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Republic of Tunisia

  • الجمهورية التونسية
  • al-Jumhūriyyah at-Tūnisiyyah

  • République tunisienne
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: حرية، نظام، عدالة
"Ḥurriyyah, Niẓām, ‘Adālah"
"Liberty, Order, Justice"
Anthem:  Humat al-Hima
Defenders of the Homeland
Location of Tunisia in northern Africa.
Location of Tunisia in northern Africa.
and largest city
36°50′N 10°9′E
Official languages Arabic
Spoken languages
Demonym Tunisian
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic
 -  President Moncef Marzouki
 -  Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh
Legislature Constituent Assembly
 -  from France March 20, 1956 
 -  Total 163,610 km2 ( 93rd)
63,170 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 5.0
 -  2012 estimate 10,732,900 ( 77th)
 -  Density 63/km2 ( 133rd)
163/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $100.979 billion
 -  Per capita $9,477
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $46.360 billion
 -  Per capita $4,351
Gini (2005) 41.4
HDI (2013) Increase 0.712
high · 94th
Currency Tunisian dinar ( TND)
Time zone CET ( UTC+1)
 -  Summer ( DST) not observed ( UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Calling code +216
ISO 3166 code TN
Internet TLD
  • .tn
  • .تونس
a. Commercial and lingua franca.

Tunisia (US / t ˈ n ʒ ə / two-NEE-zhə or UK / tj ˈ n ɪ z i ə / tew-NIZ-i-ə; Arabic: تونسTūnis pronounced  [ˈtuːnɪs]; French: Tunisie), officially the Republic of Tunisia (Arabic: الجمهورية التونسيةal-Jumhūriyyah at-Tūnisiyyah; Berber: Tagduda n Tunes; French: République tunisienne), is the smallest country in North Africa. It is a Maghreb country bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east.

Tunisia is almost 165,000 square kilometres (64,000 sq mi) in area, with an estimated population of just under 10.7 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the northeast. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of coastline.

Tunisia has an association agreement with the European Union and is a member of the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League, and the African Union. Tunisia has established close relations with France in particular, through economic cooperation, industrial modernization, and privatisation programs.

In 2011 a revolution resulted in the overthrow of autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the first free elections in the country were held. Since Tunisia has been consolidating its young democracy.


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. 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 Russian Туни́с (Tunís) and Spanish Túnez. In this case, the same name is used for both country and city, as with the Arabic تونس, and only by context can one tell the difference.

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



Roman amphitheater in El Djem

Farming methods reached the Nile Valley from the Fertile Crescent region about 5000 BC, and spread to the Maghreb by about 4000 BC. Agricultural communities in the humid coastal plains of central Tunisia then were ancestors of today's Berber tribes.

It was believed in ancient times that Africa was originally populated by Gaetulians and Libyans, both nomadic peoples. According to the Roman historian Sallust, the demigod Hercules died in Spain and his polyglot eastern army was left to settle the land, with some migrating to Africa. Persians went to the West and intermarried with the Gaetulians and became the Numidians. The Medes settled and were known as Mauri latter Moors.

The Numidians and Moors belonged to the race from which the Berbers are descended. The translated meaning of Numidian is Nomad and indeed the people were semi-nomadic until the reign of Masinissa of the Massyli tribe.

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

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.

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 Roman power. From the conclusion of the Second Punic War in 202 BC, Carthage functioned as a client state of the Roman Republic for another 50 years.

Following the Battle of Carthage in 149 BC, Carthage was conquered by Rome. After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the main granaries of Rome and was fully Latinized.

The Romans controlled nearly all of modern Tunisia from 149 BC until the area was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD, only to be reconquered by Roman general Belisarius in the 6th century, during the rule of Emperor Justinian I.

During the Roman period the area of what is now Tunisia enjoyed a huge development. The economy, mainly during the Empire, boomed: the prosperity of the area depended on agriculture. Called the Granary of the Empire, the area of actual Tunisia and coastal Tripolitania, according to one estimate, produced one million tons of cereals each year, one-quarter of which was exported to the Empire. Additional crops included beans, figs, grapes, and other fruits.

By the 2nd century, olive oil rivalled cereals as an export item. In addition to the cultivations, and the capture and transporting of exotic wild animals from the western mountains, the principal production and exports included the textiles, marble, wine, timber, livestock, pottery such as African Red Slip, and wool.

