12 imagesEl Djem is a town in Mahdia Governorate, Tunisia. It is home to some of the most impressive Roman remains in Africa, like the worldwide famous "Roman amphitheater of Thysdrus". El Djem is famous for its amphitheater, often incorrectly called a Colosseum (roughly translated from Latin as 'that thing by the Colossus'), which is capable of seating 35,000 spectators. Only the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome (about 50,000 spectators) and the ruined theatre of Capua are larger. The amphitheatre at El Djem was built by the Romans under proconsul Gordian, who was acclaimed Emperor at Thysdrus, around 238 and was mainly used for gladiator shows and small chariot races (like in Ben-Hur). Many tourists come here to see what it was like to be inside what was once a place where lions and people met their fate. Much of it is crumbled but the essence of it still remains. It is also possible that construction of the amphitheatre was never finished. Until the 17th century it remained more or less whole. From then on its stones were used for building the nearby village of El Djem and transported to theGreat Mosque in Kairouan, and at a tense moment during struggles with the Ottomans, the Turks used cannons to flush rebels out of the amphitheatre. The ruins of the amphitheatre were declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. It hosts the annual Festival international de musique symphonique d'El Jem.
29 imagesSfax is a city in Tunisia, located 270 km (170 mi) southeast of Tunis. The city, founded in AD 849 on the ruins of Taparura and Thaenae, is the capital of the Sfax Governorate (about 860,000 inhabitants in 2005), and a Mediterraneanport. By the end of the 10th century Sfax had become an independent city-state. The city was conquered byRoger II of Sicily in 1148 and occupied until it was liberated in 1156 by local forces, and was briefly occupied by European forces again; this time by the Spanish, in the 16th century, before falling into Ottoman hands this time. Sfax became an integral base of the Barbary piracy, prompting an unsuccessful invasion by Venice in 1785. In the late 19th century Sfax and the rest of Tunisia were conquered byFrance and incorporated into the French empire. During World War II, the Axis powers used the city as a major base until British forces took it on 10 April 1943. After World War II, Tunisia was returned to France, but gained independence in 1956.