Bardo Museum in Tunisia
The Bardo Museum is the central museum of antiquities in Tunisia, and for 130 years the most interesting and valuable finds have been brought from all the archaeological sites in the country. By the size of the collection, it is the second in Africa, second only to the Cairo Museum .
The Bardo Museum is the third most visited tourist destination in Tunisia, second only to Carthage and El Jem . This is up to 20% of all direct income from ticket sales to all the attractions of the country. Back in the 90's, the Bardo Museum was in second place, but in the 1990s active tourism development began in the south. There were popular excursions to El Jem and the Sahara Desert, which heavily "pulled" the tourist flow from the capital. Despite this, attendance grew (against the background of the overall increase in the tourist flow to the country), in 2005 a record was registered - 664,891 visitors.
The Bardo Museum is also the oldest in Tunisia, it officially opened in 1888. Of course, he is not only interested in the number of exhibited artifacts, but also in the composition of the collection.
Collections of the Bardo Museum, what to see here for tourists
The collection of mosaics of the era of the Roman Empire is the richest in the world, from which the Bardo Museum is also called the "Museum of Roman Mosaics". Here you can find mosaics from all the major excavations: Carthage, Gadrumet, Dugga , Udna , Utica and others.
Now in the collection of 332 large mosaics, and their number is constantly growing, because the archaeological excavations in Tunisia are constantly.
In the Bardo Museum there is a rich collection of marble statues, including depicting Roman gods and emperors. There are more than 1200 statues here, mostly from Carthage and Tuburbo Majus.
A special place is occupied by the collection from the "Mahdi shipwreck". Not far from the city of Mahdia was found a Greek ship with a load of statues, ceramics and other objects. Most of the artifacts remained intact, though damaged by an aggressive sea water environment. The most famous item in this collection is the marble bust of Aphrodite.
The Islamic collection boasts unique exhibits: the Blue Quran from Kairouan, a collection of ceramics from all over the Maghreb and from Asia Minor.
Other well-known exhibits: a mask with a grimace, a collection of terracotta statues and steles, tombstones of priests and children. The museum occupies 3 floors of the Great Bardo Palace and 34 rooms, the Small Palace and there is an additional modern annex.
To exhibit in the halls the entire collection is not possible, it is too big. But the most beautiful and interesting exhibits can be seen if you come here.
The problem of excursions in Russian
Russian tourists get into the Bardo museum problematic. At the largest tour operator in Tunisia - Pegas Touristik company there are no excursions to the Bardo Museum at all, with Coral Travel the situation is similar. Some other tour operators (Biblio Globus, Pax) have a trip here, but it is a secondary goal, and its tourists look at the principle of "galloping across Europe."
Buy a good tour in Russian in a third-party travel agency will not work. If you want to see the Bardo Museum without hurry, the only option is to come alone, it's not difficult.
How to get there
The Bardo Museum is located in the suburbs of Tunis. If you have a rest in Gammarth or in another capital resort, the Tunisian taxi is the best way to get there. From Gammarth to Bardot about 30 kilometers, a taxi ride will cost about 20 Tunisian dinars (note: 2016 prices).
From the resorts of Hammamet , Nabeul or Yasmine Hammamet, the easiest way to get there is by bus to Tunis, from the bus station, take a taxi. Read our article " Bus trips in Tunisia ", where we talked about this in detail.
From the hotels of the resorts of El Kantaoui and Sousse, the easiest way is by train to the city of Tunis, from the railway station, take a taxi. Read our article " Trips on trains in Tunisia ".
The hotels of the resorts of Mahdia and Monastir can also be reached by train, but you will have to change at Suss station.
The price of entrance to the museum
The ticket for tourists costs 11 Tunisian dinars, for citizens of Tunisia - 8 dinars.
If you have an international student card with you, you can enter for free. Disabled persons and their accompanying persons are also free.
In the summer season (from 01.05 to 30.09) - from 9-00 to 17-00.
In the winter season (from 01.10 to 30.05) - from 9:30 to 16:30.