There was even a huge production of mosaics and ceramics, exported mainly to Italy, in the central area of El Djem (where there was the second biggest amphitheater in the Roman Empire).

Berber bishop Donatus Magnus was the founder of a Christian group known as the Donatists. During the 5th and 6th Centuries (from 430 to 533 AD), the Germanic Vandals invaded and ruled over a kingdom in North Africa that included present-day Tripoli. They were defeated by a combined force of Romans and Berbers.

Middle Ages

Domes of the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Founded in 670, it dates in its present form largely from the Aghlabid period (9th century). It is the oldest mosque in the Maghreb.

Around the second half of the 7th century and the beginning of the 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 670 AD, the Great Mosque of Kairouan was erected; it has the oldest standing minaret in the world. This mosque, also called the Mosque of Uqba, is the most ancient and most prestigious sanctuary in the Muslim West; it is also considered a masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture.

The Arab governors of Tunis founded the Aghlabid Dynasty, which ruled Tunisia, Tripolitania and eastern Algeria from 800 to 909. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule, as extensive irrigation installations were constructed to supply towns with water and promote agriculture (especially olive production). This prosperity permitted luxurious court life and was marked by the construction of new palace cities such as al-Abassiya (809) and Raqadda (877).

After conquering Cairo, the Fatimids abandoned Tunisia and parts of Eastern Algeria to the local Zirids (972–1148). Zirid Tunisia prospered, with agriculture, industry, trade and learning, both religious and secular, all flourishing. Management of the later Zirid emirs was neglectful though, and political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and agriculture.

Emperor Charles V captured Tunis in 1535, liberating thousands of Christian slaves.

The invasion of Tunisia by the Banu Hilal, a warlike Arab Bedouin tribe encouraged by the Fatimids of Egypt to seize North Africa, sent the region's urban and economic life into further decline. The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.

The coasts were held briefly by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century, but following the conquest of Tunisia in 1159–1160 by the Almohads the last Christians in Tunisia disappeared either through forced conversion or emigration. The Almohads initially ruled over Tunisia through a governor, usually a near relative of the Caliph. Despite the prestige of the new masters, the country was still unruly, with continuous rioting and fighting between the townsfolk and wandering Arabs and Turks, the latter being subjects of the Armenian adventurer Karakush.

The greatest threat to Almohad rule in Tunisia was the Banu Ghaniya, relatives of the Almoravids, who from their base in Mallorca tried to restore Almoravid rule over the Maghreb. Around 1200 they succeeded in extending their rule over the whole of Tunisia, until they were crushed by Almohad troops in 1207. After this success, the Almohads installed Walid Abu Hafs as the governor of Tunisia. Tunisia remained part of the Almohad state, until 1230 when the son of Abu Hafs declared himself independent. During the reign of the Hafsid dynasty, fruitful commercial relationships were established with several Christian Mediterranean states. In the late 16th century the coast became a pirate stronghold (see: Barbary States).

Ottoman Tunisia

The Ottoman Army marching on Tunis in 1569

In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but these were recovered by the Ottoman Empire.

The first Ottoman conquest of Tunis took place in 1534 under the command of Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, the younger brother of Oruç Reis, who was the Kapudan Pasha of the Ottoman Fleet during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. However, it wasn't until the final Ottoman reconquest of Tunis from Spain in 1574 under Kapudan Pasha Uluç Ali Reis that the Ottomans permanently acquired the former Hafsid Tunisia, retaining it until the French occupation of Tunisia in 1881.

Initially under Turkish rule from Algiers, soon the Ottoman Porte appointed directly for Tunis a governor called the Pasha supported by janissary forces. Before long, however, Tunisia became in effect an autonomous province, under the local Bey. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957. This evolution of status was from time to time challenged without success by Algiers. During this era the governing councils controlling Tunisia remained largely composed of a foreign elite who continued to conduct state business in the Turkish language.

Throne hall in the beylical palace of Bardo, near Tunis, circa 1880

Attacks on European shipping were made by corsairs, primarily from Algiers, but also from Tunis and Tripoli, yet after a long period of declining raids the growing power of the European states finally forced its termination. Under the Ottoman Empire, the boundaries of Tunisia contracted; it lost territory to the west ( Constantine) and to the east (Tarabulus).

