Walking to the shared taxi stand in Kairouan I met this guy, though his owner wasn’t too happy about my taking his picture.
My shared taxi left immediately after I arrived and I think it wasn’t a coincidence – another was leaving as I bought my ticket. So at least Sunday morning at 8:45 am this is a very frequent run.
Something I’ve seen on several shared taxis – they stop for gas soon after leaving. You’d think efficiency would have them do that when there aren’t eight passengers waiting – but perhaps they need to wait until they’ve collected the money, or perhaps they don’t want to lose their own time of going out and filling up empty. I wondered if a gas station could do good business locating at the louage station, and what do you know – there was one at the Sousse station! The trip was 1h15, including a gas stop and road construction (they seem to be improving the Kairouan-Sousse road). The Sousse louage station is massive and as always drivers are happy to get you to the right place. Both at Kairouan and in Sousse I bought a ticket from a ticket seller and the prices were posted. I was #7 of 8 in my louage, and then we waited for about 15 minutes for our last rider. On the road from Sousse to El Jem at 10:15 am. When we turned onto the road south toward Sfax we were on a different quality road than I think I’ve been on. A1 appears to be limited access highway with a speed limit of 110 kph. (Not that the driver would have known – i was sitting in the front seat and could see his speedometer wasn’t working!) Noted along the way – a taxi with a “dolphin-safe” sticker on it (?!) you can’t see it, but I promise it was there!
We arrived in El Jem at 11:15am and it was a 15 minute walk to the amphitheater (you can see it from everywhere!)
The amphitheater is huge – third largest in the Roman world, last massive undertaking in the Roman West (200s CE).
Some cool history – basically the area was dry and poor until irrigation made olive oil a booming business. The town was so rich that later Roman emperors overtaxed it and caused a successful revolt.
A walk through the town takes you to the museum. I thought this could be a bit of a scam even though reviews of the museum were positive. No scam – the museum is totally great and is located where it is because that’s where they found most of the wealthy Roman houses. There are fabulous mosaics, (here I am bonding with a mosaic of the “genius of the year” – really!)
Several of my other favorites included the detail of Silenus riding on a camel
and this poor creature being torn apart by lions.
The largest house in Roman Africa was discovered in another part of town and reconstructed here. There are also ruins of several other houses in situ – make sure to keep going through the rooms and out into the back.
I thought I’d try something new by taking the train back to Sousse, and the station was beautiful.
But it was going to be more than an hour, so I headed back to the shared taxi station. I just missed one but the next filled up in fifteen minutes.