El Jem Celebrates Symphony Music
Just 35 miles south of Monastir and within easy reach of the airport, the important Roman town of El Jem hosts an annual music festival celebrating symphony music. The concerts are certain to be high quality but it is the setting that brings people to this special event.
The Roman Amphitheatre in El Jem, Tunisia is second only in size to the Colosseum in Rome and was capable of seating 35,000 people when built (that’s the same capacity as West Ham’s ground at Upton Park or Middlesborough’s Riverside Stadium). It’s an amazing structure and is the venue for the International Festival of Symphony Music which is held during July and August. The building is remarkably well preserved, even better than the Colosseum and visitors can explore the viewing areas as well as the internal rooms. These include tunnels, dungeons and the rather macabre waiting rooms where prisoners and gladiators would gather and wait for their call. Archaeologists suspect there may be further impressive Roman ruins still to be discovered in this part of Tunisia.
There are six main concerts planned for the festival with the prospect of more being organised. Examples of the kind of performers on the programme include the Orchestra of 100 Violinists from Budapest, the New Amadeus Chamber Orchestra from Italy and the Orchestra of Ballet and Opera from Vienna. Moscow’s Youth Symphony Orchestra also performs on an additional evening on 21st July.
The festival is running for the 24th time this year and rounds off with a special tribute evening to Ray Charles.