The Maghreb suffered from the deadly combination of plague and famine. The great epidemics ravaged Tunisia in 1784–1785, 1796–1797 and 1818–1820.

In the 19th century, the rulers of Tunisia became aware of the ongoing efforts at political and social reform in the Ottoman capital. The Bey of Tunis then, by his own lights but informed by the Turkish example, attempted to effect a modernizing reform of institutions and the economy. Tunisian international debt grew unmanageable. This was the reason or pretext for French forces to establish a Protectorate in 1881.

French Tunisia

Bab Souika in Tunis c. 1899

In 1869, Tunisia declared itself bankrupt and an international financial commission took control over its economy. In 1881, using the pretext of a Tunisian incursion into Algeria, the French invaded with an army of about 36,000 and forced the Bey to agree to the terms of the 1881 Treaty of Bardo (Al Qasr as Sa'id). With this treaty, Tunisia was officially made a French protectorate, over the objections of Italy. 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.

In 1942–1943, Tunisia was the scene of the Tunisia Campaign, a series of battles between the Axis and Allied forces. The battle opened with initial success by the German and Italian forces, but the massive supply and numerical superiority of the Allies led to the Axis's surrender on May 13, 1943.


The first Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba paying tribute to Tunisian national flag.

Tunisia achieved independence from France in 1956 led by Habib Bourguiba, who later became the first Tunisian President. The secular Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), formerly Neo Destour, controlled the country as one of the most repressive regimes in the Arab World since its independence in 1956.

In November 1987, doctors declared Bourguiba unfit to rule and, in a bloodless coup d'état, Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumed the presidency. President Ben Ali, previously Habib Bourguiba's minister and a military figure, held office from 1987 to 2011, having acceded to the executive office of Habib Bourguiba after a team of medical experts judged Bourguiba unfit to exercise the functions of the office in accordance with Article 57 of the Tunisian constitution. The anniversary of Ben Ali’s succession, November 7, was celebrated as a national holiday. He was consistently re-elected with enormous majorities every election, the last being 25 October 2009, until he fled the country amid popular unrest in January 2011.

Ben Ali and his family were accused of corruption and plundering the country's money. Corrupt members of the Trabelsi family, most notably in the cases of Imed Trabelsi and Belhassen Trabelsi, controlled much of the business sector in the country. The First Lady Leila Ben Ali was described as an "unabashed shopaholic" who used the state airplane to make frequent unofficial trips to Europe's fashion capitals. Tunisia refused a French request for the extradition of two of the President's nephews, from Leila's side, who were accused by the French State prosecutor of having stolen two mega-yachts from a French marina. Ben Ali's son-in-law Sakher El Materi was rumoured as being primed to eventually take over the country.

Independent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Protection International, have documented that basic human and political rights were not respected. The regime obstructed in any way possible the work of local human rights organizations. In 2008, in terms of freedom of the press, Tunisia was ranked 143rd out of 173.


Translation from French: Ben Ali Get out

The Tunisian revolution was an intensive campaign of civil resistance that were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms and poor living conditions. Labour unions were said to be an integral part of the protests. The protests inspired the Arab Spring, a wave of similar actions throughout the Arab world.

The catalyst for mass demonstrations was when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old Tunisian street vendor, set himself afire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the humiliation that was inflicted on him by a municipal official. Anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death on 4 January 2011, ultimately leading longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power.

Protests continued for banning of the ruling party and the eviction of all its members from the transitional government formed by Mohammed Ghannouchi. Eventually the new government gave in to the demands. A Tunis court banned the ex-ruling party RCD and confiscated all its resources. A decree by the minister of the interior banned the "political police", special forces which were used to intimidate and persecute political activists.

On 3 March 2011, the president announced that elections to a Constituent Assembly would be held on 23 October 2011. International and internal observers declared the vote free and fair. The Ennahda Movement, formerly banned under the Ben Ali regime, won a plurality of 90 seats out of a total of 217. On 12 December 2011, former dissident and veteran human rights activist Moncef Marzouki was elected president.

In March 2012, Ennahda declared it will not support making sharia the main source of legislation in the new constitution, maintaining the secular nature of the state. Ennahda’s stance on the issue was criticized by hardline Islamists who wanted full blown sharia, but was welcomed by secular parties. On 6 February 2013 Chokri Belaid, the leader of the leftist opposition and prominent critic of Ennahda, was assassinated.


