The Bardo Museum in Tunis

Today we went to the Bardo Museum. We have figured out that Tunisians seem to have a map aversion. No one likes to show you where things are on the map. Nor have we been able to find a precise map. So, last night, after dinner Ramses drove miles and miles out of his way to take us to the Bardo Museum so that we knew exactly where it was and would be able to find it today. Talk about nice.

On the way to the museum, in Tunis, traffic was interrupted by a herd of goats crossing the street in town. We were amused.

The museum is housed in an old palace. The palace is beautiful. The ground floor has a few remains from the Phoenician era of Carthage days. They were mostly clay sculptures of assorted gods they worshipped. In addition to the full figurines, there were lots of little masks with incredibly expressive faces. One of the gods was named Baal and the Phoenicians actually sacrificed new born babies to him. Little is really know about the why or frequency of the practice, and there was a display on different theories.

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The vast majority of the museum is devoted to Roman mosaics. These mosaics are mostly floors from the homes of the wealthy. They are intricate and many are absolutely enormous, like two stories tall and so wide they take up two giant walls. By this point we have seen a lot of Roman ruins, most of which contain impressive mosaics, and we were nonetheless bowled over by the mosaics on exhibit here. They are truly incredible. We can’t imagine how much time and energy must have gone into making each one. There are also a few other artifacts, as well, including some statues, sarcophagi, jewelry, and tools.

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There is also a section of the palace with Arab era artifacts. This display is eclectic, featuring everything from clothing, to household items like cookware, to tools, and so forth. There was also a tile art exhibit. The Romans used small, plain colored pieces of tile for their mosaics, but the Arabs actually took a wall of plain tiles and painted them with beautiful paintings.

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There was also a small underwater archeology exhibit of treasures recovered from sunken ships in the area that was interesting. There were a lot of metal goods, which you don’t see a lot of. There was even a whole bedroom set on display, including bed, mirror, candelabra, wash basin, etc.

The building was almost as interesting as the exhibits. Each room is decorated in a completely different style. There is an area with brick and arched ceilings that looks very Roman. Other rooms are decorated with more of a 1700’s western look to them, with fancy ceilings, pillars, and carved trim on the wall. Many of the rooms are decorated in the Arab style, which is busy and fancy. Here are a couple examples of the Arab rooms.

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Unfortunately, the signs were in French and Arabic, so we didn’t get that much information out of the museum, but it was still an enjoyable museum with all the beautiful exhibits. After the museum, we headed back to Yasmine Hammamamet. We had gotten off to a late start today, and we knew it wouldn’t be long before everything closed, so we figured we may as well go back.

On the way back, we noticed some people dressed in more traditional Arabic attire. In one village we saw three women walking together all wearing the big robes with fully covered head and faces, except their outfits were white instead of black. In another village we saw one man in Omani dress attire, the white robe and knit cap. In a different village we saw a man in the pajama-like outfit. So there are a few people that still follow the traditional dress customs.

Oh, and we haven’t done any reporting on fruit lately. We had seen these in Greece and Turkey and didn’t know what they were. It turns out they are peaches, just flat. They taste the same as a regular round peach.

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