Tunisia Basic Facts:
Tunisia is a safe and friendly country in North Africa. Millions of Europeans visit annually to enjoy the beaches along the Mediterranean and soak up some ancient culture amongst the well-preserved Roman ruins. The Sahara Desert attracts adventure seekers during the winter months. Southern Tunisia is where George Lucas filmed many of his Star Wars movies, he used the natural landscape and traditional Berber villages (some underground) to depict the Planet Tatooine.
Area: 163,610 sq km, (slightly larger than Georgia, US).
Location: Tunisia lies in Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya, see map.
Capital City: Tunis
Population: Just over 10 million people live in Tunisia.
Language: Arabic (official) and French (widely understood and used in commerce). Berber dialects are also spoken, especially in the South.
Religion: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%.
Climate: Tunisia has a temperate climate in the north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers especially in the desert in the south.
Click here for average temperatures in Tunis.
When to Go: May to October, unless you're planning to go to the Sahara Desert, then go November to February.
Currency: Tunisian Dinar, click here for a currency converter.
Tunisia's Main Attractions:
The vast majority of visitors to Tunisia head straight for the resorts at Hammamet, Cap Bon and Monastir, but there is more to the country than sandy beaches and the lovely blue Mediterranean. Here are some highlights:
- Sidi Bou Said: A gorgeous cliff top village overlooking the Mediterranean with steep cobbled streets lined with white-washed houses framed by bright blue window trellises.
- Ksar Ghilaine: A desert oasis on the edge of the vast Saharan dunes, take a camel ride for the day and get lost in the sheer magnificence of this glorious, gold-colored sea of sand.
- Southern Tunisia's Ancient Berber Villages: Southern Tunisia is filled with stark, beautiful landscapes dotted with ancient hilltop Berber villages, multi-storied granaries and troglodyte dwellings. Fascinating to explore, don't miss out on local markets when you go. Star Wars tours in this area are also fun for fans.
- Medinas of Tunis, Sfax, and Kairouan: Medinas are old walled cities, built by the Arabs and Turks and are still in use today. The warren-like alleys are filled to the brim with shops and artisans working much like they have done for hundreds of years.
- Roman Ruins of Carthage, Dougga and El Jem: Tunisia's Roman built monuments are better preserved than many you'll find in Italy. Tours from the resorts will often include El-Jem, the world's best preserved Roman amphitheater.
- Djerba: A lovely island filled with history and a charming main town, Houmt Souk with beautiful architecture and budget hotels in old Caravanserais. Avoid the tourist zone at all costs unless you're just there to get a tan.
Travel to Tunisia
Tunisia's International Airport: Tunis-Carthage International Airport (airport code TUN) lies 5 miles (8km) northeast of the city center, Tunis. Other international airports include Monastir (airport code: MIR), Sfax (airport code: SFA) and Djerba (airport code: DJE).
Getting to Tunisia: Direct flights and charter flights arrive daily from many European countries, you can also catch a ferry from France or Italy -- More about getting to Tunisia.
Tunisia Embassies/Visas: Most nationalities do not require a tourist visa before entering the country, but check with the Tunisian Embassy before you depart.
Tourist Information Office (ONTT): 1, Ave. Mohamed V, 1001 Tunis, Tunisia. E-mail: ontt@Email.ati.tn, Web Site: http://www.tourismtunisia.com/
Tunisia's Economy and Politics
Economy: Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Progressive social policies also have helped raise living conditions in Tunisia relative to the region. Real growth, which averaged almost 5% over the past decade, declined to 4.7% in 2008 and probably will decline further in 2009 because of economic contraction and slowing of import demand in Europe - Tunisia's largest export market.
However, development of non-textile manufacturing, a recovery in agricultural production, and strong growth in the services sector somewhat mitigated the economic effect of slowing exports. Tunisia will need to reach even higher growth levels to create sufficient employment opportunities for an already large number of unemployed as well as the growing population of university graduates. The challenges ahead include: privatizing industry, liberalizing the investment code to increase foreign investment, improving government efficiency, reducing the trade deficit, and reducing socioeconomic disparities in the impoverished south and west.
Politics: Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in getting the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country's first president, Habib Bourgiba, 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 November 1987, Bourgiba was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in a bloodless coup. Street protests that began in Tunis in December 2010 over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices escalated in January 2011, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. On 14 January 2011, the same day BEN ALI dismissed the government, he fled the country, and by late January 2011, a "national unity government" was formed. Elections for the new Constituent Assembly were held in late October 2011, and in December it elected human rights activist Moncef MARZOUKI as interim president.
The Assembly began drafting a new constitution in February 2012, and is aiming to have it ratified by the end of the year.