Giving to
Bryn Mawr

Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center

Tunisia: A Crossroad of Civilizations

On the Road to Democratization

March 20, - April 1, 2014

with optional pre-tour extension to Algeria
March 16 – March 21, 2014

We invite you to join on this unique trip which will not only give us the opportunity to visit Tunisia’s wealth of historical sites, but of equal importance will be the unique opportunities to meet the people of Tunisia who are contributing to this country’s democratic progress.

Tunisia’s place in history has served as the crossroads for many civilizations, from its indigenous Berber population, to the Phoenicians who settled the coastal towns such as Carthage, to later be further developed by the Romans whose legacy stretches across the north and eastern coasts of Tunisia, evolving further under the new Islamic influences which came in the 7th century, followed by the French whose legacies left their imprint in language, cuisine and architecture. This melting pot of history is what distinguishes Tunisia from other countries in the southern Mediterranean and its people, from other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Relatively unknown to American travelers, Tunisia’s recent prominence came during its January 2011 Revolution, resulting in the hasty departure of its long time dictatorship and influencing other countries in the region in what has since been dubbed, the “Arab Spring”.

Historians revel in Tunisia’s beautifully preserved Roman sites, while political pundits look at Tunisia’s peaceful transition towards democracy as perhaps the most likely of all the so-called “Arab Spring” to succeed in their newfound independence. This success, a tribute to the well-educated population, progressive socio-economic policies and equal role of women and men in Tunisia society.

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Preliminary Itinerary
(please click on location to reveal details)


Day 1 – Depart USA

Depart USA

Day 2 – Tunis arrival

Transfer from airport to hotel near the seashore. Late day/early evening walking tour near your hotel for those wishing to Welcoming dinner and overnight in Tunis- Gammarth area. (D)

Day 3 – Tunis and environs

Today and tomorrow are devoted to seeing the sites in the Tunis area. You start with a visit to the most famous site in Tunisia…Carthage. As you will discover in the days ahead, the renown of Carthage exceeds its present remains when compared to some of the better-preserved Roman sites of Dougga, Bulla Regia and Sbeitla. However, the setting of Carthage helps underscore the strategic importance of the site to its inhabitants in past centuries. Your visit will include numerous sections of Carthage, including the tophets, the Punic ports, Antonine’s Baths, Byrsa Hill, the cisterns and the Carthage museum.

You will also have an opportunity to visit the nearby, U.S. World War II cemetery in Carthage, the only US War cemetery in North Africa. Prior to dinner, you will have a walking tour of Sidi bou Said, a picturesque village near your hotel that today, like Gammarth, is an affluent seaside region of Tunis. The architecture of Sidi Bou Said was inspired by the Andalusian settlers who came to the area following their expulsion from Spain at the end of the 15th century. Dining and overnight in Tunis-Gammarth. (B, L, D)

Day 4 – Bardo Museum and Tunis area NGO

This morning, you drive to the Bardo Museum. Housed in a former palace of the Ottoman Bey, the Bardo houses a world-class collection of mosaics, along with many remains found in sites throughout Tunisia. In June 2012, the Bardo opened a new expanded wing and renovated wings, providing display of items previously in storage. The Bardo visit will help provide some of the historical groundwork for your subsequent days in Tunisia. (closed on Mondays)

Late morning, you visit an NGO (non-governmental organization) that is based in an economically challenged area of Tunis. The founder of the NGO, a Tunisian woman, started the project prior to Tunisia’s January 2011 Revolution, but only after the Revolution, has the organization been able to see the expanded growth coming from the independence that now allows civil society to flourish. Projects include women’s empowerment, small business and micro-finance, social media training for the democratization process and other grassroots issues. We will have an opportunity to hear from the founder, as well as some of the women in the community who have been beneficiaries of the organization’s work.

