The Wonders of Tunisia
Travel through Tunisia and experience the country’s riches from Roman remains, Byzantine fortresses and Jewish synagogues to Berber villages and Andalusian architecture.
With Professor Jennifer Tobin
October 4 – 18, 2020
Why Tour Tunisia with Far Horizons?
- Led by Greco-Roman specialist, Dr. Jennifer Tobin
- Specially arranged tour of the Arab-Andalusian architecture in Testour
- See the World’s largest collection of Roman mosaics at the Bardo Museum
- See all seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Travel to the southern oases villages of Tamerza, Mides, Nefta
- Spend three days on the delightful Djerba Island
- Limited to 12 participants
Travel & Tour Tunisia – Daily Itinerary
Day 1: Depart the USA
Day 2: Arrive Tunis
Day 3: Carthage, Sidi Bou Said. Tunis medina.
Day 4: Testour, Dougga
Day 5: Kairouan, Raqqada Islamic Museum
Day 6: Chebika, Tamerza, Mides, Nefta
Day 7: Chott El Jerid, Matmata
Day 8: Ksours of Tataouine, Chenini
Day 9: Djerba: Houmt Souk. El Ghriba Synagogue, Borj el Kebir
Day 10: Gabes, Sfax, El Jem
Day 11: Sousse, the Ribat, Great Mosque
Day 12: Cape Bon, Kerkouane, El Haouaria
Day 13: George Sebastian Cultural Center, Bardo Museum
Day 14: Uthina (Oudna), Thuburbo Majus, Zaghouan
Day 15: Return to the USA
Forged out of the North African coastline, Tunisia is a country of tremendous variety. In the North are found lush green mountains, lakes and rivers, and in the south, the desert of the Sahara overwhelms with powerful scenery broken only by sporadic oases. Tunisia’s position beside the narrow straits of Sicily has kept it constantly at the center of the tumultuous history of the Mediterranean. For millennia, army after army has swept through this country, always leaving fascinating evidence of their passing. The Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Spanish, Turks, and French have all stamped their imprint, and we will witness the visible remains of their passing.
During the excursion, visit all seven of Tunisia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Dougga, Kairouan, the medinas of Sousse and Tunis, the Punic remains of Kerkuane, magnificent Carthage, and El Djem, the largest Roman amphitheater in North Africa.
Join Far Horizons on this very special 15-day trip to Tunisia. Explore Roman amphitheaters, remains of ancient Punic cities, Byzantine fortresses, thousand-year old mosques, and vibrant Berber (Amazighs) villages as we travel from the fertile northern mountains to the deserts of the south and the Mediterranean Sea coast of the east. Don’t miss this in-depth journey of the Wonders of Tunisia!
Tunisia Tour Leader
Jennifer Tobin received her BA in Classical Studies from Stanford University and her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. From 1992-97, she was Assistant Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. She is now Professor Emerita of History and Classics, University of Illinois, Chicago. Professor Tobin has worked on archaeological projects in Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Greece. She speaks Modern Greek, German, French, Italian and Turkish, and has published widely on everything from Roman architecture in Syria to Alexander the Great. Her books include Black Cilicia: A Study of the Plain of Issus during the Roman and Late Roman Periods and Herodes Attikos and the City of Athens. She has been a featured teacher for The Modern Scholar series – Learn Out Loud, recorded not-for-credit lecture courses taught by university professors, including the Glory that was Greece and The Grandeur that was Rome. Twice a recipient of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Silver Circle Teaching Award, Professor Tobin’s enthusiasm, marvelous teaching skills, and appreciation of the people and archaeology of the Mediterranean World is infectious.