Tunisia's topography

Tunisia is situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Delta. It is bordered by Algeria on the west and Libya on the south east. It lies between latitudes 30° and 38°N, and longitudes 7° and 12°E. An abrupt southward turn of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia gives the country two distinctive Mediterranean coasts, west-east in the north, and north-south in the east.

Though it is relatively small in size, Tunisia has great environmental diversity due to its north-south extent. Its east-west extent is limited. Differences in Tunisia, like the rest of the Maghreb, are largely north-south environmental differences defined by sharply decreasing rainfall southward from any point. The Dorsal, the eastern extension of the Atlas Mountains, runs across Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula in the east. North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, again an extension of mountains to the west in Algeria. In the Khroumerie, the northwestern corner of the Tunisian Tell, elevations reach 1,050 metres (3,440 ft) and snow occurs in winter.

The Sahel, a broadening coastal plain along Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world's premier areas of olive cultivation. Inland from the Sahel, 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 (713 mi) long. 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 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).


Tunisia's climate is temperate in the north, with mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers. 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 metres (56 ft) below sea level and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi, at 1,544 metres (5,066 ft).


Ennahda members in the Constituent Assembly

Tunisia is a constitutional republic, with a president serving as head of state, prime minister as head of government, a bicameral parliament and a court system influenced by French civil law. The new Constitution of Tunisia guarantees rights for women, and states that the President's religion "shall be Islam."

The number of legalized political parties in Tunisia has grown exponentially since the revolution. There are now over 100 legal parties, including several that existed under the former regime. During the Ben Ali, only three functioned as independent opposition parties: the PDP, FDTL, and Tajdid. The Islamist opposition party Nahda was deemed a "terrorist organization" and outlawed by the Ben Ali government in 1991, but quickly reasserted its position as a major political player following the party’s legalization by the post-Ben Ali government. While some older parties are well-established and can draw on previous party structures, many of the 100-plus parties extant as of February 2012 are small.

Rare for the Arab world, women hold more than 20% of seats in both chambers of parliament.

On December 23, 2011, the Constituent Assembly confirmed a new cabinet for Tunisia composed of 41 ministers (29 full ministers, 15 deputy ministers.) Length and terms of office, the authority of the legislature, and separation of powers are subject to change under the new constitution currently in draft.

Trade unions are now in the process of reconstituting themselves to participate in the country’s new political and socio-economic debate. Following Ben Ali’s ouster, two new trade confederations, the Union of Tunisian Labor (UTT) and the General Confederation of Tunisian Labor (UCGT), emerged to challenge the status quo.


The Tunisian legal system is heavily influenced by French civil law, while the Law of Personal Status is based on Islamic law. Sharia courts were abolished in 1956.

A Code of Personal Status was adopted shortly after independence in 1956, which, among other things, gave women full legal status (allowing them to run and own businesses, have bank accounts, and seek passports under their own authority). The code outlawed the practices of polygamy and repudiation, and a husband’s right to unilaterally divorce his wife. Further reforms in 1993 included a provision to allow Tunisian women to transmit citizenship even if they are married to a foreigner and living abroad. The Law of Personal Status is applied to all Tunisians regardless of their religion. The Code of Personal Status remains one of the most progressive civil codes in the Middle East and the Muslim world.

Human rights

After the revolution, a number of Salafist groups emerged and in some occasions have violently repressed artistic expression that is viewed to be hostile to Islam.

Since the revolution, some non-governmental organizations have reconstituted themselves and hundreds of new ones have emerged. For instance, the Tunisian Human Rights League, the first human rights organization in Africa and the Arab world, operated under restrictions and state intrusion for over half of its existence, but is now completely free to operate. Some independent organizations, such as the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development, and the Bar Association also remain active.


As of 2008, Tunisia had an army of 27,000 personnel equipped with 84 main battle tanks and 48 light tanks. The navy numbered 4,800 operating 25 patrol boats and 6 other craft. Paramilitary forces consisted of a 12,000-member national guard. Tunisia's military spending is 1.6% of GDP (2006). The army is responsible for national defence and also internal security. Tunisia has participated in peacekeeping efforts in the DROC and Ethiopia/Eritrea. Previous United Nations peacekeeping deployments for the Tunisian armed forces have included Cambodia ( UNTAC), Namibia ( UNTAG), Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the 1960s mission in the Congo, ONUC.