A bit of history
The Bardo Museum is located in the buildings of the Bardo Palace - one of the residences of the rulers of Tunisia. Tunisian beys had many palaces, others were in: La Marsa, Carthage, Hammam Leaf, La Goulette, Margaña, La Manouba and a separate residence in the medina of Tunis .
The word "bardo", which is named this area, is a modified Spanish word "prado", which translates as "meadow" or "garden". This place is 4 kilometers to the west of the medina.
This palace was one of the oldest, but the exact date of its construction still causes controversy among historians. In the 18th century, the French botanist Rene Desphonteins visited the palace. In his notes he admires the beauty of the Bardo palace and writes that: "This castle is very ancient, Leo Afrikiani writes to us that in his time the rulers already lived here." In this case, Rene Desphonteins in his entries refers to the records of Leo of Africa, which claims , that in his time the palace already existed. From this historians make a conclusion about the approximate date of construction - the 15th century or even earlier.
The palace of Bardo was built after the Alhambra palace and other residences of the rulers of Muslim Andalusia, it was built by Andalusian architects, this is the opinion of Paul Sebag, the famous historian of Tunisia.
In the 19th century, the Bardo palace lost its importance, the Tunisian Beys preferred other residences. In 1840 an officer school was opened in the palace buildings. In 1847, a part of the buildings is occupied by a mint. Cadets, mint workers and their families lived here, the palace was, in fact, a small city, there were about 800 people.
Near the palace of Bardo was another Beysk Palace Xar Said, which in May 12, 1881, was signed "Treaty of Bardo", which established in Tunisia regime "French Protectorate", in fact, made Tunisia a colony of France.
The main building "Grand Palace" was built in the second half of the 19th century by Mohammed Bey and Zadok Bey. In 1882, Zadok Bey died, power passed to his brother Ali III Bey, who preferred a residence in La Mars. The palace of Bardo became unclaimed and passed under the control of the French.
With the establishment of a protectorate, French archaeologists began actively digging around Tunisia, thousands of artifacts were extracted from the earth. Exporting finds to France did not make much sense, it was expensive, and local Tunisian authorities protested. The finds had to be stored somewhere.
The French decided to use the Bardo Palace to store antiquities. By a special decree of November 7, 1882, a museum was created, which was then called the "Alaui Museum" in honor of the then ruling Ali III Bey, who gave the palace to the French.
It is worth noting that then the word "museum" was understood not as it is now. Now for us, the museum is first and foremost a place for exhibiting exhibits to the public, while the museum was understood as a place of storage of finds. By decision of March 25, 1885, the museum was given the premises of Sadok Bey's grief in the Bardo palace (the wives of Bey were expelled from here immediately after the death of the ruler). Premises went to the museum in a deplorable state, they had to be hastily repaired.
In March 1885, the first collections were brought here. The official opening date of the museum is May 7, 1888. Later the museum expands, in 1899 the Small Palace passes the museum, it is used to store the "Islamic collection". In 1900, the rooms of the Beer Tubs join the museum, and the items of the "Arab Collection" are kept here.
The name "Bardo Museum" appears in 1958 after Tunisia gained independence.
During its existence in the Bardo Museum there were two tragedies - one scientific and one human. In 1984, a fire broke out in the wing where artifacts from the "Mahdi Shipwreck" were stored, some of the exhibits were damaged, and the collection was inaccessible to the public until 2000.
March 18, 2015, two terrorists attacked the tourists near the museum (photo left). 22 people were killed, 21 of them are foreign tourists. It is interesting that the museum and tourists were not the target of terrorists, they tried to attack the country's parliament, which is located here - in the former Bardo palace, but in another group of buildings.
Collections and the most interesting exhibits
The collection of the Bardo Museum is divided into seven divisions.
In this collection are collected items of the era when the Phoenicians have not yet come to these lands. Bone tools, primitive ceramics, remains of ancient burials, the earliest such finds are 2 million years old.