“Her explanations and hand-outs were excellent and she was always ready to discuss various topics and answer questions. In spite of being a ‘Roman’ expert, she knew a lot about every other culture and site we visited. Always patient, never seemed stressed. We would travel with her as a study leader any time.” – Suzy & Bill Fletcher
Tunisia Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Tunis and transfer to the hotel with the remainder of the afternoon free for rest. Overnight for two nights in the five-star boutique Hotel Dar el Jeld, a beautifully-restored traditional house ideally located next to the main government square in the heart of the Tunis medina, or historic section of the city. In the evening, gather for a welcome drink and dinner in the hotel’s renowned restaurant. (D)
Day 3:The ancient city of Carthage, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is our morning destination where our explorations will take us to several sections of the city. Within the ancient cemetery, urns containing the ashes and milk teeth of 8th-century BC children were found in the Salammbo Tophet. There is archaeological evidence that suggests that child sacrifice was part of the veneration of the Punic and Phoenician goddess,Tanit, the chief deity of Carthage. The monumental Baths of Antoninus, that were supplied with water by the great Zaghouan aqueduct, is the largest thermae complex built on the African continent and one of three largest built in the Roman Empire. Our final stop in Carthage will be the museum, containing the largest collection of objects from the site excavations. We will stop for lunch in the dazzling, whitewashed village of Sidi Bou Said before returning to Tunis where we will stroll through the winding streets of the old city. From the 12th to the 16th century, Tunis was considered one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the Islamic world. The cornucopia of monuments still standing in the historic section – royal palaces, mosques, mausoleums, madrasas and fountains – bear witness to this remarkable past. The 9th-century Zitouna Mosque is the physical and spiritual heart of Tunis. Around it spreads the souk, designated with UNESCO World Heritage status and one of the world’s great marketplaces. Dinner is on our own to search for the perfect Tunisian feast. (B/L)
Day 4: West of Tunis lies the sleepy town of Testour. During the Spanish re-conquest of al-Andalus, waves of exiled Muslims and Jews moved to North Africa, and beginning in the 11th century, many settled in Tunisia. The blending of Arab and Andalusian architectural styles in Testour bear testimony of this migration. The minaret of the 17th century Grand Mosque is reminiscent of a Spanish bell tower with characteristics originating in the medieval buildings of Toledo, Spain. In contrast to its unadorned square base, the upper octagonal section is ornamented with tiles in gleaming colors of emerald and cobalt. And interestingly, just below the two windows at the top are twin images of the Star of David because the Jews in Testour helped the Moors fleeing Andalusia to build their place of worship. We will meet with the president of the Association of the Protection of the Medina of Testour who will tell us about the unique architecture in this town. Continue to Dougga, the capital of an important state that flourished under Roman and Byzantine rule. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site we will see the most complete Roman theatre in Tunisia, the Capitoline temple, and the Plaza of Winds, with an elegant circle carved into its paved floor recording the names of the twelve winds. Overnight in the five-star La Kasbah Hotel in Kairouan. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Kairouan, the first capitol of Islamic North Africa, was founded as a stop on an ancient caravan route by a disciple of Mohammed. This UNESCO World Heritage city remains purely Arab in style with outstanding examples of the finest Islamic architecture in Tunisia. Our explorations take us to the Great Mosque, the oldest place of worship in North Africa, and the zaouia, or tomb complex, of Sidi Sahab, a companion of the Prophet. Finally, we will examine the impressive pools at Aghlabid Basins, built in the 9th century to collect and store winter rainwater. Overnight for two nights in Diar Abou Habibi near the oasis town of Tozeur. This delightful lodge de chârme consists of wooden bungalows raised high on stilts shadowed by fig and pomegranate trees in the heart of a palmerie, or palm grove. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Board 4-wheel drive vehicles to ride to nearby mountain oases. Overlooking a colorful gorge created by a now dry river, Tamerza is the largest mountain oasis in Tunisia. Known as Ad Turres by the Romans, the oasis was populated until 1969 and the picturesque remains of the old town perch on a bluff overlooking the canyon. Further along the dramatic ravine, the old village of Midés once served as an outpost on the Roman frontier, and was where many of the scenes of the movie The English Patient were filmed. Our afternoon will be spent in Tozeur, the main market and administrative center for the surrounding villages, The old town is little changed since the 14th century when it was first established. This quarter is famous for the unique decorative architecture in brick with exuberant towering facades patterned in bas-relief zigzags, lozenges and chevrons. In the late afternoon, our excursion takes us to the beautiful oasis village of Nefta to watch the sun drop below the horizon. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Drive across the great salt lake of Chott El Jerid, through the oases towns and barren mountains to Matmata. The town was used as a setting in the movie Star Wars, and the weird moonscape of the area with its strange troglodyte dwellings is fascinating. We will have lunch in one of these unusual underground houses. Our end point is Djerba, an island off the east coast of Tunisia renowned for its white sand beaches edged with the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Dinner and overnight for three nights at the charming Dar Dhiafa, housed within traditional Tunisian houses in the vibrant village of Erriadh. In 2014, artists from several countries covered the walls of the village’s traditional whitewashed buildings with charming painted street art. Although faded with time, the Djerbahood graffiti adds to the town’s appeal. (B/L/D)
Day 8: The area around Tataouine is filled with Berber ksars, or fortified villages, and is one of the most beguiling areas to explore in Tunisia. As we pass fortress after fortress, stop to examine Chenini, one of these citadel villages. Chenini, like other ksars created by North African Berber communities, was built on a hilltop to give protection from raiding parties. The oldest structures on the hillside date back to the 12th century, and some of the buildings are still used to store grain for the villagers living in the valley below. Move on along El Kantara Roman road with a stop in Gigthis to walk among the Roman ruins by the sea. (B/L/D)
