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Tunisian Republic
الجمهورية التونسية
al-Jumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya
Flag Coat of arms
Mottoحرية، نظام، عدالة (Hurriya, Nidham, 'Adala)
"Liberty, Order, Justice"[1]
AnthemHumat Al Hima
Capital
(and largest city)
Tunis
36°50′N 10°9′E / 36.833°N 10.15°E / 36.833; 10.15
Official language(s) Arabic[2]
Second language French
Demonym Tunisian
Government Republic[2]
 -  President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
 -  Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi
Independence
 -  from France March 20, 1956 
Area
 -  Total 163,610 km2 (92nd)
63,170 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 5.0
Population
 -  July 1, 2009 estimate 10,432,500[3] (79th)
 -  2004 census 9,910,872[3] 
 -  Density 63/km2 (133rd (2005))
163/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $82.636 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $8,002[4] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $40.843 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $3,955[4] 
Gini (2000) 39.8 (medium
HDI (2007) 0.769[5] (medium) (98th)
Currency Tunisian dinar (TND)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .tn
Calling code 216

Tunisia (pronounced /tuːˈniʒə/ too-NEE-zhə (US) or /tjuːˈnɪzɪə/ tyoo-NI-zeer (UK); Arabic: تونسTūnis), officially the Tunisian Republic (الجمهورية التونسيةal-Jumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya), is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its size is almost 165,000 km² with an estimated population of just over 10.3 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the north-east.

Tunisia is the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 km of coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, then as the Africa Province which was known as the "bread basket" of the Roman Empire. Later, Tunisia was occupied by Vandals during the 5th century AD, Byzantines in the 6th century, and Arabs in the 8th century. Under the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia was known as "Regency of Tunis". It passed under French protectorate in 1881. After obtaining independence in 1956, the country took the official name of the "Kingdom of Tunisia" at the end of the reign of Lamine Bey and the Husainid Dynasty. With the proclamation of the Tunisian republic in July 25, 1957, the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became its first president and led the modernization of the country.

Today Tunisisa is an export-oriented country, in the process of liberalizing its economy [6] while, politically it is a dictatorship in all but name [2] [3] [4] [5], [6] [7]. Tunisia has an authoritarian regime in the guise of a procedural democracy led by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who has governed as President since 1987 and has systematically diminished freedom of press and political pluralism while keeping appearances of democracy (for references see, below, for the politics of Tunisia).

Tunisia has close relations with both the European Union — with whom it has an association agreement — and the Arab world. Tunisia is also a member of the Arab League and the African union. The regime's claimed success in oppressing political Islam and its pro-western foreign policy, has protected it from criticism for its lack of democratic accountability and its violations of human rights and freedom of press[7]. France, the former colonial power, lends support to the regime in exchange for economic and political subservience [8], [9]

Every year numerous Tunisians attempt illegal immigration to European countries like Italy by sea. Many die trying when the small boats in which they are riding capsize or go adrift at sea. Others reach their destination but are forcibly repatriated.[8]

Contents

Etymology

The word Tunisia is derived from Tunis; a city and capital of modern-day Tunisia. The present form of the name, with its Latinate suffix -ia, evolved from French Tunisie.[9] This name was introduced by French geographers and historians as part of their efforts to give names to their new occupied territories and protectorates. The French derivative Tunisie was adopted in some European languages with slight modifications introducing a distinctive name to designate the country. Other languages remained untouched such as the Spanish Túnez. In this case, the same name is used for both country and city as in Arabic : تونس and only by context can one tell the difference.[9]

The name Tunis can be attributed to different origins. It can be associated with the Phoenician goddess Tanith (aka Tunit), ancient city of Tynes or to the Berber root ens which means "to lie down".

History

Antiquity

At the beginning of known recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century B.C. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century B.C. by settlers from Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon. Legend says, that Dido founded the city in 814 B.C., as retold in by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians and other Canaanites.

After a series of wars with Greek city-states of Sicily in the 5th century BC, Carthage rose to power and eventually became the dominant civilization in the Western Mediterranean. The people of Carthage worshipped a pantheon of Middle Eastern gods including Baal and Tanit. Tanit's symbol, a simple female figure with extended arms and long dress, is a popular icon found in ancient sites. The founders of Carthage also established a Tophet which was altered in Roman times.

The history of human culture in Tunisia goes back thousands of years. Early farming methods reached the Nile Valley from the Fertile Crescents region in about 5000 B.C from there, farming spread to the Maghreb by about 4000 B.C The humid coastal plains of central Tunisia were home to the early agricultural communities, populated by the ancestors of the Berber tribes.

The Roman Period

Though the Romans referred to the new empire growing in the city of Carthage as Punic or Phoenician, the empire built around Carthage was an independent political entity from the other Phoenician settlements in the Western Mediterranean.

A Carthaginian invasion of Italy led by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, one of a series of wars with Rome, nearly crippled the rise of the Roman Empire. Carthage was eventually conquered by Rome in the 2nd century BC, a turning point which led to ancient Mediterranean civilization having been influenced mainly by European instead of African cultures.

After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the granaries of Rome, and was Latinized and Christianized. The Romans controlled nearly all of modern Tunisia, unlike other modern African countries, of which Rome only held the northern coast. It was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD and reconquered by the commander Belisarius in the 6th century during the rule of Byzantine emperor Justinian.

The Arab-Muslim Period

Minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan also known as the Mosque of Uqba. Founded in 670, it is the oldest mosque in Tunisia as well as the oldest in the Muslim West, city of Kairouan.

Around the end of the 7th century and the beginning of 8th century the region was conquered by Arab Muslims, who founded the city of Kairouan which became the first city of Islam in North Africa ; in this period was erected (in 670) the Great Mosque of Kairouan considered as the oldest and most prestigious sanctuary in the western Islamic world[10] as well as a great masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture[11]. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule. Extensive irrigation installations were constructed to supply towns with water and promote agriculture (especially olive production)[12][13]. This prosperity permitted luxurious court life and was marked by the construction of new Palace cities such as al-Abassiya (809) and Raqadda (877)[12].

Successive Muslim dynasties ruled Tunisia (Ifriqiya at the time) with occasional instabilities caused mainly by Berber rebellions[citation needed]; of these reigns we can cite the Aghlabids (800-900) and Fatimids (909-972). After conquering Cairo, Fatimids abandoned North Africa to the local Zirids (Tunisia and parts of Eastern Algeria, 972-1148) and Hammadid (Central and eastern Algeria, 1015–1152)[14]. North Africa was submerged by their quarrels; political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and agriculture[12][15][16]. In addition the invasion of Tunisia by Banu Hilal, a warlike Arab Bedouin tribes encouraged by Fatimids of Egypt to seize North Africa, sent the region's urban and economic life into further decline[14]. The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert[15][17].

The coasts were held briefly by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century and the following Arab reconquest made the last Christians in Tunisia disappear. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs. They were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids (c.1230–1574), under whom Tunisia prospered. In the late 16th century the coast became a pirate stronghold (see: Barbary States).

The Ottoman Rule

In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but these were recovered by the Ottoman Empire. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957. From 1881 - 1956 the country was under French colonization. European settlements in the country were actively encouraged; the number of French colonists grew from 34,000 in 1906 to 144,000 in 1945. In 1910 there were 105,000 Italians in Tunisia.[18]

World War II

In 1942–1943, Tunisia was the scene of the third major operations by the Allied Forces (the British Empire and the United States) against the Axis Powers (Italy and Germany) during World War II. The main body of the British army, advancing from their victory in Battle of el-Alamein under the command of British Field Marshal Montgomery, pushed into Tunisia from the south. The US and other allies, following their invasions of Algeria and Morocco in Operation Torch, invaded from the west.