At first glance it seems that there is really nothing to look at in this section, but here there is one very valuable exhibit. It is called the "Hermione El Guettara" (pictured right), is a pile of stones 75 meters high and 130 centimeters in diameter, made up of more than 4,000 items - stones, bones, teeth. This is the oldest religious construction not to Earth, age - 40 000 years.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the museum. Recall that after the Third Punic War and the destruction of Carthage, the Romans destroyed the Carthaginian (Punic) culture almost completely. Punic artifacts are rare in the excavations, the main source of them was Kerkuan - the only Punic city that the Romans did not rebuild.
The main exhibits are cipples (small chapels) and stelae with Punic inscriptions. From Carthaginas, we have very few inscriptions that could shed light on their life and religion.
The most famous stele is called "priest with child". She depicts a priest holding a child in the left hand. It is believed that the priest in this picture is going to be reunited with the gods. According to many scholars, it is this stele that proves the fact that children were sacrificed in Carthage.
The Bardo Museum houses the richest collection of Punic terracotta statues. Statues of different sizes - from 20-25 centimeters to sculptures in human growth. Most of the statues show the gods - Baal Hammon (pictured left) and Tanith.
Tourists in this department like to watch grimaces most of all. These masks were used for funeral purposes, almost all of them were found in burials. Made of clay or glass. Masks depict expressions of persons with clearly hypertrophied emotions. The first such masks date back to the 6th century BC, most of them date back to the 3-4 centuries BC.
And, of course, Punic pottery, jewelry made of gold, silver, precious stones and ivory. A very interesting exhibit is the Xura Esfah Breastplate, which gives us an idea of the armor used in the Carthage Army. There is even an ancient Carthaginian razor with a bronze blade.
Department of Classical Arts
There are no outstanding exhibits in this section. Stelae, statues of the gods, busts of emperors, all this is beautiful and interesting, and details about each exhibit can always be emphasized from the explanatory plaque.
This section will not be discussed in detail. Let us just once again note the magnificent collection of mosaics. Do not rush into the halls with mosaics, they will tell you a lot about the life and religion of the Romans without explanatory inscriptions.
This department is conditionally divided into two sections - "section of the Islamic Middle Ages" and "section of traditional art". Europeans understand the differences between these sections is difficult.
The most valuable local exhibits are parchment leaves from the Koran, including blue sheets with gold inscriptions (pictured left). These sheets are found in the vicinity of Kairouan, the ancient capital of Tunisia. From Kairouan, the elements of the decoration of the Great Mosque are brought - a magnificent carving from the once main mosque of the country.
Fabrics from Egypt, exquisite calligraphy, marble bas-reliefs, musical instruments, mirrors, chests and other interior items. A rich collection of dishes - teapots, plates of copper and silver. A magnificent collection of Arab weapons from the Middle Ages. The rich collection of the Bardo Museum allows you to get a good idea of life in Tunisia in the Middle Ages.
Collection from the "Mahdi Shipwreck"
In 1907, near the city of Mahdia, a Greek ship was found, artifacts were raised from under the water. The luck that the ship was not carrying olive oil or grain, but art. The finds were raised from the bottom in three stages from 1907 to 1954. In one of these operations, Jacques-Yves Cousteau participated. Artifacts had to be restored, what experts from Switzerland were doing.
The ship transported art and life from Greece from Athens, from Sicily and from continental Italy. This bronze furniture with wooden elements (wooden parts are reconstructed), architectural elements of marble - columns and drips. And the main findings are statues, including the famous bust of the goddess Aphrodite (pictured right).
It is a great luck that the statues in the sea water have been preserved so well. Usually, in such an aggressive environment, sculptures are only "remnants" after a few centuries.
Other interesting features
By order of the museum, a special application has been created - an audio guide in English, French and Arabic. The app is downloaded for free. Unfortunately the Russian version is not yet available, we hope that it will appear in the near future.
If you want to see the museum very much, and there is no opportunity to go to Tunisia, you can see a virtual tour of the museum on the official site. This site is http://www.bardomuseum.tn/ in Arabic, French and English. There is no Russian version, use the automatic translator built into the browser.
In the buildings of the museum there is a restoration workshop, specializing in the restoration and preservation of ancient mosaics. During some excursions, tourists can look at the work of restorers.
A good walk through the Bardo Museum, and read interesting articles about Tunisia on our site JJ-Tours.ru ( list of links below ).
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