Day 9: The glorious island of Djerba is thought to be the mythical Land of the Lotus Easters in Homer’s Odyssey. Whitewashed desert towns and vibrant souks have been influenced by Berber, Arab, Jewish and African cultures. Today we will explore this lovely island visiting Ghriba Synagogue to see one of the oldest Torahs in the world, and Borj el Kebir, a castle originally built in 1289 on foundations that date from Roman times. We will stop by the Popular Arts Museum where regional costumes are displayed, and the Lalla Hadria Museum with displays of over 13 centuries of Arab-Islamic art and culture. Gather this evening for a festive dinner party in one the island’s excellent restaurants. (B/L/D)D)
Day 10: As we sadly depart Djerba and cross to the mainland by ferry, we will stop in the town of Gafsa to see 2,000 year old pools created by the Romans to store water and still filled with bright aquamarine hot water. They may have once served as a mikvah, or purification bath, for the town’s Jewish community. Continue to El Jem to admire North Africa’s greatest Roman Monument. The 2nd century amphitheater towering over the town is designated UNESCO World Heritage and is one of the best preserved Roman stone edifices in the world. The site museum holds splendid mosaics on Baccus themes and depicting the province of Africa. Overnight for two nights in the five-star The Pearl Resort & Spa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Sousse. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Sousse was built by the Arabs as part of a coastal defense system and is an outstanding example of an early fortified Islamic city dating from the first centuries of Islam. One of the best examples of seaward-facing fortifications, twenty-five foot high walls encircle the old town and protect the many fine examples of historic architecture inside. We will spend the morning exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest monument in Sousse’s medina, the Ribat was constructed in the 8th century AD as a citadel. But it also housed devout Islamic fighters who spent their time, when not in battle, studying the Quran. Dating back to 851 during the rule of the Aghlabid Dynasty, the Great Mosque is adjacent to the fort and was adapted from an earlier fortress which explains the sanctuary’s turrets and crenellated wall. The city’s archaeological museum has the largest collection of antiquities in the country after the Bardo Museum, and the exquisite mosaic panels displayed constitute one of the most important collections of the Mediterranean. Drive on to the pretty coastal town of Hammamet and overnight for two nights in lovely La Badira, one of the Leading Hotels of the World. The afternoon and dinner are on our own for further independent explorations. (B/L)
Day 12: Drive east along the Cap Bon Peninsula to explore the Punic city of Kerkouane, the only purely Carthaginian town yet found and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was abandoned in 250 BCE during the First Punic War and never rebuilt by the Romans. At the tip of the Peninsula we will see the sandstone quarries of El Haouaria, already in use during Punic times in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. During Roman times, this stone was used in the construction of the coastal towns, in particular the capital, Carthage. Return to Hammamet and La Badira Hotel with dinner in one of the city’s fine restaurants. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Begin the day in the George Sebastian Cultural Center, housed in a villa built by the Romanian billionaire in the early 20th century. Return to Tunis and spend the afternoon in the Bardo Museum, Tunisia’s National Museum and the first to be founded in Africa. Housed in a 19th century palace that was created for the Beys, monarchs who ruled from 1705 until 1957 when the monarchy was abolished, it is the repository of the country’s rich archaeological collections including the world’s largest collection of Roman polychrome mosaics. Overnight in the Hotel Dar el Jeld in Tunis for two nights. Our final dinner party will be held this evening in an elegant local restaurant. (B/L/D)
Day 14: Today’s outing takes us along the Great Aqueduct built by Hadrian to three captivating Roman sites. Uthina, or Oudna, is at least three hundred years older than Carthage and one of the Roman Empire’s oldest cities in Africa. Eleven Roman villas have been unearthed here, many with colorful mosaics still intact. Dominating the city is one of North Africa’s largest Roman amphitheaters, dating from the reign of Hadrian. Continue to Thuburbo Majus, created by Roman war veterans in the 2nd century. These wealthy inhabitants built impressive public buildings with wonderful mosaics, many now in the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Its appealing Capitole, with four full-length fluted Corinthian columns, is particularly interesting. Our final visit will be to the town of Zaghouan on the slope of the Atlas Mountains, where the springs that supplied the Great Aqueduct burst from the ground. The immense water works was a masterpiece of engineering, the longest and most outstanding aqueduct in the Roman world. A monumental sacred water temple was constructed in the 2nd century that filtered the spring water before it entered the channel for its 35 mile journey to Carthage. The water moved along the route by the force of gravity alone. The springs still produce today, and travel the same course to supply water to Tunis. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Day 15: An early morning transfer takes us to the Tunis airport for our flight to the USA. (B)
October 4 – 18, 2020
$9,495.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes accommodations based on double occupancy; meals as noted in the itinerary; airport transfers for group flights; entry fees to sites named in itinerary; ground transportation throughout the tour; gratuity to drivers and guides; emergency evacuation insurance for each participant.
$1055.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost does not include: International air to and from Tunisia; a tax-deductible check for $150.00 per person made out to the donation project; passport or visa fees; airport or departure taxes; beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; alcoholic drinks; telephone and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural projects and museums we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. We will be designating a donation project shortly.
A deposit of $750.00 is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation.
International flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Note about Travel in Tunisia
This trip is not difficult, but to reach some of the site centers entail long walks, as much as a mile or more each day. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, participants, unassisted, must be able to walk on rough trails and keep up with group members. If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, please be aware that there will be no one to assist you. Additionally, please carefully choose footwear with strong support for your feet and ankles. The adventurous nature of the itinerary makes it essential that participants be in good physical condition and have the ability to maintain a flexible attitude. Team spirit and a good sense of humor are vital! If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
This Archaeological Tour to Tunisia is limited to 12 participants