General Rommel, commander of the Axis forces in North Africa, had hoped to inflict a similar defeat on the allies in Tunisia as German forces did in the Battle of France in 1940. Before the battle for el-Alamein, the allied forces had been forced to retreat toward Egypt. As such the battle for Tunisia was a major test for the allies. They figured out that in order to defeat Axis forces they would have to coordinate their actions and quickly recover from the inevitable setbacks the German-Italian forces would inflict.

On February 19, 1943, General Rommel launched an attack on the American forces in the Kasserine Pass region of Western Tunisia, hoping to inflict the kind of demoralizing and alliance-shattering defeat the Germans had dealt to Poland and France. The initial results were a disaster for the United States; the area around the Kasserine Pass is the site of many US war graves from that time.

However, the American forces were ultimately able to reverse their retreat. Having known a critical strategy in tank warfare, the Allies broke through the Mareth line on March 20, 1943. The allies subsequently linked up on April 8 and on May 2, 1943 the German-Italian Army in Tunisia surrendered. Thus, the United States, United Kingdom, Free French, and Polish (as well as other forces) were able to win a major battle as an allied army.

The battle, though often overshadowed by Stalingrad, represented a major allied victory of World War II largely because it forged the Alliance which would one day liberate Western Europe.

Present-day politics

The Economist Democracy index map for 2008, with lighter colours representing more democratic countries. Countries with DI below 3 (clearly authoritarian) are black.
In this 2008 Freedom of Press Index countries with orange and red colours are the least free.

Tunisia is an authoritarian regime and police state in the guise of a procedural democracy which makes it one of the worst regimes in the region. Independent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, ProtectionOnLine.com have documented that basic human and political rights are not respected [10] [11], [12]. The regime obstructs in any way possible the work of local human rights organizations [13]. In the Economist's 2008 Democracy Index Tunisia is classified as an authoritarian regime ranking 141 out of 167 studied countries (worse than The Peoples Republic of China, Egypt, Sierra Leone and Pakistan). In 2008, in terms of freedom of press, Tunisia was ranked 143 out of 173, that is worse than neighbouring Algeria and Morocco [14], [15].

Authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, previously a military figure, has been in office since 1987, the year he acceded to the executive office of Habib Bourguiba after a team of medical experts judged Bourguiba unfit to exercise the functions of the office. The event is often described as a 'medical coup' [16], [17], [18]. Prior to that moment Ben Ali was Bourguiba's minister. The day of his succession, 7 November, is celebrated by the state as national holiday, with the state-owned television [19], many public buildings and even the national currency Tunisian dinar and the only private airline Sevenair and TV station (both owned by the family of the President's wife) displaying the '7 November' logo. In Tunisia, the President is re-elected with enormous majorities every 5-year terms the last time being October 25, 2009 (see below) [20].

In theory, Tunisia has a republican presidential system characterized by a bicameral parliamentary system, including the Chamber of Deputies, which has 214 seats, 25% of which are reserved for 'opposition parties' and the Chamber of Advisors (112 members) which is composed of representatives of political parties, professional organisations patronised by the president and by personalities appointed by the president of the Republic. The president appoints a Prime Minister and a cabinet who play a minor role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators are also appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected. In presidential, parliamentary and local elections the vast majority of seats goes to the President's party known as the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) in French. It is composed of more than 2 million members and more than 6000 representations throughout the country and largely overlaps with all important state institutions. Although the party was renamed (in Bourguiba’s days it used to be known as the Socialist Destourian Party), its policies are still considered to be largely secular but hardly socialist or truly liberal (Incidentally, both chambers of parliament are composed of more than 20% women, something extremely rare in the Arab world. Moreover, Tunisia is the only country in the Arab world where polygamy is forbidden by law. This is part of a provision in the country’s Code of Personal Status which was introduced by the former president Bourguiba in 1956.) There are currently eight other small political parties in Tunisia, six of whom are represented in the rubber stamp parliament giving a semblance of legitimacy. The judiciary is not independent in constitutional matters and often corrupt in civil and criminal cases [21]. The USA government designates Tunisia's Judiciary as only "nominally independent" and notes that all judges are appointed by the Minister of Justice.[19] The military does not play an obvious role in politics letting the ex-army man President run the country.

In reality, all power is monopolized formally by Ben Ali and his party - which incidentally is housed in Tunis's tallest tower - and informally by influential families such as the all powerful Trabelsi [22] from the president's young second wife's side, Leila, a former coiffeuse [23] [20][21][22][23]. The regime's rhetoric is paradoxical: the slogan of the President's party is "change" while the Presidency's person and policies have been the same for decades!

The rubber stamp parliament repeatedly passes laws that make Tunisia appear democratic to outsiders. Since 1987 Tunisia has formally reformed its political system several times, abolishing life presidency and opening up the parliament to opposition parties. The President's official speeches are full of references to the importance of democracy and freedom of speech [24]. According to Amnesty International, however, "the Tunisian government is misleading the world as it conveys a positive image of the human rights situation in the country while abuses by its security forces continue unabated and are committed with impunity" [25]. The result is a sense of depression among the thinking classes and Tunisians abroad [26], [27].The regime has been growing increasingly repressive even after the complete defeat of Islamist extremists in the early 90's [28] [29].

Censorship in Tunisia is severe. In practice no public criticism of the regime is tolerated and all direct protest is severely suppressed and does not get reported in the media as was the case with the public demonstrations against nepotism and corruption in 'Redayef' near the city of Gafsa, in the country's south, in 2008 [30], [31]. Self-censorship is widespread with people fearing the police which is present everywhere and frequently stops and searches individuals and vehicles - often demanding small amounts of bribe money to make up for their meagre salaries. There is a much encouraged and apparently organised personality cult. Daily newspapers run eulogistic articles praising the President whose picture graces the first page on a daily basis, often alongside similar articles and pictures of his wife, Leila [24] Large pictures of President Ben Ali and 'spontaneously' erected banners praising him are found on all public buildings and majors streets [32] [33] [34] [35] [36]. The country's latest built airport was also named after President Ben Ali [37].

Internet censorship is severe with banned sites including YouTube. Reporters without borders includes Tunisia in the country list of 'Enemies of the Internet' together with North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan [38] [39]. In January 2010 US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned Tunisia and China as the two countries with the greatest internet censorship [40]. Nevertheless the internet has witnessed a considerable development with more than 1.1 million users and hundreds of internet cafes, known as ‘publinet.’ This is primarily related to the widespread unemployment and lack of democracy and opportunities resulting in millions of bored unemployed graduates.[25]. Hundreds of thousands of young men avoid compulsory conscription and live with the constant fear of arrest although it appears that the police only go after them in certain times of the year only (the 'raffle') and often let them go if a sufficient bribe is paid.[26]. Thousands of unemployed young men attempt illegal immigration to Europe by sea and often die in the process.

There are many signs that the regime has become a kleptocracy with corrupt members of the Trabelsi family, most notably in the cases of Imed Trabelsi and Belhassen Trabelsi, controlling much of the business sector in the country [41]. In its January/February 2008 issue, the Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Tunisia's First Lady had been using the 737 Boeing Business Jet[27] of the government to make "unofficial visits" to European Fashion Capitals, such as Milan, Paris and Geneva. The report mentioned that the trips are not on the official travel itinerary. Bloggers tracked the official airplane on spotting webpages as Airliners.net. The first lady has been described as a shopaholic.[28][29]. Recently Tunisia refused a French request for the extradition of two of the President's nephews, from Leila's side, who are accused by the French State prosecutor of having stolen two mega-yachts from a French marina [30]. Rumours have been circulating that Ben Ali's son-in-law Sakher al-Materi (the husband of Zine and Leila's daughter Nessrine) is being primed to eventually take over the country. As of October 2009, he has used family privileges and connections to create a place for himself in the country's economy, and is making his political debut. [42].