Late day return to your hotel. Dinner in an interesting venue. Overnight in Tunis-Gammarth. (B, L, D)

Day 5 – Meeting with Tunisian journalist and visit to northern Tunisia

Tunisia’s Revolution opened up many new opportunities in the media. Prior to the Revolution, the media was controlled, but through implied restriction resulting in self-censorship, as well as media manipulation. The Revolution brought new freedoms, resulting in what today is a vibrant media, from radio, television and the press. You will have an opportunity to meet one of Tunisia’s media personalities and hear about this transition. Following your morning media meeting, you depart Tunis, driving north, incorporating scenic back roads along with main roads. This area remains relatively undeveloped; small coves along the ocean and fertile farmland. Your touring of the north will include the small, but recently renovated site of Utica. A relatively small compared to the many sites you will see in Tunisia, Utica provides a good example of an archaeological site where the Punic origins can be seen, subsequently built over by the Romans. Lunch will be in the region.

Late day return to Tunis area. Dinner and overnight in Tunis-Gammarth. (B, L, D)

Day 6 – northwest Tunisia, including Bulla Regia

This morning you check out of your Tunis area hotel and begin exploring regions of northwestern Tunisia, a region that was the “bread-basket” of the Roman Empire and thus, a region filled with archaeological sites. Today’s ride will take you through beautiful rural scenery, where the spring wildflowers are in bloom. Your first stop is Testour, which like Sidi Bou Said, was settled by immigrants from Andalusia. Your visit here will be brief, but one particular site serves as a testament to the relations between Jews and Muslims who settled here and shared the common fate of expulsion from Spain. Lunch will be on a farm in Medjez river valley.

Following lunch, you continue northwest to the site of Bulla Regia. The architecture of Bulla Regia was clearly designed with the need to find an escape from the heat of the region during the summer months. The underground architecture allowed for cool surroundings, even in the most depth of the summer heat. The result of the underground architecture is the wonderful preservation of mosaics in-situ.

From Bulla Regia, you depart into a more mountainous area of Tunisia, where you will be based for the night. Dinner and overnight in northwest Tunisia. (B, L, D)

Day 7 - Dougga

This morning you depart your northwest base and enjoy a drive taking you through scenic country roads, eventually arriving to Dougga, Tunisia’s most expansive site. Covering some sixty acres, Dougga was known as the city of temples and its existence is thought to date back to the 4th century B.C. Beautifully preserved and in a picturesque setting, your visit at the site will certainly last two hours.

From Dougga, you drive east towards the region of Zaghouan, the mountain of which, provided a water source which traveled by a Roman acqueduct all the way to Carthage. Late day arrival at your base, the seaside resort town of Sousse. Dinner and overnight at your hotel. (B, L, D)

Day 8 – Kairouan and El Jem

This morning you drive approximately one hour west to the city of Kairouan. Kairouan is today, a rather provincial town. The city was founded and subsequently developed during early Islamic times. Kairouan’s “Great Mosque” s foundation dates from -the 7th century and is reputed to be the oldest mosque in Africa. Kairouan’s location along the caravan routes also provided a base for a flourishing crafts industry. The region still provides the base for much of Tunisia's craft industry, particularly rugs and textiles.

After your morning tour of Kairouan, you drive southeast for approximately one hour to El Jem. Known in Roman times as Thysdrus and noted for its amphitheater, which is similar to the coliseum of Rome, you will have a tour through the amphitheater, as well as a visit to the very impressive mosaic collection at the El Jem Museum. From El Jem, you turn towards the coast and drive to the seaside city of Sousse, Tunisia’s third largest city. Dinner and overnight in Sousse. (B, L, D)

Day 9 – Sousse/Monastir /Sfax

Your day begins with a drive into the historic heart of Sousse, where you visit the Great Mosque of Sousse, which dates to the 9th century. You will have time for a leisurely walk through the medina, before visiting the newly renovated Sousse Museum, with its collection of mosaics from the region.

From Sousse, you head south along the coast, stopping in Monastir, the birthplace of Habib Bourguiba, the leader of Tunisia’s independence movement and first president.

Continue from Monastir south through the Sahel, a region where the transition to dry, more parched southern terrain provides the source for Tunisia’s largest olive growing region. Lunch will be en route with an afternoon arrival in Sfax.

