On the east side of the Roman road is the little temple of Hathor Miskar (a love goddess of Egyptian origin), a Punic shrine, probably of the 1st century B.C., which was rebuilt in the 2nd century A.D. and converted into a Christian church in the 4th century. The ground-plan consists of a walled forecourt, a vestibule and the cella. An inscription...more
The Schola of the Juvenes in Maktar was a kind of clubhouse and training school for young men - found also in other Roman cities under the name of Collegia Juvenum - in which, in addition to being trained in various sports and the military art, they were given instruction in politics, taxation law and commerce. They were then employed not only in...more
Along the paved decumanus to the west of the Great Baths is the old Punic Forum used by the Libyan/Punic population of Maktar. Just north of this is the Temple of Bacchus (Liber Pater), of which little remains apart from a double crypt; the present masonry belongs to a later building.more
South of the Basilica of Hildeguns are the imposing remains of the Great Public Baths (Grandes Thermes Publics), built at the end of the 2nd century, which are among the best preserved Roman baths in Africa. The lower floor is completely preserved. The walls of the central hall (cella media) and the adjoining frigidarium (cold bath) and caldarium...more
At the south end of the Forum stands the magnificently preserved Arch of Trajan, erected in A.D. 116 in honour of the town's promotion to the status of municipium. An inscription dedicates it to "the Emperor Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus, the best of all Emperors, conqueror of the Germans, the Armenians and the Parthians, in his 21st year as a...more
Beyond the Maison de Vénus in Maktar, at the intersection of the cardo and the decumanus, lies the rectangular Forum, paved with marble, which was probably laid out in the early 2nd century, when Mactaris became a municipium. Nothing is left of the colonnades and buildings which stood round it. At the northeast corner is a small market which is...more
The amphitheatre is located near the museum and is reached by taking a path down a slight hill. You then enter into it via a wide entrance and are able to see two sets of walls with a gap of around a metre or so between them. The amphitheatre, which was built in the 2nd century A.D., has been largely re-constructed which allows you to see the size...more
The museum is the first thing you'll come to after paying the entrance fee. The Museum has a fine collection of gravestones and stelae of the 1st century B.C. - 3rd century A.D., some of them with Punic inscriptions and symbols (crescents, pigeons, peacocks, grapes, pomegranates, fishes, etc.). The Roman period is represented by sculpture and...more
A Numidian settlement was established here in the 2nd century B.C. in a commanding situation which offered safety from attack and enabled it to control the routes between the uplands and the steppe; and the abundant summer rainfall guaranteed a water supply for the adjoining valley.After the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C. many Punic refugees...more
For me, these were the most impressive ruins. Impressively dilapidated, but still recognisable as a bath house, you can still see plenty of mosaics on the ground. Its all columns and archways, a great place to pretend to be good at photography and take all of those arty shots of shade and light. Do be careful of the pigeons though. They like to...more
Just behind the museum is a small amphitheatre. Don't go imagining Rome's Colosseum or El Jem's enormous gladiator ring...when I say small, I mean small. You could maybe fit ten wild beasts and a couple of unarmed savages in the arena, though it would be nose-to-nipple in there. Still, it is shaped like an amphitheatre, and they even have grooves...more
Modern Makthar holds little excitement, unless you're the type to go doolally over vegetable markets and contemporary Tunisian urban architecture. However, if you do have time to kill, you could try to hunt out the few remaining Colonial buildings (a hint....they're the ones with red-tiled roofs). The market area looks vaguely Soviet and very out...more
I'm beginning to wonder whether body odour was a considerable problem for the inhabitants of Roman Makthar. Four bath houses in close proximity to one another have been excavated so far, and maybe more lie beneath our feet. Or perhaps they were just very good at building bath houses?Anyway, the last major collection of ruins include the north...more
A little further on and you come across a melee of monuments. There's a quadrilobe, and I'll assume you're all like me and know exactly what a quadrilobe is (!), a schola (apparently a sort of youth-club), another set of baths, and some curious underground tombs. It's all a bit difficult to make any sense of, unless you are an amateur or...more
Every photo of Makthar I have seen (and to be honest, I haven't seen many) has been of the Trajan Arch, which stands majestically at the highest point of the site, visible from just about everywhere. Scattered around it are the ruins of a basilica and a forum, now little more than a paved square so you have to be very imaginitive to conjure up...more
All the best statues and mosaics and pots and pans and bits of this and that found around Makthar, have been collected and placed in the museum, which just happens to be the entrance and ticket office fo the ruins. It's not a bad museum, most things labelled in Arabic and French, but the odd titbit of info can be found in English if you can be...more
Any louage between Kairouan and Le Kef will pass through Makthar, although you may have to pay the full fare. Louages specifically for Makthar are less frequent, and you may have to wait (I waited a couple of hours in Kairouan louage station...enough time to refuel on some Tunisian sausages!). From Kairouan, the journey takes 2 hours and costs 6TD. These louages and ones for Le Kef and nearby towns leave from outside the hotel.
For Tunis and places further afield, you need to head uphill one block to the main shopping street. A louage to Tunis takes around 3 hours and costs 8.3TD.
Wherever you're headed, the scenery around Makthar is beautiful, at times spectacular.
Picking the bright yellow dandelions which litter the ruins is obviously a lucrative business in Makthar. A little man in a suit with a clipboard oversees a gaggle of local dandelion pickers, mostly women and children, who engage in a race against stray sheep to collect the most dandelions. Freelancers may well be tempted to vault the perimeter...more
Many countries, including Tunisia, are predominantly Muslim, so the religious sites you are most likely to encounter, are, predictably, mosques. This is a brief tip of advice, written from the point of view of a non-Muslim, female traveler (yours truly!!!):- Do dress modestly, covering arms, legs, shoulders and the like, no frivolous dressing will...more
I came to visit Mactaris on a cold windy winters day and, boy, was it cold! The wind blows straight off the surrounding hills which lie at more than 1000m above see level so if you're planning on visiting at this time of year, I would wrap up warm.
Travels to places like Tunisia involves a lot of fighting the heat, especially if you, like me (I am still surprised as to why I did that), go there right in the middle of the summer. Here’s a list of useful items to take:
- Hats and other covering: Large brimmed hats that provide head covering and some shade. For women, they are also a proof of modesty, welcomed when visiting old churches and mosques. Scarves and the like covering shoulders and arms can keep the sun off during treks. A cloth hat or scarf can be soaked to help keep the head cool.
- "Squeeze Breeze": this is a water bottle with a sprayer and a battery-operated fan attached. The beach toy to take with you!
- Sun block: While sun blocks may be purchased in Tunisia, people tend to prefer sticking with their own favourite brand (the skin, too, ‘gets used’ to it), and there’s not guarantee you’ll find it on the spot. So take your own, if you have preferences!
If you really must see all that Makthar has to offer, then you can take short walks to the far corners of the archaological site in search of the House of Venus and the Temple of Hathor Miskar. There is little to see though, and I wasn't altogether sure if it really was a House of Venus or if it was actually some poor b****r's stone house that collapsed in the last decade.
Just about visible over the perimeter wall, behind a cemetery, is another temple, this one dedicated to Apollo. Local kids and freelance dandelion pickers hop in and out of the site like nobody's business, but should you be tempted to do the same, be warned that you may be mistaken for a dandelion picker and shouted at by the little man in the suit who has enough dandelion-pickers for one day and doesn't need any more, thank you very much.