Dougga, a Unesco Heritage Site is one of the most monumental ruins in North Africa. It is a Berber, Punic, and Roman settlement that was also used by the Muslims. Dougga is the best-preserved Roman small town in North Africa. Dougga’s Capitol is picturesque and mighty, and it is the first thing that strikes your eyes when driving up to the site. The original name of the settlement was TBGG the Nubian name for “to protect”. Then borrowed in Latin, the name became Thugga. Dougga is a french translation of this name. Even though it is a settlement of one of the most important early human civilizations, it only receives around 50,000 tourists a year.
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How to get to Dougga
Dougga is located in Téboursouk, in the north of Tunisia. It is about a two-hour drive from Tunis. The best way to get there is through a rented car or a hired driver.
When to Visit Dougga
The best time to visit Dougga is in the fall or spring. The actual site is located inland, so during the summer months, it gets very hot.
Where to eat
Dar Jdoud Dougga
There is a good restaurant located about five minutes from the site that serves traditional dishes from the region of Téboursouk. The restaurant actually overlooks the site. It is best to eat lunch before or after your visit.
The Layout of Dougga
The actual site is extensive and there is moderate walking involved. It takes about 3 hours to complete. There are several buildings you can expect to see during your time there. Most of the site that remains today is from the Roman era dating back from the 2nd to 3rd century.
Most Notable Buildings
Dougga is an extensive site with various ruins. If you are tight on time or get tired, make sure to see the sites mentioned below during your visit.
The Capitol is believed to be completed between 166-167 AD. It is preserved exceptionally well thanks to a byzantine fortification around it. Climb up the eleven grand steps to reach the top. The columns that support the well-preserved pediment are eight meters high. Emperor Antoninus the Pious is carried by an eagle on the pediment. Right next to the Capitol is the “Square of the Roses of the Wind”. This square bears its name for the compass engraved on the floor of the square.
This is a well-preserved theater where the actual stage and columns are still in good condition. Emperor Augustus built the Theater around AD 168. It could seat up to 3,500 spectators. The city of Dougga’s population at the time was only 5,000. Marcius Quadratus commissioned the Theater. There is a pediment on the stage with his name. The theater is still used today for live performances during the summer International Festival of Dougga.
The market of Dougga dates back to the 1st century. Shops surround the market on both of its sides.
Temple of Juno Caelestis
The temple was built between AD 222 and 235 in dedication to Heavenly Juno, the successor of the Punic God Tanit. It was excavated in 1890 and restored in 1904. It is located on the outskirts of the city.
Alexander Severus Arch
There are three arches on the site of Dougga. One arch is is completely lost, the second still partially stands, while the third, Alexander Severus’s arch is well preserved. This arch was built around 222 and is at equal distances from Capitol and the Temple of Juno Caelestis.
Three baths have been completely excavated in Dougga, and a fourth bath has yet to be finished. Among these baths, one bath is believed to belong to a private residence. The other baths served the public.
Aïn Doura Bath
Aïn Doura Baths are the largest baths in Dougga. These baths are only partially excavated.
Antonian or Licinian Bath
These baths date back to the 3rd century. Their name comes from Emperor Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus. They served as public baths. The baths were several stories and have a magnificent view overlooking the capitol.
Dougga offers a unique perspective on early civilization. The atmosphere is very peaceful. There is plenty to see, make sure to leave a day scheduled for the visit. This guide is not an exhaustive list of the sites to see during your visit. You can also find plenty of artifacts from Dougga at the Bardo museum in Tunis.