Sousse is one of the best resorts in Tunisia, the third largest city in the country. It is located on the northeastern coast of Africa and is washed by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean, where Phoenician, ancient, early Christian and Islamic cultures are closely intertwined.
People come to Sousse to have a family holiday, spend time together with a partner or hang out with friends in big companies — everyone feels comfortable. There is a developed tourist infrastructure, a mild climate, beautiful sandy beaches and a rich history. There is a lot to do and see in the city.
History of Sousse
The exact time of the foundation of the ancient city on the site of modern Sousse is unknown. There is a version that it is older than Carthage by as much as 900 years. The city was called Hadrim, which can be translated from Phoenician as «strong». Hadrim was indeed rich and became the most important Phoenician port in North Africa.
With the foundation of Carthage (IX century BC) and its growth, Hadrim became a part of a new state. But during the Punic wars (III – II centuries BC), Hadrim eventually took the side of Rome, which led to the fall of Carthage, while the city gained independence and the status of a «friend of the Roman people».
In Roman times, the city became known as Hadrumet. The Romans contributed to the economic development of the city, built up and improved it. During the time of Emperor Trajan, it received the status of an honorary colony, an amphitheater, baths, a triumphal arch, temples were rebuilt here, fragments of ancient mosaics and many funerary steles have been preserved from that time. And in the time of Emperor Severus, they even minted their own coin in Hadrumet.
At the beginning of the new era, the city suffered an unhappy fate, as it was destroyed several times. For some time it belonged to the Byzantine Empire and was called Justinianopolis. Catacombs with burials have been preserved in the city from the early Christian period. And in the VII century, the Arabs captured the city and called it Sousse. One of the first ribats in Africa was built here, and it’s still on the same place. The city continued to play a significant role in the economic life of the country, remaining a large and important port.
Weather in Sousse
Sousse is sometimes called the «pearl of Sahel». Sahel is an area on the threshold of the Sahara with special climatic and geographical conditions. It covers Sousse, Monastir and Mahdia. The Sahel stretches for 140 km along the coast, most of the area is occupied by olive groves, so Sousse has been the main supplier of oils and olives since Roman times.
Sousse is located between two airports: 20 km away from Monastir and 50 km away from Enfidha, so it takes no longer than one hour to get to the resort.
The city is conveniently located close to many significant attractions: El Jem, Friguia Park, Kairouan. The city itself is rich in entertainment and historical monuments.
Sousse consists of the Old City — the Medina with ancient monuments, the central part where the locals live, and the northern tourist part. 10 km away from the city there is the port of El Kantaoui — a modern area where wealthy Tunisians settle and many hotels are located.
The most important historical sights of the city are located in the Old City, which is called Medina in Arabic.
The Medina is surrounded by 2.5 km long fortress walls. They were built in the IX century, but they are perfectly preserved, although only 2 of the 8 gates leading to the city remain. Narrow ancient streets, thick ancient walls, an Arab market immerse you in the atmosphere of the East. There are many interesting monuments in the Medina, and the old city itself is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There are several important places in the Medina:
- Ribat is a fortress in the old city, built in the VIII century to protect it from the Byzantines. This is one of the first and oldest fortresses in the country. Warrior monks, the so-called mirabituns, lived and served here. After the construction of the walls of the Medina, Ribat lost the importance of a military fortress, turning into a monastery and a place of pilgrimage. Today you can look at the monks’ cells and climb the Ribat Tower, which offers a beautiful panoramic view of Sousse and the port.
- The Archaeological Museum in the Kasbah Fortress is not a collection of boring antiquities, but a wonderful collection of antique mosaics, the second largest in the country. In addition to looking at the ancient artefacts, you can take a walk in the fortress itself, along its walls and bastions, and climb the tower.
- The grand Mosque next to the Ribat fortress dates back to the IX century and, in addition to religious, once performed a defensive function. This is the reason why it features such unusual appearance, typical of mosques of the early era. Tourists can get into the courtyard, then the entrance is only for Muslims.
- The El Kobba Museum is one of the oldest hotels in Tunisia. Merchants and pilgrims to Mecca stopped here. The museum recreates the life of Tunisians in the old days: mannequins depict the cooking of couscous, preparation for a wedding, merchants, officials, weaving yarn.
- The Dar Essid Museum recreates the house of a wealthy Tunisian official. Furniture, decor and household items of Tunisians of the XVIII-XIX centuries are collected here.
The 3D Museum is a modern museum near the Medina, on 4 floors of which you can immerse yourself in the world of imagination: classic paintings, safari and jungle, the water world, the history of Tunisia. Visitors can become parts of three-dimensional paintings and take original photos. It will be especially interesting here with children.
The port of El Kantaoui is a modern, very interesting and beautiful place. This is an area built up in the 1980s specifically for tourists 10 km away from Sousse. In El Kantaoui there are a marina, a modern medina, entertainment parks, a market and many hotels along the coast. The architects tried to make the area’s architecture similar to an older building: there are narrow cobbled streets, arches, white and blue colors prevail as in famous Sidi Bou Said near the capital of Tunisia.