2009 National elections

On October 25, 2009, national elections were held in Tunisia in "an atmosphere of repression" [43]. The election appeared predetermined. Ben Ali faced three obscure candidates, two of whom said they actually supported the incumbent. No independent observer was allowed to monitor the vote. The election consisted of a presidential one and a parliamentary one. As expected, the sitting president Zinedine Ben Ali won a landslide victory, with 89.62%. His opponent, Mohamed Bouchiha, received 5.01%. The candidate who was most critical of the regime, Ahmed Ibrahim, of the Ettajdid party received only 1.57% after a 'campaign' in which he was not allowed to put posters up or hold any kind of meeting [44] The president's party, the CDR, also got the majority of votes for the parliamentary election, 84.59%. The Movement of Socialist Democrats party received 4.63%[citation needed].

The election received criticism in foreign media [31]. Human Rights Watch has reported that parties and candidates were denied exposure equal to the sitting president, and that the Ettajdid party's weekly publication, Ettarik al-Jadid, was seized by authorities [32]. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists "97% of newspaper campaign coverage was devoted to President Ben Ali amid severe restrictions on independent reporting. Ben Ali’s government went after the country’s journalist union, bringing down its democratically elected board, while his police bullied and harassed critical reporters. Two journalists, one of them a leading critic of the president, were in jail in late year. Journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, who had published two articles in French newspapers that were critical of the regime, has been incarcerated since October 29, 2009. The Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of nine years on 3- January 2010 in a trial that "confirmed the complete absence of independence of the Tunisian legal system" the defendant's French lawyer William Bourdon said [[33] Florence Beaugé, a correspondent for the French daily Le Monde, tried to cover the polling but was put on a flight back to Paris on October 21.[45]

Candidate Percentage of votes (%)
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (RCD) 89.62%
Mohamed Bouchiha (PPU) 5.01%
Ahmed Linoubli (UDU) 3.80%
Ahmed Ibrahim (ME) 1.57%

Economy

Tunisia has a diverse economy, ranging from agriculture, mining, manufacturing, petroleum products and tourism. In 2008 it had a GDP of $41 billion (official exchange rates), or $82 billion (purchasing power parity) [34]. It also has one of Africa and the Middle East's highest per-capita GDPs (PPP) [35]. The agricultural sector stands for 11,6% of the GDP, industry 25,7%, and services 62,8%. The industrial sector is mainly made up of clothing and footwear manufacturing, production of car parts, and electric machinery. Although Tunisia managed an average 5% growth over the last decade it continues to suffer from a high unemployment especially among youth.

GDP growth rate (%)

Tunisia was ranked the most competitive economy in Africa and the 40th in the world by the World Economic Forum[36]. Tunisia has managed to attract many international companies such as Airbus[37] and Hewlett-Packard[38].

The European Union remains Tunisia's first trading partner, currently accounting for 72.5% of Tunisian imports and 75% of Tunisian exports. Tunisia is a one of the European Union’s most established trading partners in the Mediterranean region and ranks as the EU’s 30th largest trading partner. Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, in July 1995, although even before the date of entry into force, Tunisia started dismantling tariffs on bilateral EU trade. Tunisia finalised the tariffs dismantling for industrial products in 2008 and therefore was the 1st Mediterranean country to enter in a free trade area with EU[39].

Tunisia also attracted large Persian Gulf investments (especially from United Arab Emirates) the largest include:

  • Mediterranean gate: a US$ 25 billion project to build a new city in the south of Tunis [40].
  • Tunis Sport City: an entire sports city currently being constructed in Tunis, Tunisia. The city that will consist of apartment buildings as well as several sports facilities will be built by the Bukhatir Group at a cost of $5 Billion[41].
  • Tunis Financial harbour: will deliver North Africa’s first offshore financial centre at Tunis Bay in a project with an end development value of US$ 3 billion[42].
  • Tunis Telecom City: A US$ 3 billion project to create an IT hub in Tunis[43].

Real estate market

In recent years Tunisia has embarked on a new market. Since the beginning of the 2000´s, the real estate market has grown. The market focuses partially on residencies for private persons, but also larger projects aimed at the tourist and sales market. Notable investors reside in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Oil and gas extraction

Oil production of Tunisia is about 97 600 barrels/day. The main field is El bourma.[44]

Energy

Sources of electricity production[45]

The majority of the electricity used in Tunisia is produced locally, by stateowned company STEG (Société Tunisienne de l´Electricité et du Gaz).In 2008 a total of 13 747 GHW was produced in the country,[46].

Oil and gas

Oil production began in 1966 in Tunisia. Currently there are 12 oil fields[47]. Below is a list of the oil fields:

Oil field Oil field
7 November oil field El Menzah field
Ashtart field Belli field
Bouri field Cercina field
El Biban field El Borma field
Ezzaouia field Miskar field
Sidi El Kilani field Tazarka field

Nuclear energy

Tunisia is on the path of installing two nuclear powerplants within a 10 year period. Each one of these is projected at producing 900-1000 MW. In its effort to obtain nuclear energy, France is set to become an important partner. Tunisia and France have inked agreements, where France will deliver training and know-how amongst others [48][49].

Desertec project

The Desertec project is a large-scale energy project aimed at installing solarpower panels in, and a grid connecting North Africa and Europe. Tunisia will be a part of this project, but exactly how it may benefit from it remains to be seen.

Transportation

The new Radés-La Goulette bridge in Tunis.
  • The country maintains 19 232 km of roads,[50] where the A1 Tunis-Sfax, P1 Tunis-Libya and P7 Tunis-Algeria are major highways.
  • There are 30 airports in Tunisia, with Tunis Carthage International Airport and Monastir International Airport being the most important ones. A New airport Zine El Abidine Ben Ali International Airport was completed at the end of October 2009, and is due to open December 2009. However, it appears flights are unlikely to start before the Easter season of 2010. The airport is located North of Sousse at Enfidha, and is likely to serve the resorts of Hamammet and Port El Kantoui, together with inland cities such as Kairouan. There are four airlines headquartered in Tunisia: Tunisair, Karthago Airlines, Nouvelair and Sevenair.
  • The railway network is operated by SNCFT, and amounts to 2135 km in total[50]. The Tunis area is served by a tram network, named Metro Leger.

Religion

View of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, due to its history and spiritual prestige, it is the most important mosque in Tunisia situated in the city of Kairouan.

The constitution declares Islam as the official state religion and requires the President to be Muslim. Tunisia also enjoys a significant degree of religious freedom, a right enshrined and protected in its constitution which guarantees the freedom to practice one's religion.[51]

The country has a culture that encourages acceptance of other religions; religious freedom is widely practiced. With regards to the freedom of Muslims, the Tunisian government has restricted the wearing of Islamic headscarves (hijab) in government offices and it discourages women from wearing them on public streets and public gatherings. The government believes the hijab is a "garment of foreign origin having a partisan connotation". There were reports that the Tunisian police harassed men with "Islamic" appearance (such as those with beards), detained them, and sometimes compelled men to shave their beards off.[52] In 2006, the Tunisian president declared that he would "fight" the hijab, which he refers to as "ethnic clothing".[53]

Individual Tunisians are tolerant of religious freedom and generally do not inquire about a person's personal beliefs.[51]

The majority of Tunisia's population (98%) are Muslims, while 1% follow Christianity and the rest (1%) adhere to Judaism or other religions.[54] However, there are no reliable data on the number of practicing Muslims. Some reports stipulate that atheists form the second largest group in the country (making it probably on top of any other North African country)[55].

