Tunisia (Arabic: تونس Tūnis),
officially the Tunisian Republic (الجمهورية التونسية al-Jumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya),
is a country located in North Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the
west and Libya to the southeast. It is also located southwest of the island
of Sicily and south of Sardinia. Its size is almost 165,000 km2 with an
estimated population of just over 10,300,000. Its name is derived from
the capital Tunis. It is the northernmost country on the African continent,
and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range.
Around forty percent of the country is composed of the Sahara desert,
with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and
a 1300 km coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first
with the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, then as the Africa Province
which became known as the bread basket of the Roman Empire, and then as
the Maghreb region of various medieval Islamic states. Tunisia ranks high
among Arab and African nations in reports released by The World Economic
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. 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 Tunez. In this case, the same name is used for both country
and city as in Arabic and only by context, one can make the difference.
The name Tunis can be attributed to different origins. ancient city of
Tynes or to the Berber root ens which means "to lie down".
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 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.
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
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.
Around 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. Tunisia
flourished under Arab rule. 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). Successive
Muslim dynasties ruled Tunisia (Ifriqiya at the time) with occasional
instabilities caused mainly by Berber rebellions; 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). North Africa was submerged by their quarrels;
political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and
agriculture. 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. 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
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). 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.
World War II
In 1942 – 1943, Tunisia was the scene of the first 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
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.
Tunisia is a procedural democracy. On paper it is a republican presidential
system characterized by bicameral parliamentary system, including the
Chamber of Representatives and the Chamber of Advisors. 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. Prior to that moment Ben Ali was Bourguiba’s
minister. The day of the succession, 7th of November, is celebrated by
the state as national holiday, with many public buildings and even the
national currency and the only private airline and TV station (both owned
by the family of the President’s wife) carrying the ’7 November’ logo.
In Tunisia, the President is re-elected with enormous majorities every
5-year terms. He appoints a Prime Minister and cabinet, who play a minor
role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators
also are appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors
and municipal councils are elected with most seats going to the President’s
party. There is a bicameral legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies,
which has 182 seats, 20% of which are reserved for small, window-dressing
opposition parties and the Chamber of Advisors which is composed of representatives
from such ’political parties’, from professional organisations patronised
by the President and by personalities appointed by the president of the
Republic. Both chambers are composed of more than 20% of women, making
it one of the rare countries in the Arab world where women enjoy equal
rights. Incidentally, it is also 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
The judiciary is not independent in constitutional matters and often
corrupt in civil cases. The military does not play an obvious role in
politics letting the ex-army man President run the country. 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.
The regime is expert in passing laws that make it appear democratic to
outsiders. Since 1987, Tunisia has, on paper only, reformed its political
system several times. It has formally abolished life presidency and opened
up parliament to opposition parties. In reality, however, all power is
monopolized formally by the President and his party - which is housed
in Tunis’s tallest tower- and informally by influential families such
as the all powerful Trabelsis from the President’s wife’s side. The President’s
party known as the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) in French, is
composed of about 2 million members and more than 6000 representations
throughout the country and is largely overlapping 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. There are currently eight other small
political parties in Tunisia, six of whom are represented in parliament
giving a semblance of legitimacy. Since 2007, all political parties represented
in parliament benefit from state subsidies to cover the rising cost of
paper and to expand their publication. In July 2008, new constitutional
provisions have been voted by the country’s parliament. These provisions
which include lowering the voting age to 18, as well as easing the conditions
for eligibility for the presidency, also allow for any head of political
party, whether represented in parliament or not to present their candidacy,
to run for president. The state has also abolished the ‘Legal Deposit’,
which required prior authorization before sending to print, and issued
legislation meant to bring amendments to the press code which provides
journalists with greater freedom to express their ideas.
In reality no-one ever has ever openly launched criticism of the regime
and all protest is severely suppressed and does not get reported in the
media. 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. Daily newspapers run eulogistic articles praising
the President whose picture graces the first page on a daily basis. Large
pictures of President Ben Ali and ’spontaneously’ erected banners praising
him are found on all public buildings and majors streets. The internet
is severely restricted including sites like Youtube. 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.
Independent human rights groups such as Amnesty International have documented
that rights are not respected.
Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, has consistently expressed his opposition to
the presence of religious parties in parliament. While Tunisia cannot
boast the natural resources its neighbors have, standards of living are
among the best in the developing world. This can be evidenced by two compelling
economic observations: the level to which Tunisia has become self-sufficient
in material goods, and the extent of real estate development in the cities
and major towns of the country. Put simply, the mid-level retail outlet
will typically offer goods of which more than 90% of which are internally
produced. As to the rise of the building and construction industry, a
fleeting visit to any of Tunisia’s smaller towns (let alone the cities)
will confirm that development is rampant: many projects, especially hotels,
are newly opened, and many more stand as skeleton buildings, ready to
be developed as soon as demand - and capital funds - are available to
bring them to completion. Poverty has significantly been reduced thanks
to a national solidarity policy and strong social commitment from the
government and now stands at 3,8%, instead of some 50% in 1956.