After the sunset in El Kantaoui you can see a beautiful action show with music and fountains with illuminated water soaring as high as 5 meters into the air.
Leisure does not end with sightseeing, so no wonder Sousse is so attractive to tourists of all ages from different countries. Young people can spend nights at parties and in bars, families can visit amusement parks, and fans of non-banal recreation can dive into the depths of the sea, play golf or improve their health. And, of course, an enjoyable beach holiday is available for everyone.
So, what else to do in Sousse?
This applies, first of all, to the port of El Kantaoui, where you can sail a stylized pirate ship and participate in a costumed performance or sail a catamaran with a transparent bottom. If you want, you can rent a yacht with a captain and sail along the coast.
Amusement parks and water parks
The amusement park called Hannibal Park is located in the port of El Kantaoui. In the daytime there are 25 rides for children of different ages, and at night a club opens its doors inviting everybody for foam parties.
And in Sousse itself, you can visit the AquaSplash Water Park — the largest water park in Tunisia, which is located at the Thalassa Sousse Resort & Aquapark hotel. Not only residents of the hotel can visit it, but everyone. There are 14 types of slides, including «black hole», «tsunami», rafting descent, free fall and many other entertainment for adults and children. Life hack: it is more profitable to buy tickets from tour operators, and not on the spot.
Golf is one of the main attractions of the port of El Kantaoui. Most part of the second coastline is allocated for fields. Sometimes hotels provide an opportunity to visit golf clubs.
Thalassotherapy and SPA
Several hotels in Sousse are equipped as modern thalassotherapy centers. It is better to go on such wellness vacation in autumn, when the heat subsides, or in winter or spring. In addition to thalasso, you can relax in SPA centers, which are noticeably different from those to which we are accustomed in cities. Here it is not only rest, but also wellness.
Sousse is a great place to try diving. There are no rocky shores and reefs, the dive sites are safe, you can observe the life of the underwater world.
Sousse is called the city that never sleeps, it has a lot of discos for locals and tourists. The largest clubs: two-storey Maracana, the largest outdoor disco in Africa Bora-Bora, Living Samara, Bananas in Cuban style, retro-club Vanilla Lounge. There are several casinos in Sousse: Caraibe, Casino Europe and Casino Veneziano.
By the way, alcohol in Tunisia can be found not only in bars, but also in retail stores.
There is a colorful Arab market in the Medina, where goods from local craftsmen are sold: pottery, fabrics, leather goods, earthenware, minted things, and jewelry. There is no need to be afraid of bargaining — they love it here and intentionally give astronomical prices at the begging. It is worth paying attention to olive oils, the region is famous for their production.
For those who do not like bargaining, there is a Soula Centre near the Medina — here are all popular souvenirs at fixed prices.
Also not far from the Old Town there is a 4-storey Perle Shopping Center with European boutiques, goods from North Africa, natural cosmetics shops. Other major shopping centers are: Mall of Sousse, Le Vicomte, Les Champs Elysees, 5th Avenue, Slim Centre
Tunisia is a country of festivals. More than 300 different events are held here every year. Some of them take place in Sousse.
Independence Day is celebrated in Sousse and throughout Tunisia on March 20. In 1957, President Habib Bourguiba proclaimed the Tunisian Republic. In Sousse, military parades and colorful processions take place on the avenue named after the president (Avenue Habib Bourguiba). Tunisians gather in families and spend this day together.
On July 25, Republic Day is celebrated, bright processions move along the streets in Sousse, local artists make musical and dance shows. In August, Sousse hosts the Aoussou Summer Festival (International Festival of Sousse), when a colorful carnival procession with songs and dances performed by participants from 30 countries go along the central street of the city.
All hotels in Sousse are located along the coast, so they have a direct access to the sea. The cleanest beaches are situated in El Kantaoui, because it is a tourist and modern recreation area. The beaches are wider here, have a slope entrance into the water and are covered with clean, light and fine sand.
Almost all beaches have showers, toilets, changing rooms. You can ride jet skis, bananas, bagels, water skis and catamarans, go windsurfing, rent fins or sunbeds with umbrellas. In general, all standard beach activities are available.
On Sousse beaches you can greet the dawn, as they face the east, so the sun rises directly beyond the sea horizon.
Information for Tourists
Sousse is an important transport hub in Tunisia. From here, you can travel by train to the large neighboring cities of Monastir and Mahdia and even to the capital.
In the city itself, you can travel by buses, minibuses or taxis. Take into account that from 20:00 to 7:00 the taxi fare will double. Adventure lovers can take a ride on a tuk-tuk, a scooter with a canopy that can accommodate 4-6 people. But there can be a lot of problems with transport, as well as with renting a car: the traffic laws are obeyed here from time to time.
For more information about transport, see here:
During the hottest period, from 12:00 to 15:00, shops can be closed as in Sousse, as in nearby resorts. There is also a special schedule at public places in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. It is better to find out the time of its beginning in advance.