Tunisia has a sizable Christian community of around 25,000 adherents; mainly Catholics (20,000) and to a lesser degree Protestants. Judaism is the country's third largest religion with 1,500 members. One-third of the Jewish population lives in and around the capital. The remainder lives on the island of Djerba, where the Jewish community dates back 2,500 years[51].

Djerba, an island in the Gulf of Gabès, is home to El Ghriba synagogue, which is one of the oldest synagogues in the world. Many Jews consider it a pilgrimage site with celebrations taking place there once every year.

Governorates & cities

Governorates

Governorates of Tunisia

Tunisia is subdivided into 24 governorates, they are:

  1. Ariana
  2. Béja
  3. Ben Arous
  4. Bizerte
  5. Gabès
  6. Gafsa
  7. Jendouba
  8. Kairouan
  9. Kasserine
  10. Kebili
  11. Kef
  12. Mahdia
  1. Manouba
  2. Medenine
  3. Monastir
  4. Nabeul
  5. Sfax
  6. Sidi Bou Zid
  7. Siliana
  8. Sousse
  9. Tataouine
  10. Tozeur
  11. Tunis
  12. Zaghouan

The governorates are divided into 264 "delegations" or "districts" (mutamadiyat), and further subdivided into municipalities (shaykhats)[56] and sectors (imadats).[57]

Major cities

City Population
Tunis 3 980 500
Sfax 277 278

[58]

Sousse 164 123

[59]

Kairouan 119 794

[60]

At Tadaman 118 487

[61]

Military

The Tunisian armed forces are divided into three branches:

Tunisia's military spending is 1.6% of GDP (2006). The army is responsible for national defence and also internal security. It appears that in recent years, Tunisia's defence forces have become more focused on Islamist groups in North Africa. The U.S. has conducted exercises with Tunisian defence forces due to this concern.[citation needed]

Geography

Topographic map of Tunisia.
Tunis bay
Ressas mount from Tunis Lake

Tunisia is a country situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Valley. It is bordered by Algeria in the west and Libya in the south-east. An abrupt southern turn of its shoreline gives Tunisia two faces on the Mediterranean.

Despite its relatively small size, Tunisia has great geographical and climatic diversity. The Dorsal, an extension of the Atlas Mountains, traverses Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula. North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, although in the northwestern corner of Tunisia, the land reaches elevations of 1,050 meters.

The Sahil is a plain along Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast famous because of its olive monoculture. Inland from the Sahil, between the Dorsal and a range of hills south of Gafsa, are the Steppes. Much of the southern region is semi-arid and desert.

Tunisia has a coastline 1,148 kilometres in length. In maritime terms, the country claims a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles (44.4 km; 27.6 mi), and a territorial sea of 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).

Tunisia's climate is temperate in the north, with mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers [62]. The south of the country is desert. The terrain in the north is mountainous, which, moving south, gives way to a hot, dry central plain. The south is semiarid, and merges into the Sahara. A series of salt lakes, known as chotts or shatts, lie in an east-west line at the northern edge of the Sahara, extending from the Gulf of Gabes into Algeria. The lowest point is Shatt al Gharsah, at -17 m, and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi, at 1544 metres.

Region

The region of Tunisia has some deserts, including part of the Sahara Desert in the south. In the north and mid the land is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Tunisia does not get so cold in the winter that it snows, but the temperature still can get below 0 °C (32 °F). In the summer it can get up to 32 °C (89.6 °F). Most of Tunisia has four seasons.

Demographics

The majority (98%[63]) of modern Tunisians are Arab or arabized Berber,[64] and are speakers of Tunisian Arabic. However, there is also a small (1% at most[65]) population of Berbers located in the Jabal Dahar mountains in the South East and on the island of Jerba, though many more have Berber ancestry. The Berbers primarily speak Berber languages, often called Shelha.

The small European population (1%) consists mostly of French and Italians. There is also long established Jewish community in the country, the history of the Jews in Tunisia going back some 2,000 years. In 1948 the Jewish population was an estimated 105,000, but by 2003 only about 1,500 remained.[66]

The first people known to history in what is now Tunisia were the Berbers. Numerous civilizations and peoples have invaded, migrated to, and been assimilated into the population over the millennia, with varying influxes of population via conquest and settlement from Phoenicians/Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and French.

Additionally, after the Reconquista and expulsion of non-Christians and Moriscos from Spain, many Spanish Moors and Jews also arrived at the end of the 15th century. In addition, from the late 1800s to after World War II, Tunisia was home to large populations of French and Italians (255,000 Europeans in 1956[67]), although nearly all of them, along with the Jewish population, left after Tunisia became independent.

Religion in Tunisia is dominated by Islam, to which a majority of Tunisians (98%) adhere.[68] One of the most ancient Jewish communities in the world resides in Jerba, where religious diversity thrives. The southern Tunisian island is home to 39 synagogues.

Language

Advert primarily in Tunisian Arabic

Tunic Arabic is the local vernacular of Arabic and is considered Tunisia's official language. As is the case in the rest of the Arab world, a local variety of Arabic is used by the public. Tunisian Arabic is closely related to the Maltese language.[69] There is also a small minority of speakers of Shelha, a Berber language.[70]

Due to the former French occupation, French also plays a major role in the country, despite having no official status. It is widely used in education (e.g. as the language of instruction in the sciences in secondary school), the press, and in business. Most Tunisians are able to speak it. Many Tunisians, particularly those residing in large urban areas, readily mix Tunisian Arabic with French, a dialectal melange often informally called 'Frarabic'.

Education

Education is given a high priority and accounts for 6% of GNP. A basic education for children between the ages of 6 and 16 has been compulsory since 1991. Tunisia ranked 17th in the category of "quality of the [higher] educational system" and 21st in the category of "quality of primary education" in The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-9, released by The World Economic Forum.[71]

While children generally acquire Tunisian Arabic at home, when they enter school at age 6, they are taught to read and write in Standard Arabic. From the age of 8, they are taught French while English is introduced at the age of 12.

Colleges and universities in Tunisia include:

  • Ecole Polytechnique de Tunisie
  • International University of Tunis
  • Université Libre de Tunis
  • Université de l'Aviation et Technologie de Tunisie
  • Institut National d'Agronomie de Tunis
  • Université des Sciences de Tunis

Culture

The National Opéra, in downtown Tunis.

The culture of Tunisia is mixed due to their long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.

Sports

National team logo.
7 November Radès Stadium

The most popular sport in Tunisia is football. The national football team, also known as "The Eagles of Carthage" have participated in four World Cup Championships. The team's record is shown below:

Year in World Cup Result
1978 1st Round
1998 1st Round
2002 1st Round
2006 1st Round

The premier football league is the "Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1". The main clubs are Espérance Sportive de Tunis, Club Africain, Sfaxian Sportive Club and Étoile Sportive du Sahel.

Handball

The national team has participated in several handball world championships. In 2005 Tunisia came 4th. The national league consists of about 12 teams, with ES. Sahel and Esperance S.Tunis dominating.

Wissem Hmam

The most famous tunisian handball player is Wissem Hmam. In the 2005 handball championship in Tunis, Wisam Hmam was ranked as the top scorer of the tournament.

Swimming

In the 2008 Olympics, Tunisian Oussama Mellouli won a gold medal in 1500 freestyle.

