,” says a Tunisian visitor.

As I near the parking lot a French tourist tells me, “I will remember this day for a long time.”