Travel to Dougga – Roman World Heritage Site
Dougga, Tunisia’s best-preserved Roman ruins, enjoys an elevated setting some 96 km southwest of the capital, Tunis. Designated as a Tunisian UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, Dougga is perhaps among the most touching of Tunisia’s Roman sites.
Offering visitors grandiose temples and theatres, a forum and markets on a mountainside overlooking wheat fields and a valley, imposing Dougga spreads over 65 hectares. Its position on the slopes forced Roman builders to renounce their standard city plan and adapt their monuments to the terrain.
The site was formerly known as Thugga under the Numidian King Massinissa in the 2nd century BC. Dougga started off as a small Berber village which was fortified to protect it from invading tribes.
It then served as a military post until it was taken over by Romans in the 2nd century BC when it was developed into a well designed typical Roman town. With Byzantine rule Dougga declined, and then after the invasions of the Vandals from East Germany, it was left deserted and fell into ruins.
The Theatre is one of its best features which could seat up to 3,500 and even today is still used to stage concerts during the Dougga Festival held every summer.
Other monuments worth seeing at Dougga include a well-preserved stone Capitol built in 166 BC and dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva; the towering Lybico-Punic Mausoleum; the Licinian Baths with tunnels which were used by slaves servicing the baths; the Southern Baths which have large portions of mosaic floors and walls; the Temple of Saturn, probably Dougga’s most important religious centre; the Temple of Caleistis and the Temple of Minerva that bear symbols of the Roman era; and the House of Trifolium that is thought to have been the town’s brothel.
Dougga is perfect for exploration on foot. The site can be reached by public transport from Tunis or travel on an organised tour.