Festivals

  • Matmata Festival - Matmata (March)
  • Festival Oriljazz (April)
  • Festival "Tozeur, the Oriental, the African" (April)
  • International spring festival - Sbeitla (April)
  • Arab poetry festival - Tozeur - (April)
  • Carthage Jazz festival - Gammarth (April)
  • Tozeur’s International Oasis Festival - Tozeur (December)
  • Techno House festival - Gammarth (December)
  • Dar Sebastian celebrates opera festival - lyrical festival -(December)
  • Caravana Latina” Festival - Tozeur (December)
  • Traditional Saharan festival - Douz (December)

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Institute for Economics and Peace [46] Global Peace Index[72] 44 out of 144
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 98 out of 182
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 65 out of 180
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 40 out of 133

Affiliations

Tunisia is a member of the following organizations:

Organization Dates
United Nations since 12 November 1956
Arab League since 1958
Organization of the Islamic Conference since 1969
World Trade Organization since 29 March 1995
Mediterranean Dialogue group since February 1995

See also

References

  1. ^ (Arabic) "Article 4", Tunisia Constitution, 1957-07-25, http://www.chambre-dep.tn/a_constit1.html (Arabic), retrieved 2009-12-23 
  2. ^ a b (Arabic) "Article 1", Tunisia Constitution, 1957-07-25, http://www.chambre-dep.tn/a_constit1.html (Arabic), retrieved 2009-12-23  Translation by the University of Bern: Tunisia is a free State, independent and sovereign; its religion is the Islam, its language is Arabic, and its form is the Republic.
  3. ^ a b "National Statistics Online". National Statistics Institute of Tunisia. July 2009. http://www.ins.nat.tn/. Retrieved 7 January 2009.  (Arabic)
  4. ^ a b c d "Tunisia". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2009/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2006&ey=2009&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=744&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=62&pr.y=9. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  5. ^ "Human Development Report 2009. Human development index trends: Table G". The United Nations. http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2009_EN_Complete.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  6. ^ "Financial Times report on Tunisia". http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f13bc3b6-c3e6-11de-a290-00144feab49a.html. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  7. ^ http://www.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=24264
  8. ^ http://www.italymag.co.uk/italy/sicily/italian-and-tunisian-ministers-discuss-immigration-emergency, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/10/world/italian-isle-a-stepping-stone-for-illegal-immigrants.html?pagewanted=1, http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090325/local/malta-tunisia-discuss-repatriation-of-migrants
  9. ^ a b Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for 6,600 Countries, Cities, Territories, Natural Features, and Historic Sites. McFarland. pp. 385. ISBN 0786422483. 
  10. ^ Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Historic cities of the Islamic world. Brill. 2007. p. 264
  11. ^ Kairouan inscription as World Heritage (Kairouan.org)
  12. ^ a b c Lapidus, Ira Marvin (2002). A History of Islamic Societies (2 ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 302–303. ISBN 0521779332. 
  13. ^ Ham, Anthony; Hole, Abigail; Willett, David. (2004). Tunisia (3 ed.). Lonely Planet. pp. 65. ISBN 1741041899. 
  14. ^ a b Stearns, Peter N.; Leonard Langer, William (2001). The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Chronologically Arranged (6 ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 129–131. ISBN 0395652375. 
  15. ^ a b Singh, Nagendra Kr (2000). International encyclopaedia of islamic dynasties Vol. 4: A Continuing Series. 4: A Continuing Series. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.. pp. 105–112. ISBN 8126104031. 
  16. ^ J. Ki-Zerbo, G. Mokhtar, A. Adu Boahen, I. Hrbek. General history of Africa. James Currey Publishers. pp. 171–173. ISBN 0852550936. 
  17. ^ Populations Crises and Population Cycles, Claire Russell and W.M.S. Russell
  18. ^ Smeaton Munro, Ion. Through Fascism to World Power: A History of the Revolution in Italy. pag 221
  19. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5439.htm. 
  20. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.instablogs.com/leila-ben-ali/. 
  21. ^ [Beau, Catherine Graciet, La régente de Carthage: Main basse sur la Tunisie (Paris, Editions La Decouverte, 2009) "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}"]. Beau, Catherine Graciet, La régente de Carthage: Main basse sur la Tunisie (Paris, Editions La Decouverte, 2009). 
  22. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.bakchich.info/La-regente-de-Carthage-main-basse,08817.html. 
  23. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.tunisiawatch.com/?p=504. 
  24. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.lapresse.tn/pdf/la_une_pdf/2010-02-02_une.pdf. 
  25. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://carpediem-selim.blogspot.com/2008/05/le-chmage-des-jeunes-diplms-en-tunisie.html. 
  26. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.paperblog.fr/2160525/droits-de-l-homme-en-tunisie-rafles-pour-incorporer-de-force-au-service-militaire/. 
  27. ^ Picture of the official plane http://www.airliners.net/photo/Republic-of-Tunisia/Boeing-737-7H3-BBJ/0485035/L/
  28. ^ Foreign Policy Magazine. Jan/Feb 2008. page 104
  29. ^ Story Online http://www.foreignpolicy.com/users/login.php?story_id=4090&URL=http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4090
  30. ^ "Ajaccio - Un trafic de yachts entre la France et la Tunisie en procès" (in French). 30 September 2009. http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/france/justice/0,,4822443,00-un-trafic-de-yachts-entre-la-france-et-la-tunisie-en-proces-.html. 
  31. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/19/tunisia-elections-rigging-ben-ali. 
  32. ^ "HRW, Tunisia: Elections in an Atmosphere of Repression". http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/23/tunisia-elections-atmosphere-repression. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  33. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.rsf.org/La-Cour-d-appel-confirme-la,36252.html. 
  34. ^ "cia world factbook, Tunisia". https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  35. ^ "Wikipedia-list GDP per capita". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  36. ^ "The Global Competitiveness Index 2009–2010 rankings". http://www.weforum.org/pdf/GCR09/GCR20092010fullrankings.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  37. ^ "Airbus build plant in tunisia". http://www.eturbonews.com/7499/airbus-build-plant-tunisia. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  38. ^ "HP to open customer service center in Tunisia". http://www.africanmanager.com/site_eng/articles/13578.html?pmv_nid=3. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  39. ^ "Bilateral relations Tunisia EU". http://ec.europa.eu/trade/issues/bilateral/countries/tunisia/index_en.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  40. ^ "Mediterranean Gate". http://www.mediterraneangate.com/. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  41. ^ "Tunis Sport City". http://www.sportcitiesinternational.com/english/tunis_sports_city.shtml. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  42. ^ "Tunis Financial Harbour". http://www.gfh.com/en/our-business/tunis-financial-harbour.html. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  43. ^ "Vision 3 announces Tunis Telecom City". http://www.ameinfo.com/181104.html. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  44. ^ "Oil and Gas in Tunisia". http://www.mbendi.com/indy/oilg/af/tu/p0005.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  45. ^ "STEG, CEO speech". http://www.steg.com.tn/journee_sidi_salem/maitrise_energie.pdf. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  46. ^ "STEG, company website". http://www.steg.com.tn/en/institutionnel/electricite_chiffres.html. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  47. ^ "MBendi oilfields in Tunisia". http://www.mbendi.com/indy/oilg/af/tu/p0005.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  48. ^ "Reuters, Tunisias nuclear plans". http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLN941296. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  49. ^ "Tunisia : A civil nuclear station of 1000 Megawatt and two sites are selected". http://www.africanmanager.com/site_eng/detail_article.php?art_id=12263. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  50. ^ a b "cia world factbook, Tunisia". https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  51. ^ a b c Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2008), "Report on Tunisia", International Religious Freedom Report 2008, US State Department, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108494.htm 
  52. ^ US Department of State http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51611.htm
  53. ^ Tunisia: War over hijab, YNet News, October 14, 2006
  54. ^ CIA - The World Factbook -- Tunisia
  55. ^ "Religions in Tunisia". http://looklex.com/e.o/tunisia_religions.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  56. ^ Tunisia Governorates
  57. ^ Portail de l'industrie Tunisienne, in French
  58. ^ "Mongabay.com, population of Sfax". http://population.mongabay.com/population/tunisia/2467454/sfax. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  59. ^ "Mongabay.com, population of Sousse". http://population.mongabay.com/population/tunisia/2464915/sousse. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  60. ^ "Mongabay.com, population of Kairouan". http://population.mongabay.com/population/tunisia/2473449/kairouan. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  61. ^ "FITA, population of At Tadaman". http://www.fita.org/countries/tunisia.html?ma_rubrique=cadre. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  62. ^ Climate of Tunisia (bbc.uk)
  63. ^ Tunisia.. CIA – The World Factbook.
  64. ^ Columbia Gazetteer
  65. ^ Q&A: The Berbers. BBC News. March 12, 2004.
  66. ^ The Jews of Tunisia. Jewish Virtual Library.
  67. ^ Tunisia. Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Thomson Gale. 2007. Encyclopedia.com.
  68. ^ "CIA — The World Factbook — Tunisia". https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html#People. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  69. ^ Borg and Azzopardi-Alexander Maltese (1997:xiii) "The immediate source for the Arabic vernacular spoken in Malta was Muslim Sicily, but its ultimate origin appears to have been Tunisia. In fact, Maltese displays some areal traits typical of Maghrebine Arabic, although during the past eight hundred years of independent evolution it has drifted apart from Tunisian Arabic."
  70. ^ Gabsi, Zouhir (2003) 'An outline of the Shilha (Berber) vernacular of Douiret (Southern Tunisia)' [1]
  71. ^ http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/Global%20Competitiveness%20Report/index.htm
  72. ^ "Vision of Humanity". Vision of Humanity. http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi/home.php. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Africa : North Africa : Tunisia
noframe
Location
Image:LocationTunisia.png
Flag
Image:ts-flag.png
Quick Facts
Capital Tunis
Government Republic
Currency Tunisian dinar (TND)
Area 163,610 sq km
Population 9,924,742 (end 2003)
Language Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
Religion Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Electricity 127-220V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code +216
Internet TLD .tn
Time Zone UTC +1