The military has historically played a professional, apolitical role in defending the country from external threats. Since January 2011 and at the direction of the executive branch, the military has taken on increasing responsibility for domestic security and humanitarian crisis response.

Administrative divisions

Governorates of Tunisia

Tunisia is subdivided into 24 governorates, which are further divided into 264 " delegations" or " districts" (mutamadiyat), and further subdivided into municipalities (shaykhats) and sectors (imadats).

  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


Graphical depiction of Tunisia's product exports in 28 colour-coded categories.

Tunisia now finds itself as an export-oriented country in the process of liberalizing and privatizing an economy that, while averaging 5% GDP growth since the early 1990s, has suffered from corruption benefiting politically connected elites. Tunisia has a diverse economy, ranging from agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and petroleum products, to tourism. In 2008 it had a GDP of US $41 billion ( official exchange rates), or $82 billion (purchasing power parity). 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.

Tunisia was in 2009 ranked the most competitive economy in Africa and the 40th in the world by the World Economic Forum. Tunisia has managed to attract many international companies such as Airbus and Hewlett-Packard.

Tourism accounted for 7% of GDP and 370,000 jobs in 2009.

The European Union remains Tunisia's first trading partner, currently accounting for 72.5% of Tunisian imports and 75% of Tunisian exports. Tunisia is 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 came into force, Tunisia started dismantling tariffs on bilateral EU trade. Tunisia finalised the tariffs dismantling for industrial products in 2008 and therefore was the first Mediterranean country to enter in a free trade area with EU.

Tunis Sports City is 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 $5 Billion. The Tunis Financial harbour will deliver North Africa’s first offshore financial centre at Tunis Bay in a project with an end development value of US$ 3 billion. The Tunis Telecom City is a US$ 3 billion project to create an IT hub in Tunis.


Sources of electricity production

The majority of the electricity used in Tunisia is produced locally, by state-owned company STEG (Société Tunisienne de l´Electricité et du Gaz). In 2008, a total of 13,747 GWh was produced in the country.

Oil production of Tunisia is about 97,600 barrels per day (15,520 m3/d). The main field is El Bourma.

Oil production began in 1966 in Tunisia. Currently there are 12 oil fields.

Tunisia has plans for two nuclear power stations, to be operational by 2019. Both facilities are projected to produce 900–1000 MW. France is set to become an important partner in Tunisia's nuclear power plans, having signed an agreement, along with other partners, to deliver training and technology.

The Desertec project is a large-scale energy project aimed at installing solar power panels in northern Africa, with a power line connection between it and southern Europe. Tunisia will be a part of this project, but exactly how it may benefit from this remains to be seen.


The country maintains 19,232 kilometres (11,950 mi) of roads, with the A1 Tunis-Sfax, P1 Tunis-Libya and P7 Tunis-Algeria being the major highways. There are 30 airports in Tunisia, with Tunis Carthage International Airport and Djerba–Zarzis International Airport being the most important ones. A new airport, Enfidha – Hammamet International Airport, was completed at the end of October 2009 but was delayed in opening and did not open fully until 2011. The airport is located north of Sousse at Enfidha and is to mainly 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 Tunisair express. The railway network is operated by SNCFT and amounts to 2,135 kilometres (1,327 mi) in total. The Tunis area is served by a tram network, named Metro Leger.


People at Medina of Sfax

Some 98% of modern native Tunisians are from a sociological, historical and genealogical standpoint mainly of Arab and Arab-Berber descent, but the overwhelming majority simply identify themselves today as Arabs. However, there is also a small Berber (1% at most) population located in the Dahar mountains and on the island of Djerba in the south-east and in the Khroumire mountainous region in the north-west.

From the late 19th century to after World War II, Tunisia was home to large populations of French and Italians (255,000 Europeans in 1956), although nearly all of them, along with the Jewish population, left after Tunisia became independent. 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.

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 influences of population via conquest from Phoenicians/ Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Alans, Arabs, Spaniards, Ottoman Turks and Janissaries, and French. There was a continuing inflow of nomadic Arab tribes from Arabia.