Sfax is Tunisia’s second largest city and an industrial city known for its hardworking people. The medina of Sfax is the country’s only walled city remaining with its original walls. You will have an opportunity to walk through the medina, which is a medina catering to locals, as opposed to tourists. The character and architectural authenticity were the attraction to the choice of using the Sfax medina for filming of the “Egyptian market scenes” during the movie, The English Patient. Dinner and overnight in Sfax. (B, L, D)

Day 10 - Matmata and Jerba island

This morning, you go south from Sfax, eventually into the semi-arid desert region of Matmata. This region's crater like topography is dotted with troglodyte dwellings. Its exotic settings provided one of the film locations for the movie, Star Wars. You will have an opportunity to explore some of these dwellings and the region, as well as have lunch in a troglodyte home.

You depart in the late afternoon, heading east to the coast, for the ferry crossing to the island of Jerba. You arrive at your seaside resort hotel around dinner time. Overnight in Jerba. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Jerba island

Morning tour of the island (sometimes spelled: Djerba), which was a port of call to the Phoenicians and a port where Ulysses and his men were detained on their return from Troy. Jerba's island location has always provided its people a simple and peaceful lifestyle, which continues today. Jerba is also the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.

You will visit the Ghriba synagogue (avoid Saturdays…) and learn about this ancient community, as well as visiting the picturesque village of Guellela, known for its pottery production. The afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy the easy going pace of the island. You may choose to spend time exploring the souks (markets) and having a leisurely lunch on your own, at one of the towns many seafood restaurants and one of the best places in Tunisia to shop for crafts, silver, rugs and other items. For those who prefer to end their trip being pampered, your seaside hotel has wonderful spa facilities, which are best reserved in advance! Dinner and overnight in Jerba. (B, D)

Day 12 – Tunis

This morning, you have a flight back to Tunis. Upon arrival back in Tunis, you will be transferred to your hotel, which is in the heart of the city and a short walk to Tunis’s historic heart, the medina. You will have a walking tour of the historic points within the medina, as well as seeing some of the architectural renovations that are taking place. You will also have time to wander, if you wish, amidst the alleyways of shops that wind throughout the medina. You will have time to independently explore the medina and the nearby streets of “ville nouvelle”, the adjacent quarters of Tunis that were developed during the French period and whose architecture is reflects the French influence. Should you wish to have lunch within the medina, there are several excellent restaurants, at all different levels that are within the medina, as well as within a short walk of your hotel. Additional meetings may be scheduled today in Tunis. Farewell dinner tonight in the kasbah, in a very special setting. Overnight in Tunis. (B, D)

Day 13 – departure from Tunis

Airport transfers to be arranged from the hotel to the airport. (B)

to Algeria
March 16 – March 21, 2014


Algiers: El Djezair
In a green, leafy, residential area of Algiers, the hotel is known to most as The St. George, the name it held throughout history, where it has served as the base for celebrities, notables and for General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II. Spacious and attractive rooms with an outside terrace that makes taking tea, coffee or a drink outside a visual treat. One of the only hotels in Algeria that provides service and character that can be deserving of its “deluxe” category. S till often referred to by its pre-independence name…the Saint George, this hotel is filled with the history of 19th and 20th century Algeria. General Dwight Eisenhower made the Saint George his base in Algiers for nearly a year. Photos about of celebrities who stayed or visited the Saint George. Situated within a leafy green district in the hills of Algiers, the hotel is one of the few Algerian hotels with both history, character and approaching deluxe standards. Wonderful settings amidst the gardens for having a drink, as well as a beautiful pool, plus, a fitness center and multiple restaurants. A rare find in Algeria!

Batna: Hotel Salem or similar 3-star
As with the few hotels in Batna, Hotel Salem is simple, clean and relatively unadorned. The main purpose of any of the hotels in Batna is their proximity to the antiquity sites. Batna is a “dry town”, thus…no alcoholic drinks with meals. No website, but on Facebook.

Constantine: Hotel Novotel or Hotel Ibis 4-star to 3-star
In a city and a country with a shortage of modern hotels, the Novotel and its sister hotel, Ibis, are a welcome introduction of modernity and higher standards. Located in the heart of Constantine, the hotel is a business style hotel, with spacious rooms, wi-fi, a bar, restaurant and fitness facilities. Predictable as a French hotel chain, but for one night, the best of Constantine. One does not come to Constantine for the hotels!

