Strategically placed at the Northernmost point in Africa, Tunisia, or as it is called in Arabic “Al Jumhuria Al Tunisia”, bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Sahara Desert to the south, has been an attraction to both conquerors and visitors alike throughout the ages
Counting only 11.93 Million inhabitants and with a mere size of 163,610 square kilometers, the country stands out with its deep cultural heritage dating back to over 3000 years of civilization.
62.42% of the Tunisian people live in urban areas. The Tunisian state is divided into 24 governorates, with the governorate of Tunis being the most populated one counting 1,056,247 inhabitants, followed by the governorates of Sfax, Nabeul. Big Tunis combining the 4 governorates of Tunis, Ariana, Ben Arous, and Manouba contains ¼ of the overall Tunisian population.
Tunisia’s diverse, market-oriented economy has long been cited as a success story in Africa and the Middle East. A successful strategy focused on bolstering exports, foreign investment and tourism, all of which have become central to the country’s economy.
Tunisia is a net exporter of textiles, agricultural products (olive oil, Dates, citrus, vegetables), phosphates and chemicals. The country also sends abroad mechanical and electrical goods and hydrocarbons. Tunisia’s main exports markets are European Union countries with France, Italy, Germany and Spain being the most important.
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 finalized the tariffs dismantling for industrial products in 2008 and therefore was the first Mediterranean country to enter in a free trade area with EU.
Culture and People
Over 3000 years ago, the city of Carthage was founded by Dido, a princess of Tyre according to a Greek legend. Although the story is apocryphal, Carthage did certainly grow to become one of the greatest and most powerful cities of that time and age. Its colonies stretched over the western Mediterranean region which was a cause of many wars with Rome, its most powerful Nemesis which eventually brought its fall and took over in the mid-2nd century BCE for the next following 500 years.
In the 7th century, Arab conquerors forced their way into Tunisia and converted the native Berber (Amazigh) population of North Africa to Islam. The rule of the Arabs continued from then on for centuries attracting Muslims from all over the world and in the 15th century, Spanish Muslims as well as Jewish people began migrating to Tunisia. In the late 16th century where Tunisia became a part of the Ottoman empire. 3 centuries afterwards, Tunisia became a French colony and remained as one for the next 75 years until its independence in 1956.
On the 25th of July 1957, the leader of the Neo Destour party, Mr Habib Bourguiba, one of the most prominent independence activists, abolished the Monarchy to become to first Tunisian President ever, setting along his mandate some of the most fundamental values and dicta of the Modern Tunisian state, such as Public, Free and compulsory education and health for all the people, and setting the Code Of Personal Status which guarantees women rights ad sets standards for the Tunisian families. The Code of Personal status is still considered until now as the most contemporary and advanced family law of all times in the Arabic world.
Tunisia now stands proudly as the sole democratizing republic in the Middle East and North Africa. Islam is the official religion of Tunisia and majority of Tunisians are Muslims, Tunisia is currently a member of the Arab League with Arabic being its official language. French plays a major role in the country and is spoken by about two-thirds of the population.It is without doubt that Tunisia is one the most culturally diverse countries in the Mediterranean, African and middle eastern regions. This is due, in no small part, to the succession of civilizations and empires who came to settle on its grounds over the years as well as to the populations of Jews and Christians have lived among a Muslim majority for centuries.
Tunisia is a country that combines Modernity with traditions. One of the best living proofs is the city of Tunis, where the Ancient Medina and Souks are side to side with the modern buildings of the city. And similar the other Mediterranean nations, Tunisians enjoy a laid-back lifestyle heavily inspired by the warm weather, and the close connection with nature and the sea. Tunisians are a highly social and warm people. This has been a reason for millions of Tourists, mainly from the European Region, to visit Tunisia each year as they always feel welcome and safe within its grounds. The big tourist income has rendered tourism as one of the most important and profitable sectors for the state.
One can be overwhelmed when visiting Tunisia with the list of historical and cultural monuments to see and visit. However, there are some places that no comer should ever miss.The great Tunisian sites classified by the UNESCO as part of the world virtual pantheon of the humanity are:
- The city of Carthage
- Ancient Dougga of western Tunisia
- El Djem’s spectacular Coliseum
- The refined Arab Medinas of Kairouan, Tunis, and Sousse
One of the biggest monuments in Tunisia is the Zitouna Mosque, situated in the heart of the refined Medina of Tunis. It is the oldest mosque in the capital, built in 734 over the remains of an old church. It covers 5000 square meters and has 9 entrances in the Medina.