El Haouaria is a coastal town and commune in the Nabeul Governorate, Tunisia. El Haouaria is situated on the most North-East point of Africa which is at only 80 km from the nearest European small island, Panteleria and at 140 km from Sicily.
El Haouaria is best known for supplying local red and yellow sandstone which was used in the building of Carthage. The best quality stone was at the lower levels, hence there are tunnels up to 100 feet long. The Carthaginians and later the Romans had to dig down to get the lower rocks and haul them out of the shafts. The huge blocks were shipped by barge and were usually covered with stucco to prevent the stone from weathering away. The stone from El Haouaria was also used for building tombs and has been found in some as old as the 6th century BC.
The area is a popular resting place for migrating birds and the rugged rocky coastline is ideal for the breeding of falcons. The town’s culture is intrinsically connected to the ancient sport of falconry. The birds are taken from the nests in spring and are used for hunting quail, hare and partridge during the summer months. At the end of the summer they are set free. The skills of falconry are handed down through the generations from father to son and the sport is strictly licensed.
During May or June a three-day falconry festival is held in the Nadi el Bayazara Falconry Centre in El Haouaria, and attending it is a rare cultural treat. The birds of prey are used in contests to catch small birds and imagery of hawks and falcons can be seen throughout the town. The award of the best Falconer of the Year is a prestigious and highly sought-after title. Although the sands of El Haouaria are covered in most places with a rocky top, just along the coast at Rass ed Drak is one of Tunisia’s loveliest beaches.
Monument surmounted by the statue of a peregrine falcon at the entrance of El Haouaria Monument surmounted by the statue of a peregrine falcon at the entrance of El Haouaria
Its geographic location, contrasting relief and mild, temperate climate make it a favorite haven for a multitude of migratory birds. The Romans nicknamed the place Aquilaria or "country of the eagle".
Each spring, 40,000 raptors of 24 different species, but also thousands of storks and other smaller birds, halt at the tip of the cape before their crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. It is quite natural that the families of El Haouaria develop an art of falconry dating back to ancient times as evidenced by certain mosaics exhibited at the National Museum of Bardo. The know-how in the dressage of raptors, captured in March, is transmitted from generation to generation.
The Association of Friends of Animals, created in 1975, is carrying out an effective work of raising awareness of the population to the protection of birds and especially raptors.
Caves of El Haouaria
Three kilometers west of the city, the artificial caves of the site of Ghar El Kebir were dug by prisoners or slaves under the authority of the Carthaginians and then the Romans. The blocks of stone extracted from it were transported by sea to Carthage, on the other side of the Gulf of Tunis. They were used for the construction of the Punic city, but also for the construction of the forts of the medina of Tunis. These underground quarries are exploited for nearly 1,000 years. They are made up of latomias, immense caverns half-obscured in the shape of a pyramid, which were accessed by a narrow upper opening, some of which communicated by narrow passages.
After World War II bombardments and subsequent natural collapses, the site visit is now possible through wider lateral openings.
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