Seen from miles away, the mighty Roman amphitheater of El Jem (or El Djem) is a must-see for any traveler in Tunisia. It has been recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. It is also arguably the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world.
The Romans began construction on this amphitheater in 230 AD and within eight years this tremendous center of entertainment was completed. It was the fourth largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire and can hold up to 30,000 spectators. It is 149m long and 122m wide and today rises to a height of 40m. This amphitheater would have hosted numerous events popular in antiquity including gladiatorial shows, wild animal hunts, and criminal executions.
Any visitor can climb to the top level and take in the views of the town of El Jem and its surroundings as well as descend to the lower levels where rooms for wild animals and gladiators would have been found. Unlike the Roman Coliseum in Italy, this impressive amphitheater has very few crowds and one can spend undisturbed time exploring the ruins or reflecting on the events that would have taken place there.
Within walking distance of the amphitheater is the El Jem Museum. Here you will find a plethora of Mosaics depicting life and times in Roman North Africa. An archaeological site located in this museum is called the House of Africa. Make sure time is set aside to enjoy the various Roman collections found in this museum.