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Report 1992: Tunisia - the North and the Roman Sites

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 20 of 30: Roman Sites - Gightis

photo by MAW

Looking back to the Capitol building

The little known Roman site of Ghightis is a few miles south of Jorj on the Gulf of Bou Grara. This is another place ignored by the guide books and I had seen it marked on the Rough Guide map. There is little information on the web. It was one of the highlights of the holiday. It was a glorious day with bright blue skies and Gulf of Bou Grara glinting in the sunshine. We had the site to ourselves as we wandered among the wild flowers discovering the different parts of it.

Quite a bit of money has been spent by the government on the site in the last couple of years. It is now fenced off from the road and there is a modern building housing the ticket office with good toilets. (Entry is 4TD + 1TD photo permit). A small building opposite is supposed to be a cafe. It runs to a kettle but not much else. There are some attractive framed photographs of Tunisia on the walls.

As there was no sign of the guardian we wandered in. It is an amazing site. Some parts have been excavated with some restoration. It covers a huge area and we kept finding isolated bits of ruins scattered around the landscape. There are a few labels in Arabic, French and English. Being near the coast with fertile soils there was a good growth of low maritime vegetation when we visited with a lot of yellow dandelion type flowers and white ‘Mesembryanthemum crystallinum’ growing over bare rocks. There are lovely views down to the sandy beach with palm trees. Groups of women were collecting cockles out at sea.

Near the main entrance are the ruins of the baths and palaestra complex. It is difficult to make out what the different parts are but it did have good drains. Ahead is the forum, a large paved area with the remains of the Capitol temple at one end, reached by a flight of stairs but not much else left. Climb these for views of the site. Buildings round the other three sides include the treasury and several other temples/sanctuaries. There are the remains of fluted and carved pillars lying around with carved and engraved stones.

On the side opposite the capitol are the remains of an archway (with the stones of the top of the arch lying on the ground behind it) and a paved road leading to the beach. Beyond the arch there are the remains of another temple.

Against the forum to the south are the remains of other buildings (houses?) with the remains of the central bathhouse beyond. Again it is difficult to work out the layout. There are the remains of mosaics and a cistern. Beyond this bits of unlabelled masonry could be seen appearing from the undergrowth. It is a big site.

The area had been settled by the Phoenicians and became a busy Roman port exporting gold, ivory and slaves delivered by trans Saharan caravans. We walked down towards the beach but couldn’t see any remains of the port. Apparently a partially submerged row of stones marks the site of the jetty.

The site guardian and two workmen appeared. We left our driver talking to them while we wandered round the site. The Tunisians are great talkers.

This is a well worthwhile visit. It is a beautiful place and a good spot to drop out. The guardian says he gets very few visitors and is lucky to get one a month. This is a great pity.

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