Additionally, after the Reconquista and expulsion of non-Christians and Moriscos from Spain, many Spanish Moors and Jews also arrived. According to Matthew Carr, "As many as eighty thousand Moriscos settled in Tunisia, most of them in and around the capital, Tunis, which still contains a quarter known as Zuqaq al-Andalus, or Andalusia Alley."

The government has supported a remarkably successful family planning program that has reduced the population growth rate to just over 1% per annum, contributing to Tunisia's economic and social stability.


The Great Mosque of Kairouan

The majority of Tunisia's population (around 98%) are Muslims while about 1% follow Christianity and the remaining 1% adhere to Judaism or other religions. The bulk of Tunisians belong to the Maliki School of Sunni Islam and their mosques are easily recognizable by square minarets. However, the Turks brought with them the teaching of the Hanafi School during the Ottoman rule which still survives among the Turkish descended families today, their mosques traditionally have octagonal minarets.

Tunisia has a sizable Christian community of around 25,000 adherents, mainly Catholics (22,000) and to a lesser degree Protestants. Berber Christians continued to live in Tunisia up until the early 15th century. 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, with 39 synagogues, and where the Jewish community dates back 2,500 years.

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. In fact, Tunisia along with Morocco has been said to be the Arab countries most accepting of their Jewish populations.

The constitution declares Islam as the official state religion and requires the President to be Muslim. Aside from the president, Tunisians enjoy a significant degree of religious freedom, a right enshrined and protected in its constitution, which guarantees the freedom to practice one's religion.

The country has a secular culture that encourages acceptance of other religions and religious freedom. With regards to the freedom of Muslims, the Tunisian government has restricted the wearing of Islamic head scarves ( 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. In 2006, the former Tunisian president declared that he would "fight" the hijab, which he refers to as "ethnic clothing".

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


Arabic is the official language, and Tunisian Arabic, known as Derja, is the local, vernacular variety of Arabic and is used by the public. There is also a small minority of speakers of Shelha, a Berber language.

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. In 2010, there were 6,639,000 French-speakers in Tunisia, or about 64% of the population. Italian is understood and spoken by a small part of the Tunisian population.

Major cities


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.


Tunisian painting

The birth of a Tunisian contemporary painting is strongly linked to the School of Tunis, established by a group of artists from Tunisia with united by the desire to incorporate native themes and rejecting the influence of Orientalist colonial painting. It was founded in 1949 and brings together French and Tunisian Muslims, Christians and Jews. Pierre Boucherle was its main instigator, along with Yahia Turki, Abdelaziz Gorgi, Moses Levy, Ammar Farhat and Jules Lellouche. Given its doctrine, some members have therefore turned to the sources of aesthetic Arab-Muslim art: such as miniature Islamic architecture, etc. Expressionist paintings by Amara Debbache, Jellal Ben Abdallah and Ali Ben Salem are recognized while abstract art captures the imagination of painters like Edgar Naccache, Nello Levy and Hedi Turki.

After independence in 1956, the art movement in Tunisia was propelled by the dynamics of nation building and by artists serving the state. A Ministry of Culture was established, under the leadership of ministers such as Habib Boularès who saw art and education and power. Artists gained international recognition such as Hatem El Mekki or Zoubeir Turki and influenced a generation of new young painters. Sadok Gmech draws his inspiration from national wealth while Moncef Ben Amor turns to fantasy. In another development, Youssef Rekik reused the technique of painting on glass and founded Nja Mahdaoui calligraphy with its mystical dimension.

There are currently fifty art galleries housing exhibitions of Tunisian and international artists. These galleries include Gallery Yahia in Tunis and Carthage Essaadi gallery.


Tunisian literature exists in two forms: Arabic and French. Arabic literature dates back to the seventh century with the arrival of Arab civilization in the region. It is more important in both volume and value than French literature, introduced during the French protectorate from 1881. Among the literary figures include Douagi Ali, who has produced more than 150 radio stories, over 500 poems and folk songs and nearly 15 plays, Khraief Bashir, an Arabic novelist who published many notable books in the 1930s and which caused a scandal because the dialogues were written in Tunisian dialect, and others such as Moncef Ghachem, Mohamed Salah Ben Mrad or Mahmoud Messaadi. As for poetry, Tunisian poetry typically opts for nonconformity and innovation with poets such as Aboul-Qacem Echebbi. As for literature in French, it is characterized by its critical approach. Contrary to the pessimism of Albert Memmi, who predicted that literature Tunisian was sentenced to die young, a high number of Tunisian writers are abroad including Abdelwahab Meddeb, Bakri Tahar, Mustapha Tlili, Hele Beji or Mellah Fawzi. The themes of wandering, exile and heartbreak are the focus of their creative writing.