Tunisia [1] is a country in Northern Africa that has a Mediterranean Sea coastline in the very centre of Mediterranean Africa. Tunisia lies immediately to the south of Italy and Malta. Libya borders Tunisia to the south-east, whilst Algeria lies to the west.

Administrative divisions 
24 governorates; Ariana (Aryana), Beja (Baja), Ben Arous (Bin 'Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), El Kef (El Kaf), Gabes (Gabis), Gafsa (Gafsah), Jendouba (Jandouba), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Gasryn), Kebili (Guebilli), Mahdia (Al Mahdiya),Mannouba (Mannouba), Medenine (Midnin), Monastir (Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi BouZid (Sidi BouZid), Siliana (Siliana), Sousse (Soussa), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Touzer), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwen)
Map of Tunisia
Map of Tunisia
  • Port El Kantaoui — a popular tourist destination in Tunisia, north of Sousse.
  • Djerba — a popular tourist destination on a Mediterranean island in the south.
  • Douz — tourist town on the edge of the Sahara, where you can hitch a camel ride.
  • Jugurtha's Table — a large mesa with a moon like surface and deep crevasses in the northwest of the country (under Get Out section of El Kef).
  • El Jem one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world.
  • Dougga impressive ruins of a remote Roman city
  • Kerkouane remnants of the sole untouched Punic settlement
  • Matmata — desert village of cave abodes, where Star Wars's Tatooine was filmed.
  • Sidi Bou Said — picturesque seaside town of white houses with blue doors and shutters.
  • Sufetula or Sbeitla — a fairly well preserved Roman settlement in the mid-west area of Tunisia.
  • Skanes pronounced "SKAH-nis" Midway between Sousse and Monastir. Fairly quiet resort but ideal as a base for the 2 towns.
  • Metlaoui — get aboard the restored Red Lizard vintage train snaking through scenic gorges and hills.
  • Carthage — famously razed by the Romans; remnants now encased in a museum; site easily reached by train
  • Carthage - Phoenician colony, biggest trade metropolis of the antique world

Understand

Climate

Temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south.

Terrain

Mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara desert.

Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Shatt al Gharsah -17 m
highest point: Jebel ech Chambi 1,544 m

History

Independence : 20 March 1956 (from France)

National holiday : Independence Day, 20 March - a time when hotel rooms are completely booked. Plan accordingly.

Following independence from France in 1956, President Habib Bourguiba established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to diffuse rising pressure for a more open political society.

Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration.

Tourism

There are several ways to enjoy your vacation in Tunisia, including spending your vacation on the gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, or planning a circuit of Tunisia. Numerous charter flight companies can arrange flight and hotel, many that waiver a visa to enter. There are also some agencies that have ongoing tours for groups and private travelers.

Tourism is pretty well developed in Tunisia, although not at par with other countries like Egypt and perhaps even Morocco. Hotel star ratings are not at par with European and US standards-- a 4 star hotel is the equivalent of a 3 star.

Get in

No visa is required for Americans, Canadians, European Community and Great Maghreb nationals (Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania). A landing visa (on arrival) is available for Australians. For New Zealand, other African and Asian countries' nationals, a visa must be applied for at the embassy of coverage.

By plane

Tunisia's main international airport for scheduled flights is Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN) near Tunis. From the airport, you can catch a taxi to the center of Tunis (beware, meters may be rigged). Alternatively, take bus # 635 or # 35 to Ave Habib Bourguiba for around 1 dinar. The bus comes roughly every half-hour and stops in front of the terminal.

Tunisia's second airport is Habib Bourguiba, Skanes-Monastir(MIR) which is served by low cost charter flights from all over Europe. Monastir is nearer to most of the holiday destinations. Inexpensive charter flights (at least from the UK) are available through airlines such as Thomas Cook. From May 2010, Jet2.comwill also operate a service to Monastir. Other destinations with international airports include Tozeur and Djerba.

Other Airports countrywide are serving national and international flights, and here is a list of the Tunisia's Airports: Tunis Carthage Intl Airport near Tunis (North Tunisia) - [2] Habib Bourguiba Skanes Monastir near Monastir (Central East Tunisia) - Sfax Thyna Airport near Sfax (Central East Tunisia) - Tozeur Nefta Intl Airport near Tozeur (South West Tunisia) - Gafsa Airport near Gafsa (South West Tunisia) - Tabarka November 7th 1987 near Tabarka (North West Tunisia) - Djerba International Airport in Djerba Island (South East Tunisia) - [3]

By boat

Ferry services link Tunis to Malta, Trapani (Sicily, Italy), Naples (Italy), Genoa (Italy) and Marseille (France). Travelling boats generally leave from La Goulette port (near Tunis). Other commercial ports are also available (Rades, Gabes, Sousse, Sfax, Zarzis...)

Get around

By Plane

SevenAir is the domestic airline branched off of TunisAir. You can fly between Tunis and Tozeur, Djerba and Gabes, as well as flights to Malta and Bizerte. French-only website, booking still not online only through agencies SevenAir.

By Car

Tunisian highways resembles US Interstate or the Highways of Europe with a dual carriageway : A-1 runs from Tunis south heading to Sfax (The section from Sousse to Sfax has recenly been opened June 2008), A-2 runs from Tunis north heading to Bizerte, and A-3 runs from Tunis West heading to Oued Zarga. Tunisian highways speed limit is 110 km/h. It is possible to maintain that speed on that road very easily. The routes shown on some maps have a planned extension to Gabes then Ras Jedir (Libya Frontiers) in the South as of 2011-2014 and to Ghardimaou (Algerian Frontiers) in the West, but several years later. The remaining Highways have single carriageways, with traffic round-abouts at major intersections, which follow the European model (those in the roundabout have the right of way). Consequently, on roads other than the A-1,2,3 it can be difficult to maintain an average speed of more than 75 km/h most of the time as the speed limit is 90 Km/h. Almost all road signs are in both Arabic and French.

