Sousse, Tunisia – December 2013

Sousse, Tunisia - December 2013

Sousse (Arabic: سوسة Sūsa‎, Berber: Susa) is a city in Tunisia, capital of the Sousse Governorate. Located 140 kilometres (87 miles) south of the capital Tunis, the city has 173,047 inhabitants (2004). Sousse is in the central-east of the country, on the Gulf of Hammamet, which is a part of the Mediterranean Sea. The name may be of Berber origin: similar names are found in Libya and in the south of Morocco (Bilād al-Sūs). Its economy is based on transport equipment, processed food, olive oil, textiles and tourism. It is home to the Université de Sousse.


Roman and Vandal eras

The city allied itself with Rome during the Punic Wars, thereby escaping damage or ruin and entered a relatively peaceful 700-year period under the Pax Romana. Livy wrote that Hadrumetum was the landing place of the Roman army under Scipio Africanus in the second Punic War. Roman usurper Clodius Albinus was born in Hadrumetum.

As part of Bonifacius’s revolt against Constantinople, the Vandals were invited in and they took Hadrumetum in 434 AD and renamed the town Hunerikopolis. During the Vandalic War Justinian retook the town in 534 and restored its Roman name.

Arab conquest

In the 7th century AD Arab-Islamic armies conquered what is now Tunisia and rapidly spread Arab culture across what had been a thoroughly Romanized and Christianized landscape. The Arabs seized the city, which in the aftermath of Rome’s fall was but a remnant of its former self.[1] They renamed the city Sûsa and within a few decades elevated it to the status of the main seaport of the Aghlabid Dynasty. When the Aghlabids invaded Sicily in 827, Sûsa was their main staging ground.

European pushback

In the centuries that followed, as Europe gained technological ascendancy and began pushing back at Islam, Sûsa was briefly occupied by the Normans in the 12th century, was later more thoroughly occupied by the Spanish, and in the 18th century was the target of bombardments by the Venetians and the French. The French called the city Sousse.


Despite the turmoil around it, Sousse’s character had retained the solidly Arabian look and feel it had assumed in the centuries after Islam’s wars of conquest. Today it is considered one of the best examples of seaward-facing fortifications built by the Arabs. Its ribat, a soaring structure that combined the purposes of a minaret and a watch tower, is in outstanding condition and draws visitors from around the world.

Sousse was the site of Chess interzonal in 1967 which was made famous when American Grandmaster Bobby Fischer withdrew from the tournament even though he was in first place at the time.[2]

These days, Sousse, with a population of about 200,000, retains a medieval heart of narrow, twisted streets, a kasbah and medina, its ribat fortress and long wall on the Mediterranean. Surrounding it is a modern city of long, straight roads and more widely spaced buildings.

Historical names

Through history Sousse has come under the rule of 5 major cultures. Each of those cultures gave a new or modified name to the town. Each of those names may appear in various forms. From oldest to newest some of these names and forms of spelling/transliteration are:
Hadrumetum[3] OR Hadrumete[1] (Punic)
Colonia Concordia Ulpia Trajana Augusta Frugifera Hadrumetina OR Hadrumetum[1] OR Hadrumentum (Roman)
Hunericopolis[1] OR Hunerikopolis (Vandal)
Justiniana[1] OR Justinianopolis[1] OR Iustinianopolis[3] (Byzantine)
Susa (Berber), Sūsa (Arabic), Sousa OR Sousse (French)

As the following reference shows, the above list represents only a fraction of the spellings and transliterations of the names for Sousse which were known in 1903[4] (PDF page 366).


According to an ICOMOS report[1] from 1987, the siege and capture of Sousse at the end of the 7th century, by Oqba Ibn Nafîi, resulted in the total destruction of the city that incorporated the heritage of the previous thousand years of Punic, Roman and Byzantine history. The report states that no monument from this period "subsists in situ".

The official Tunisian body for matters of heritage and archaeology is the Institut National du Patrimoine Tunisie / National Heritage Institute (INP).[5] That body maintains a project known as the Carte Nationale des Sites Archéologiques et des Monuments Historiques.[6] Although it is to be expected that a city as important as Sousse would be covered by such a project, that is not in fact the case. The project divides the country up into rectangles according to the 1:50000 mapping sheets.[7] On that basis the town of Sousse falls on the 1:50000 sheet: ‘Sousse 57’ and, as such, should be covered in the project by a similarly numbered web page and PDF document. However, neither this web page nor the document exist because they, like those for a number of other sheets, have not yet been produced. The web page and document for the neighbouring sheet 50 (variously referred to as ‘050 Halk el Mejjel’, ‘HALK EL MEJEL 050’, and ‘Halk el Mennzel 50’), give an idea of what the Sousse data would look like: web page and PDF document.