• NOTE: Hotel star ratings are based on ratings decided by the Ministry of Tourism in Algeria. In our objective opinion, deduct at least one star in comparing international standards. In general, tourism infrastructure standards in Algeria are not high, as tourism has not been an industry of priority in Algeria. The lack of tourism in Algeria is one of the major attributes for those who visit Algeria!


Depart US on Sunday with change in Paris Monday morning

PRE-TOUR EXTENSION ~ Day 2 Arrival in Algiers (Monday)

Upon your arrival in Algiers, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in central Algiers, overlooking the port. After having a bit of time to refresh yourself, you touring begins with the rest of the day devoted to an orientation of Algiers, the capital of Algeria. A truly Mediterranean city with building after building reflecting the strong French legacy from 1830 to 1962. You tour will include walking among the streets to see various architectural gems from French Art-Deco such as the 17th century J’amaa el Djedid, or “the New Mosque”, which dates to the 17th century, and the Place des Martyrs and Place Emir Abdelkader, the last two both representing the sacrifices in Algeria’s independence from France. Dinner and overnight in a local restaurant. Overnight in Algiers. (D)

PRE-TOUR EXTENSION ~ Day 3 Chercell and Tipasi (Tuesday)

Today’s touring takes you west of Algiers, some 100km. You visit the town of Chercell, where Roman remains were discovered in the heart of the town, resulting in a halt to any further commercial progress in order to pursuit excavation of the site. Time will be allowed to visit Cherchell’s two, relatively small archaeological museums.

From Cherchell, you drive approximately one and a quarter hours to Tipasa, a UNESCO World Heritage site with Roman architectural remains of an amphitheater, the forum, a 4th century basilica and a museum, with beautiful views of the Mediterranean. From Tipasi, we return to Algiers, approximately one and half hours’ drive. Dinner and overnight in Algiers. (B, L, D)

PRE-TOUR EXTENSION ~ Day 4 Laembasis and Batna (Wednesday)

This morning you have a flight to Batna, arriving 11AM.

From Batna airport, you drive through Algerian countryside to the Roman garrison town of Lambaesis. Dinner and overnight in Batna. (B, L, D)

PRE-TOUR EXTENSION ~ Day 5 Timgad and Djemila (Thursday)

Following breakfast, you check out of your hotel for a drive to Timgad, approximately forty-five minutes from your hotel. Timgad is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with one of the best examples of the Roman city grid plan.

Founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan around 100AD, highlights of Timgad include the library, the colonnaded of Timgad (huge library, colonnaded streets, temples, amphitheatre, arch of Trajan, basilica). The city was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD and subsequently occupied by the Byzantines in the first half of the 6th century, AD.

From Timgad, we drive approximately one and half hours to Djemila, a UNESCO World Heritage site, known in earlier times as Cuicul. Djemila was established as a Roman colony during the reign of Nerva, between 96 – 98 AD. Located on a mountain, which brings its own constraints in construction, your visit will include: the forum, temples, basilicas, triumphal arches, superb mosaic museum followed by Béni Fouda (on ancient border of Numidia and Mauritania, time permitting.)

Following Djemila, we drive less than one hour to Setif, where we board a flight back to Algiers. Your “Farewell Dinner” will be in a nice setting. Overnight in Algiers. (B, L, D)

PRE-TOUR EXTENSION ~ Day 6 Algiers departure (Friday)

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight from Algiers to Tunis. (B)

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Cost and program Inclusions

Main tour$3,995 per person,
based on double occupancy
(land only)
Single Supplement$650
Algeria Pre-Tour Extension$2,499
Single Supplement$650
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Faculty Study Leader

Pamela Webb M.A. ’83; Ph.D. ’89

Pamela Webb is an alumna of Bryn Mawr College (M.A. ’83; Ph.D. ’89) and a past Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology (2004-2008). Dr. Webb specializes in Greek architecture and sculpture, with an emphasis on the Hellenistic period. She is the author of Hellenistic Architectural Sculpture (Volume I), which covers numerous sites in Turkey and the Aegean islands. Her current research for Volume II (supported by fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Philosophical Association) focuses on Hellenistic remains from sites in mainland Greece, Italy, North Africa, and the Middle East.