Driving in Tunis is very different than in the rest of the country, with traffic signals being widely ignored, and lane markings likewise treated as theoretical only. To see the Medina of Tunis, it would be best to park some distance from the Medina, and take the light rail (called TGM) in from Marsa/Carthage, the green tramway (called Metro) downtown, or perhaps a taxi in from the nearer outskirts.

Rental Cars are fairly easy to find, but somewhat expensive, at 80 dinars or so a day, for a medium sized car such as a four door Renault Clio.

By taxi

Private taxis are reasonably priced even for long-distance travel, just be sure to agree on the fare before you set off. Sample fares for a four-seater are 40 euros for Tunis-Hammamet or 50 euros for Monastir-Hammamet [4].

By train

The national train company SNCFT[5] runs modern and comfortable trains from Tunis south to Sousse, Sfax and Monastir. There are three classes of service, namely Grand confort (deluxe 1st), 1st and 2nd, and all are quite adequate. Example fares from Tunis to Sousse are 12/10/6 dinars (6/5/3 Euros) in Grand/1st/2nd class. Although tickets are issued with wagon/seat numbers marked on it, that is largely ignored by locals. So if you are travelling with more people, try to get onboard quickly to find adjacent seats.

A good thing to do is to buy a carte bleue (blue card). It costs around 20 dinars for a week and you can travel all around the country using the banlieue (short distance train) and grande ligne (long distance). For the long distance you will have to make a reservation and pay a small fee (1,50 dinars or so). These passes can also be bought to cover 10 or 14 days. There are rarely queues at the booking office and a little bit of French goes a long way. Trains go also to Tozeur and Gabes in the south where it is easy to access the Sahara and Ksour regions respectively. In some stations where the frequency of trains is small (e.g. Tozeur), the ticket booth will remain closed for most of the day and reopen around the time of the departure of the next train.

A light railway (Called TGM) also connects Tunis northward to Carthage and Marsa. Take this light railway system to Sidi Bou Said as well. One-way light railway tickets will cost approximately 675 millimes (1 Dinar = 1,000 millimes = 55 Euro Cents).

By louage

Locals use louage or long-haul shared taxis where there is no train or bus. There are no timetables, but they wait in the louage station (which is generally near a train station if your destination is accessible by train) until 8 people turn up. They are nearly as cheap as the walk up train fares and operate with fixed prices so you won't get scalped. eg Douz to Gabes (120km) for 7 dinars. Be aware that while louages are very cheap, they can also be stifling hot during the summer months and tourists may be hassled. Furthermore, louages have the reputation to drive at a fast pace, and to be less safe than other transportation, so be aware of that. Louage departures are very frequent, a louage departs as soon as the seats are filled. All Louage cars are of white color, with a side stripe showing the coverage area. Louages between major cities are recognizable by their red stripe, louages within region are recognizable by their blue stripe and Louages serving rural areas are recognizable by thein Yellow strips (the Rural Louage can be Yellow with blue stripes, or a van fully painted in brown color).

By bus

Long distance bus (called car)[6] is also a safe and economic way to travel between major cities such as Tunis, Nabeul, Hammamet, etc. You will generally find a station in each major city offering many departures per day (every 30 minutes between Tunis and Hammamet). Some of the bus locally called "car comfort" offer higher standards (tv, air conditioner) at cheap prices.

Talk

Arabic is the official language of Tunisia and one of the languages of commerce, the other being French — a relic of Tunisia's former status as a French protectorate until 1956. English is of limited use, but fine for use around tourist areas.

Buy

The national currency is the Tunisian dinar. US$1 = 1.42915 dinar, €1 = 1.85743 dinar and GBP£1 = 2.00834 Dinar (17 March 2009). Typical banknotes are in the values of 5 (green), 10 (blue or brown), 20 (violet-red), 30 (orange), and 50 Dinars (green and purple). The Dinar is divided into 1000 Millemes, with typical coins being 5 Dinars (Silver with copper insert), 1 Dinar (large silver color), 500 Millemes (1/2 Dinar: smaller silver color), 100 and 50 Millemes, (large brass), 20 and 10 Millemes (smaller brass) and 5 Millemes (small aluminum). It is prohibited to bring dinars in and out of Tunisia, so you have to change your money locally.

Prices are typically marked in Dinars and Millemes, with a decimal point like: 5.600 or 24.000 or 0.360 sometimes with TND as a label like TND85.500 . Markets typically sell items by the Kilogram. So tomatoes may have a sign "480" on them which means 480 Millemes per Kilo. Good cheese will be marked something like 12.400 or about $10 a Kilo. Most self-serve supermarkets expect you to put your purchases in supplied plastic bags and then bring them to a nearby "balance" where a worker will weigh them and apply a price sticker.

Eat

Tunisian cuisine is very much in the Northern African Maghreb tradition, with couscous and marqa stews (similar to the Moroccan tajine, however what Tunisians refer to as "tajines" are nothing like the Moroccan variety) forming the backbone of most meals. Distinguishing characteristics are the fiery harissa chili sauce, the heavy use of tiny olives which are abundant in the country, and tajines in Tunisia (not to be confused with their Moroccan counterparts) refer to a type of omelette-like pie prepared with a ragout of meat and/or vegetables mixed with ingredients such as herbs, legumes and even offal, then enriched with eggs and cheese and finally baked in a deep pie dish until the eggs are just set, somewhat like an Italian frittata. Lamb forms the basis of most meat dishes. Local seafood is plentiful.

  • Shorba Frik - lamb soup
  • Coucha - shoulder of lamb cooked with turmeric and cayenne pepper
  • Khobz Tabouna - (pronounce Khobz Taboona) traditional oven baked bread
  • Brik - very crispy thin pastry with a whole egg (Brik à l'oeuf), parsley and onions and perhaps, meat too e.g. minced lamb or tuna (Brik au thon). Very tasty as an inexpensive starter. Eat it very carefully with your fingers.
  • Berber Lamb - Lamb cooked with potatoes, carrots in a clay pot.
  • Merguez - small spicy sausages.
  • Salade Tunisienne - lettuce, green pepper, tomato, onions, olives, radishes mixed with tuna.
  • Tunisian cakes - sweets related to Baklava.
  • Harissa - very hot spicy chili paste (somtimes milded with carrots or yogurt), served with bread as a starter at almost any meal.
  • Fricasse - small fried sandwich with tuna, harissa, olives and olive oil.
  • Bambaloony - fried sweet donut-like cake served with sugar.

Regrettably, Tunisia has a very underdeveloped restaurant culture and most food prepared outside of Tunisian homes is disappointingly bland and carelessly presented. These characteristics tend to apply across the price scale, though one can occasionally eat tasty couscous or "coucha" stew in some low-priced restaurants. One's best hope for good eating in Tunisia is to be invited as a guest in someone's home.

Drink

Being a progressive Muslim country, alcohol availability is restricted (but not greatly) to certain licensed (and invariably more expensive) restaurants, resort areas and Magasin General shops. Large department stores (Carrefour at Marsa/Carthage) and some supermarkets (e.g. Monoprix) sell beer and wine, and some local and imported hard liquors, except during Muslim holidays. Female travelers should be aware that, outside resort and areas of significant tourist concentration, they may find themselves with a beer in a smoky bar full of men drinking in a rather dedicated fashion. Some bars will refuse to admit women, others may ask for a passport to check nationality. Look around a bar before you decide to imbibe!

