Ancient Ruins, a Turkish Bath and Some Sheep

On Friday we had an excursion to ancient Carthage, which is basically in my backyard. We rode the TGM on the way and we even passed some of the ruins.

The TGM station in Sidi Bou Said. TGM stands for Tunis, Gamarth, La Marsa as it runs between those neighborhoods.
The TGM station in Sidi Bou Said. TGM stands for Tunis, Gamarth, La Marsa as it runs between those neighborhoods.

Our first stop in Carthage was to visit some of the Phoenician ruins. According to legend, Carthage was founded by Didi in 814 B.C. Carthage has had more than a few conflicts in its history, starting with the Greeks of Sicily in 409 and lasting until 305. Conflict with Rome in what came to be known as the three Punic wars came later in 264 and in 146 the Romans destroyed Carthage. The Romans later rebuilt Carthage in 31 B.C.

Our Academic Adviser wanted to show us both Phoenician and Roman ruins. We started with Phoenician since they had first built Carthage.

Our AD and a fellow student demonstrating a sacrifice.
Our AD and a fellow student demonstrating a sacrifice.
Exploring an ancient Phoenician cave.
Exploring an ancient Phoenician cave.

After exploring the Phoenician ruins we visited the Roman ruins. After taking control of Carthage, the Romans ruled until 698 A.D. when Carthage was destroyed by the Arabs. I definitely enjoyed the Roman ruins better. I could picture people visiting the baths and carriages being pulled by horses along the wide streets.

The Romans walked these streets!
The Romans walked these streets!

After walking around and exploring the ruins some more we headed back to SIT for some delicious homemade lunch. We made lublabi, which is a delicious Tunisian dish. It consists of a fresh baguette which is broken into small pieces and placed in a bowl. Chickpeas are then added to the mixture, as well as olive oil, harissa, cumen, and salt and pepper. You can also add an egg if you wish. Traditionally this dish is eaten during the winter as it is a bit heavy, however, our AD didn’t want us to have to wait until winter to try it.

After lunch and Arabic class had ended, I was happy to head home. It had been a long week and I was looking forward to some rest. As luck would have it, when I got home my host mother and sister invited me to visit the hammam with them on Sunday.

It may not look very enticing, but it sure tastes good.
It may not look very enticing, but it sure tastes good.

The hammam is similar to a Turkish bath. It is somewhat similar to a spa in the U.S. After lunch on Sunday my host sister packed an entire suitcase full of shampoo, clothes, and anything else we could possibly need at the hammam. It was only about a five minute walk from our house.

The hammam we went to had several different rooms. There is the “locker room,” which is where you leave your things before actually entering the bath. After putting your things in a locker and stripping down into nothing but your underwear, you pass through a door and enter the hammam. The first room is the coolest and the rooms get progressively hotter. The second and largest room is where most women were. There was also a third room which was smaller and felt like a sauna. I could only stay in there for a few minutes.

My feet felt so clean after the hammam!
My feet felt so clean after the hammam!

We went about filling buckets with water and found a seat in the second room. We washed and scrubbed and scrubbed. I’ve never felt so clean! We spent about two hours there and it was certainly an experience. I’m sure i will be back as my host family goes almost every few weeks. I must say it was very relaxing and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

But what about the sheep I mentioned in the title…well there are currently two sheep on my roof in preparation of the celebration of eid al-adha. This is a festival celebrated in Tunisia a bit after Ramadan and involves the killing of a sheep. The sheep represents the story of when Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Isaac. I’m a bit nervous for eid since I have never seen an animal killed before. I just hope I don’t faint!

I’ll be blogging about eid next time so stay tuned! The celebration starts Thursday and I think people celebrate it throughout the weekend.

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