Kasserine Tourist Attractions
Chief town of the governorate of KasserineSituation and characteristicsKasserine lies on the Oued el Habeb in the upland steppe country of central Tunisia, surrounded by the country's highest hill, Djebel Chambi (1,544m/5,066ft), to the northeast, Djebel Semmama (1,314m/4,311ft) to the northwest and Djebel Selloum (1,373m/4,505ft) to the southeast.
Thanks to its situation it is an important traffic junction and market town (market on Tuesdays); but it is now mainly an industrial center. In the largest industrial plant in central Tunisia, established in 1963, the esparto grass which grows in the surrounding steppe is used in the manufacture of cellulose and paper.HistoryThe town was founded by the Romans, probably in the second century A.D., under the name of Cellium, and in the third century was raised to the status of a colonia. With the fall of the Roman Empire it declined in importance, and until the colonial period remained no more than a small market center for the surrounding villages. The French built a railway station and settled European colons on the land.AccessKasserine lies on both GP 17, coming from Le Kef, and GP 3, coming from Kairouan; it is 120km/75mi south of Le Kef and 155km/96mi southwest of Kairouan.No rail connections (goods station only). Bus services to and from Gafsa, Kairouan, Le Kef, Sbeitla, Sfax, Thala and Maktar; bus station (Gare Routière) in town center.
Djebel Chambi, Tunisia's highest hill (1,544m/5,066ft), was declared a National Park in 1981. The hill is covered with dense forests of Aleppo pines, interrupted here and there by clearings overgrown with esparto grass, and is now again the habitat of species which had become rare - mountain gazelles, moufflons, hyenas, eagles, vultures and peregrine falcons. At the foot of the hill, in the middle of the forest, is the National Park information office, with a small natural history museum.AccessLeave Kasserine on GP 17, signposted to Thala, which in 5km/3mi turns northwest. In another 4km/2.5mi take a track on the left which runs south to the village of Chambi. This is negotiable by an all-terrain vehicle to a height of 1,300m/4,265ft, where there is a radio transmitter and the small lead mine of Kef. From here it is a 2-hour climb to the summit, which is crowned by a crescent; extensive panoramic views. For information about the condition of the track consult the Arrondissement Forestier in Kasserine.
Outside Kasserine, on the road to Gafsa (soon after GP 17 goes off on the right to Thala, some 200m/220yds beyond the Hotel Cillium), is the site of ancient Cillium. The remains lie on the left of the road. Only a small area of the site has been excavated. The best preserved structure is a triumphal arch with a decorative frieze and an inscription; like most of the remains, it dates from the third century. Nearby are the foundations of a Christian basilica and a small Byzantine fortress. Farther away, on the slopes of a hill, is the theater, which lacks the stage wall.
Mausoleum of Flavius
Some 600m/660yds farther west (200m/220yds beyond the bridge over the Oued Derb), opposite the Governor's Office, is another tower-mausoleum, in an excellent state of preservation, of similar type to the Numidian mausoleum at Dougga. It is of three storys, with a 110-line inscription on the base lauding the virtues of its founder, Flavius Secundus, buried here with his family. The middle section of the tomb is decorated with half-columns; there is a niche on the third section which once contained a statue of Flavius; and the whole structure was originally crowned by a pyramidal roof.
During the period of French colonial rule a modern town was built around the old center of Kasserine. The town is traversed by its 4km/2.5mi long main street, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, in the eastern section of which (towards Kairouan) is the modern town center, with the railroad station, bus station and numerous shops. The ancient remains are at the other end of the street, in the direction of Gafsa.
30km/19mi southwest of Kasserine, 700m/770yds beyond the village of Thélepte, is the site of Roman and Byzantine Thamesmida, an extensive scatter of remains on both sides of the road and the railroad line which is likely to be of interest only to archeological enthusiasts. To reach the site, leave Kasserine on the Gafsa road (GP 17), and when it joins G 15 turn right.
The little market town of Feriana (pop. 4,000) lies 4km/2.5mi south of Thélepte on the Gafsa road (GP 15).
At the west end of Kasserine, opposite the barracks, can be seen the scanty remains (the base and fragments of two walls) of a tower-like mausoleum.