  • Beer - Celtia is the popular local brand, but some places also carry imported pilsner beers. Locally brewed LowenBrau is decent, and Heineken is planning a Tunisian Brewery in 2007. Celtia "En Pression" (On Tap) is good. Celestia is a non-alcoholic beer which is also popular.
  • Wine - Most places that serve alcohol will have Tunisian wine, which is quite good. Tunisian wine always was produced by French oenologists. Most of it was exported to France till the 1970s. Wine cooperatives were left and produce 80% of the wine which is served mostly to tourists. Since the privatisation of some parts of these cooperatives the international taste of wine entered the market in Tunisia. The small companies like Domaine Atlas, St. Augustin, Ceptunes etc. have successfully established the new generation of Tunisian wine. Importation of wine is extremely difficult because of very high taxes. Some high-end hotel restaurants can make French or Italian wines miraculously appear at a price.
  • Boukha - is a Tunisian brandy made from figs.
  • Coffee - served strong in small cups. Tunisian cappuccino is also served strong in small cups. "Cafe Creme" is available in many tourist areas and may even appear in an "American Cup".
  • Tea - is generally taken after meals.
  • Mint Tea - very sweet peppermint tea that is taken at any time of the day.

Sleep

There are lots of fine hotels in Tunisia.

You can also rent a furnished apartment.Some private people offer their own apartments for rent especially in summer.

It is advisable to organise your accommodations online or by phone prior to your arrival.

Learn

The Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages [7] offers intensive summer sessions in July and August for anyone interested in learning Modern Standard Arabic or Tunisian dialect. In the 2005 summer session there were over 500 students of all ages from throughout the world. This included students from the USA, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Turkey, Japan, China, etc.

On the first day of class, there is placement exam. The levels range from absolute beginner to advanced, with 15 to 25 students per class. Only Arabic is allowed in the classroom. We used both a course book developed by Bourguiba Institute and also music videos in Arabic with the accompanying text.

The courses are daily from 8:00 AM to 1:15 PM. In the afternoon there are activities and tours of the medina and museums. They also offer optional weekend excursions to sites in Tunisia. At the end of the one-month course there is both a written and oral exam.

Several students complained about the lack of cleanliness in the student dorms. Some students stayed in a hotel and then rented a beach-side apartment for the month. It's usually easier to negotiate rental prices once you are in Tunis.

Some students also expressed concern with the school's methodology, which appears to be antiquated and in need of great revision. If you have studied Arabic before, whether in your home country or in another school in the region, be prepared for a substandard continuation of your Arabic studies.

The school is located in the city of Tunis. It's about a 20 minute metro ride to the beach. If you go to the summer school, be prepared for the hot temperatures.

Work

Work issues are quite sensitive in Tunisia as job offers are limited even for Tunisian nationals. Foreign investors are welcome to establish projects and the government is providing facilities related authorizations for such initiatives. For a high level job lots of experience and excellent skills are of course required. Low level jobs are mainly in the service sector as in much of the world. Salaries in Tunisia are naturally lower than those in Western Europe or North America, due to the lower cost of living.

Stay safe

It is apparently not considered rude for a man to stare at a woman's body which should indicate that modesty will attract less attention. Women can expect to be the target of frequent catcalls ("Gazelle" seems to be especially popular).

Tunisian women often wear outfits that would normally be seen on the streets of any major world city (tight jeans, slinky top), but they do so while showing traditional modesty by exposing virtually no skin. Arms are covered down to the wrists, collars go to the neck (cleavage is non-existent) and a head scarf may be worn. Western women visiting can minimize attention by selecting clothes that minimizes skin shown. V-necks are fine if another layer with a higher collar is worn underdeath.

Travellers report problems being pestered either to buy something or for other purposes. Persistence is a major complaint. Some say that a refusal often results in a bad reaction, "being hissed at" is one example, but those who have been advised to refuse politely with a smile rarely complain. "Non, Merci" is a very good response, with a smile. This seems to be borne out by the reports of sole female travellers who you would expect to receive the most attention, but who often report the least problems (from an admittedly small sample), perhaps because they are more cautious than accompanied females. It certainly seems to be the case that sole female sea bathers attract a good deal of unwelcome attention (even molestation) until a male friend arrives.

Theft of belongings, even from hotel rooms and room safes, is widely reported and the usual caveats apply - keep valuables in a secure place (e.g. supervised hotel safe deposit), do not flash too much cash, and keep wallets, purses and other desirable items where pick pockets cannot reach them. A good recommendation is only to carry enough cash for your immediate requirements and only one credit or bank card, provided you can be assured of the security of your reserves. Besides, most of the Automatic Bank-notes distributors are available and foreign credit cards are accepted. You can take cash (in equivalent Tunisian Dinar) directly from your bank account with a small extra fee (Bank transaction from 1 to 2 euros).

Theft is also reported in the Airport. Keep your belongings under your direct supervision all the time.

  • Malaria - There is NOT much of a malaria risk in Tunisia, but pack your bug spray.
  • Sun Please remember that the sun is frequently your biggest enemy, we would recommend frequent application of a high (factor 30 or better) sun screen. It is usually cheaper in your local super market than at the holiday destination.
  • Be careful what and where you eat and drink (remember the ice cubes too); diarrhoea is a common complaint from uncautious travellers. The tap water in the high-end Tunis-Carthage-Marsa area seems to be safe (2006).

Vaccinations

Always check with your doctor 4-8 weeks before traveling (The 4-8 weeks is important, as some vaccinations take weeks to become effective, and with Polio you can be contagious for a while too):

  • Yellow fever is required for all travelers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas.
  • Hepatitis A is usually recommended Two Havrix injections, given 6 months apart, provide 10 years of Hep A protection
  • Typhoid
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis B - Highly recommended if likely to have intimate contact with locals or if visiting for more than 6 months.

Respect

Tunisia is a Muslim country, and dress code is important, particularly for females. Whilst a lot of skin (even topless) is tolerated on beaches and within hotel complexes, a modest amount of exposed skin may be frowned upon outside these areas.

Be warned that the Tunisian government discourages critical discussion of local politics, particularly in public forums.

Contact

Telephone

Public telephones are available in all towns and cities and in most villages under either the name of Publitel or Taxiphone - in cities simply look around - there is at least one on every street. International calls tend to be quite expensive (DT 1,000/minute to call anywhere in the EU). There are two mobile GSM operators, private Tunisiana[8] and state-owned Tunisie Telecom[9], both offering wide mobile coverage (including some oasis in the Sahara). Rates tend to be quite low for domestic calls, but very high for international cals (around DT 1,500/minute). Ask for a carte prépayée for a prepaid SIM card.

Internet

Public internet access is available in many cities and towns, usually using the Publinet logo. Since home internet access is quite expensive in Tunisia, many locals will use these, so they are very widespread, especially in the non-touristic areas of cities. Look for a large purple sign with the Publinet logo. Access is usually 0.8DT/hour, and speeds tend to be quite low (512kbps is the norm in Sousse and 2048 in Tunis). Note that FTP and peer-to-peer access is not available anywhere in Tunisia, and access to certain web sites, particularly those that engage Tunisian political issues, is restricted by the government.

Post

La Poste Tunisienne [10]is quite efficient and fast. Post restante is offered in certain (bigger) offices. A stamp for international letters costs DT 0,600.

Rapide Post is the Poste's service for sending mail and packages quickly. Once a Rapide Post package enters the US it is handled by FedEx. It is the best and most secure way to send things in Tunisia.

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia

See also Tunísia

Contents

English

Pronunciation

Proper noun

Singular
Tunisia

Plural
-

Tunisia

  1. Country in Northern Africa. Official name: Republic of Tunisia.

Translations

See also


Finnish

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Finnish Wikipedia has an article on:
Tunisia

Wikipedia fi

Proper noun

Tunisia

  1. Tunisia

Declension


Italian

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Italian Wikipedia has an article on:
Tunisia

Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Tunisia f.

  1. Tunisia

Derived terms


Norwegian

Proper noun

Tunisia

  1. Tunisia

Related terms








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