Zaghouan is a small city that’s off the beaten path for most Tunisia tours. Recently I was pleasantly surprised by my visit to the city that sits at the foot of Djebel Zaghouan, just 60 km south of Tunis. Being a small city without a large selection of hotels, most guidebooks don’t give it much space. However, Zaghouan’s beautiful nature, profound sense of history, and unique blend of cultures amazed and inspired me. I was also reminded that although Tunisia is a small country, there are always new gems to discover here.
Zaghouan’s Ancient History
During my visit, I learned that the Romans built up Zaghouan because of the abundance of natural mountain springs. The famous Emperor Hadrian built an impressive 130 km aqueduct to transport the mountain’s fresh water to Carthage. Remains of the aqueduct still stand in parts of the countryside. The ruins of the “Water Temple” are equally impressive at the foot of Djebel Zaghouan. The aqueduct originated here, and the temple was dedicated to the springs that flowed to mighty Carthage.
Hiking in Djebel Zaghouan
After visiting the historical sites, I began a hike with my friends up one of the many trails in Djebel Zaghouan. Besides giving us a beautiful view of the surrounding plains, our hike was also a lesson in various Mediterranean plants. Our knowledgeable guide pointed out natural growing thyme, rosemary, carob trees, and wild olive trees (among others). The hike took about 4 hours, including stops, but you can choose to go a shorter or longer distance.
Interesting local culture also abounded during my visit to Zaghouan. We had a picnic lunch near one of the many marabouts, pointing to the Berber origins of the region.
Zaghouan’s Unique Blend of Cultures
After our hike, we took a stroll through Zaghouan’s charming old quarter. The narrow streets and the architecture testify to the Andalucian influence on the city. The streets are full of little shops selling kaak warqa, a small round cake made of almond paste and rosewater. Although kaak warqas are made throughout the country, Zaghouan is so famous for them that many Tunisians make special trips here to stock up on them for special occasions.
Although Zaghouan is a small city, it has something for every traveler – the nature enthusiast, the history buff, and those looking to discover the local culture. Personally, I love combining all 3, and Zaghouan is a great stop on your Tunisia itinerary to do that!
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