Further historical and archaeological documents on Sousse are available at the Italian site DOCARTIS: decrees[8] ([9][10][11][12]); aerial photograph;[13] map.[14]

Roman circus

A PDF file[4] (in French), available from the site of the Institut National du Patrimoine Tunisie / National Heritage Institute (INP), containing over 400 pages from various reports and papers produced by the SOCIÉTÉ ARCHÉOLOGIQUE DE SOUSSE around 1903, contains some 10 references to the word cirque in the context of Sousse. This document makes absolutely clear that in 1903 the Roman circus of Sousse was considered the only public monument of Sousse whose location was known[4] (PDF page 204).

From the discussion in this file, and from an aerial photograph[13] it would appear certain that the Roman circus of Sousse was located, with a north-south orientation, about 1 km (0.6 mi) north-west of the walls of the medina at a location[15] which, today, is partially occupied by a sports ground.


Sousse is the third largest city of the country after Tunis and Sfax.

Although Sousse is associated with olive oil manufacture and has other industries, tourism predominates today. An olive grove stretching over more than 2,500 square kilometres (965 sq mi), constitutes one of its main riches since Antiquity. A busy port, open to the town centre and adds a touch of liveliness to its activity.


Sousse is an important tourist resort. Hotel complexes with a capacity of 40,000 beds extend 20 km (12 mi) from the old city (Medina) north along the seafront to Port El Kantaoui.

It is only 20 km (12 mi) from the international airport of Monastir. The fine sandy beaches are backed by orchards and olive groves. It has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and warm, mild wet winters. The seaside location moderates the climate, making it an all-season resort.

Some 1,200,000 visitors come every year to enjoy its hotels and restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, beaches and sports facilities.


iii, iv, v


UNESCO region
Arab States

Inscription history

1988 (12th Session)


A Medina, surrounded by its city walls and fortifications, is of historical interest. The Medina includes open and covered bazaars (souks). Buildings of historical interest include the ribat castle, the central mosque, and a historical museum in the Casbah with mosaics from the area’s many Roman villas. The Carthaginian catacombs can be visited.

UNESCO declared the medina of Sousse a World Heritage Site in 1988, citing among other things its preservation from modern development.


Population: 220,000 inhabitants (2003 estimate)

Altitude: 2 m

Number of hospitals: (private and public) 15


Humidity: 69%

Average Temperatures: (mean temperatures from May to August for the last 30 years) Min: 19.7 °C

Max: 29.1 °C

Average: 24.4 °C

Rainfall average: May: 19.3 mm June: 4 mm

July: 1.7 mm

August: 10.3 mm

Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as hot semi-arid (BSh)[16] bordering with hot-summer Mediterranean (Csa).

The highest recorded temperature was 48 °C (118 °F) on August 28, 2007, while the lowest recorded temperature was 0 °C (32 °F) on December 27, 1993.

Notable people

Primasius of Hadrumetum, Roman bishop and exegete, noted for his Commentary on the Apocalypse
Mohamed Ghannouchi, Prime Minister of Tunisia from 1999 to 2011 and self-proclaimed President of Tunisia
Hamadi Jebali, Secretary-General of the Ennahda Movement.
Dov Alfon, Israeli writer and editor, editor in chief of Haaretz Newspaper

In films

Sousse’s old city has apects that made it ideal as a film location. Most famous is Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), where Sousse represents Cairo. It is noteworthy that the styles of Sousse, white-washed houses with blue details, bear no resemblance to the actual architecture of Cairo.

Twin towns – Sister cities

Sousse is twinned with:

Turkey Kocaeli, Turkey

Algeria Constantine, Algeria

Germany Braunschweig, Germany[19]

Slovenia Ljubljana, Slovenia[20]

Morocco Marrakech, Morocco

United States Miami, United States

United States Van Nuys, United States

Canada Quebec City, Canada

Turkey İzmir, Turkey

Syria Latakia, Syria

Russia Saint Petersburg, Russia

Russia Serpukhov region, Russia

Posted by SaffyH on 2014-04-01 13:15:21


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