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Tunis-Gammarth: Golden Tulip 5-star
Located in the northern suburbs of Tunis, near the seacoast and less than ten minutes from Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and La Marsa and some 20 minutes from the heart of the city, the Golden Tulip is a deluxe hotel with beautiful interiors, spacious rooms, several restaurants. A very nice spa and fitness club is architecturally very attractive. The Golden Tulip is near the ocean and many nice suburban dining areas, on a hill overlooking the sea, five minutes from the ocean. The hotel also has an excellent fitness center on site, as well as two outdoor swimming pools. Service is nice, but not worthy of being classified as 5-star service.

Sousse: Movenpick Resort and Thalasso 5-star
Opened in Sousse in 2010, the Movenpick in Sousse promises to be a welcome addition to the area and the first deluxe hotel to open in the heart of the city for many years. In addition to spacious rooms and known for a high standard of service, the hotel has outstanding spa facilities, multiple restaurant s and beautiful interiors, both in common areas and within the rooms themselves. Despite the 5* rating, the service has not reached 5* justification…but they are trying!

Sfax: Les Oliviers Palace 5-star
After so many years of having a void of quality hotels in Sfax, the end of 2005 brought the opening of this new hotel, owned and managed by the same firm that successfully operates Le Kasbah in Kairouan and Mehari Douz in Douz.

Jerba: Radisson Blu 5-star
Opened in 2006, the RadissonBlu brings another option for those wanting a deluxe hotel in Tunisia. With wireless Internet, spa facilities, spacious rooms, beautiful lobby areas and numerous dining options along the seashore, the Radisson Blu is a welcome addition to the island of Jerba. In our opinion, Radissson Blu is among the best run hotels in Tunisia… one of the few 5 star hotels that truly provides 5* service. (Not to be confused with the Radissons of the U.S.!)

Tunis: The Palace Golden Yasmin Hotel de charme
Opened only a few years, this beautifully designed boutique hotel is in the heart of Tunis, on Avenue Bouguiba, the main street in Tunis and just steps away from the medina, restaurants and the beat of the city. The entrance and reception floor is reminiscent of old world charm. Rooms are beautifully designed with very nice interiors. Wi-fi available in rooms.

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Political Situation

Tunisia’s Revolution of January 2011 was a result of the despair felt by people in areas of the country that had been economically neglected by the twenty-three year role of the autocratic president, Zinebeddine Ben Ali, the rampant corruption of his regime and family members and the frustration that so many Tunisians were feeling with these issues and their inability to speak freely about them.

Seemingly without warning, following demonstrations which begin in December 2010 and grew at a rapid pace, President Ben Ali simply departed the country, starting the path to Tunisia’s democratization. At the same time, other countries in the Middle East and North Africa were inspired by what took place in Tunisia and within weeks, similar revolutions began in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere.

Now, nearly three years later, what seemed like hopeful opportunities for these countries, has in many cases, turned to violent and deadly internal struggles or to military coups, as we are now seeing in Egypt.

The one exception to this path towards democratization has been Tunisia. While the Revolution and the many changes it is bringing are far from a state that the young revolutionaries and so many Tunisians had hoped for back in January 2011, newfound freedoms and roots of the democratic process are very much taking place. While the political road is still filled with many ups and downs and the political squabbles and stagnancy that may seem reminiscent to many of the US Congress’s debates on budgets, healthcare, gun control and more, Tunisians are learning that change does not come overnight after decades of dictatorship.

Tunisians are an educated society and a country that while overwhelmingly Muslim in population, is one where the majority of Tunisians tend to look West and see their practice of religion as a private matter. Schools operate, ministries function, electricity, water and utility services continue and with minor exceptions, violence and sectarian divides that plague the other so-called “Arab Spring” countries has been absent from Tunisia.

Visitors to Tunisia constantly comment that the fears that people have of the region in general, are unfounded to the millions of tourists who are still coming to Tunisia. While demonstrations may be a daily occurrence in the capital of Tunis and other places, these remain confined to the neighborhoods which house government offices and have remained peaceful.

Tunisia has always led a path that has set the country and its people on a different path than the rest of the Arab and Muslim world and fortunately, this distinction continues as part of Tunisia’s road to democratization and newfound freedoms.

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