The national bibliography lists 1249 non-school books published in 2002 in Tunisia, with 885 titles in Arabic. In 2006 this figure had increased to 1,500 and 1,700 in 2007. Nearly a third of the books are published for children.


At the beginning of twentieth century, musical activity was dominated by the liturgical repertoire associated with different religious brotherhoods and secular repertoire which consisted of instrumental pieces and songs in different Andalusian forms and styles of origins, essentially borrowing characteristics of musical language. In 1930 "The Rachidia" was founded well known thanks to artists from the Jewish community. The founding in 1934 of a musical school help revive Arab Andalusian music largely to a social and cultural revival led by the elite of the time who became aware of the risks of loss of the musical heritage and which they believed theatened the foundations of Tunisian national identity. The institution did not take long to assemble an elite group of musicians and poets and scholars. The creation of Radio Tunis in 1938 allowed musicians are greater opportunity to disseminate their works.

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the emergence of composers and performers working mostly in the orchestra of the Tunisian Radio and Television. Song using melodies and popular rhythms experienced a significant rise. From the 1980s, the music scene saw the emergence of a generation of musicians, composers and performers of Arab and Western musical training who believed that Tunisian music needed new song writing techniques. The emergence of new patterns of racial and improvised music since the late 1990s changed the musical landscape of Tunisia. At the same time, the majority of the population is attracted by the music of Arab origin (Egyptian, Lebanese or Syrian). Popular western music has also had major success with the emergence of many groups and festivals, including rock music, hip-hop, reggae and jazz.

Among the major Tunisian contemporary artists include Hedi Habbouba, Saber Rebai, Dhafer Youssef, Belgacem Bouguenna, Sonia M'Barek and Latifa. Other notable musicians include Salah El Mahdi, Anouar Brahem, Zied Gharsa and Lotfi Bouchnak.


Olympique Radès Stadium

Football is the most popular sport in Tunisia. The Tunisia national football team, also known as "The Eagles of Carthage," won the 2004 African Cup of Nations ( ACN), which was held in Tunisia. They also represented Africa in the 2005 FIFA Cup of Confederations, which was held in Germany, but they could not go beyond the first round. The Eagles of Carthage have participated in four World Cup Championships.

The premier football league is the " Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1". The main clubs are Espérance Sportive de Tunis, Club Africain, Club Sportif Sfaxien and Étoile Sportive du Sahel. The first team participated in the 2011 World Cup for clubs and finished in the Second Match, in which it was eliminated by Sadd Sports Club from Qatar.

The Tunisia national handball team has participated in several handball world championships. In 2005, Tunisia came fourth. The national league consists of about 12 teams, with ES. Sahel and Esperance S.Tunis dominating. The most famous Tunisian handball player is Wissem Hmam. In the 2005 Handball Championship in Tunis, Wissem Hmam was ranked as the top scorer of the tournament. The Tunisian national handball team won the African Cup eight times, being the team dominating this competition. The Tunisians won the 2010 African Cup in Egypt by defeating the host country.

In boxing, Victor Perez ("Young") was world champion in the flyweight weight class in 1931 and 1932.

In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Tunisian Oussama Mellouli won a gold medal in 1500m freestyle. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, he won a bronze medal in the 1500m freestyle and a gold medal in the 15 km marathon totaling 3 Olympic medals in his life.

In 2012, Tunisia participated for the seventh time in her history in the summer paralympic games. She finished the competition with 19 medals; 9 golds, 5 silvers and 5 bronzes. Tunisia was classified 14th in the Paralympics medal table and 5th in athletics, witch is the only field in witch she participated.


In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 3.37% of the country's GDP. In 2009, there were 12.02 physicians and 33.12 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 76.70 years in 2010, or 72.60 years for males and 74.60 years for females. Infant mortality in 2004 was 25 per 1,000.

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