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 defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
Tunisia has a diverse economy, ranging from agriculture, mining, manufacturing,
petroleum products and tourism. In 2007 it had a GDP of $35 billion (official
exchange rates), or $76.07 billion (purchasing power parity). It also
has one of Africa and the Middle East’s highest per-capita GDPs (PPP).
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.
Youth suffer from chronic massive unemployment. This is the result of
meagre foreign direct investment and rampant nepotism in the domestic
sectors. Foreign investors, apart from call centres and maquiladoras,
stay away due to the weak rule of law and the complete prohibition of
re-exporting invested capital. Characteristically, there are almost no
international chain businesses operating in Tunisia. It is quite common
for highly qualified university graduates to seek badly paid employment
in French ’call centers’.
The country maintains 19 232 km of roads, where the A1 Tunis-Sfax, P1
Tunis-Libya and P7 Tunis-Algeria are major highways.
There are 30 airports, Tunis Carthage International Airport and Monastir
International Airport being the most important ones. Tunisia is served
by four airlines: Tunisair, Karthago Airlines, Nouvelair and Sevenair.
The railway network is operated by SNCFT, and amounts to 2135 km in total.
The Tunis area is served by a tram network, Metro Leger.
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 is not cold in the winter, where it snows,
but the temperature still can get below 0°C (32°F). In the summer it can
get up to 32°C (90°F). Most of Tunisia has four seasons.
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. The country has
a culture that encourages acceptance of other religions; religious freedom
is widely practiced. However, the government has been accused of limiting
the freedom of Muslims by banning the wearing the Headscarf (Hijab). The
government believes the Hijab is a "garment of foreign origin having
a partisan connotation".
Individual Tunisians are tolerant of religious freedom and generally
do not inquire about a person’s personal beliefs. The majority of Tunisia’s
population (98%) are Muslims, while 1% follow Christianity and the rest
(1%) adhere to Judaism or other religions. 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).
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
Djerba, an island in the Gulf of Gabes, 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.
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, and a territorial
sea of 12 nautical miles.
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 m, and the
highest is Jebel ech Chambi, at 1544 metres.
Arabic is Tunisia’s official language. But, as is the case in the rest
of the Arab world, a vernacular form of Arabic is used by the public.
In Tunisia, the dialect is Tunisian Arabic, which is closely related to
the Maltese language. There is also a small minority of speakers of Shelha,
a Berber language.
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.
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.
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
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.
Current ethnicity consists of Arab/Berber (98%), European (1%), others
The dominant Religion in Tunisia is Sunni Islam (99%). There are also
small groups of Christians and Jews.
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)
The Information are from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
National Anthem of Tunisia
Al Hima" - is the national anthem of Tunisia since
The text was written by Mostafa Saadeq Al-Rafe’ie
and Aboul-Qacem Echebbi. The music was composed by Mohammed Abdelwahab.
Humat al-hima ya humat al-hima
Halummu halummu li-majdi-z-zaman
Laqad sarakhat fi ’uruqina-d-dima
Namutu namutu wa yahya-l-watan
Ila ’izzi Tunis ila majdiha
Rijala-l-biladi Wa shubbanaha
Fala ’asha fi Tunis man khanaha
Wa la ’asha man laysa min jundiha
Namutu wa nahya ’ala ’ahdiha
Hayata-l-kirami wa mawta-l-’idham
Warithna-s-sawa’ida bayn al-’umam
Sukhuran sukhuran kahadha-l-bina
Sawa’idu yahtazzou fawqaha-l-’alam
Nubahi bihi wa yubahi bina
Wa fiha kafa li-l-’ula wa-l-himam
Wa fiha dhamanun linayl-il-muna
Wa fiha li’a’da’i Tunis niqam
Wa fiha liman salamuna-s-salam
Idha-sh-sha’bu yawman ’arad al-haya
Fala budda ’an yastajib al-qadar
Wala budda li-l-layli an yanjali
Wa la budda li-l-qaydi an yankasir
O defenders of the Nation, hasten
to the meeting of glory!
We are ready to die, if it is necessary, die so that our country
This our blood in our veins urges us.
There is nobody in our country who refuses to be in the ranks
of its soldiers!
We are bound together by our oath of fidelity.
We will live on her soil in dignity
or we will die, for her, in glory.
Be master of your destiny, o my country, and be happy!
Because it is not worth to live without being master of your
My boiling blood and all the wealth I possess,
I am ready to sacrifice it for my country and my people.
Glory to you, Tunisia! Greatness of your people, remain forever
Look at your children launching out, such as lions,
In assault on the enemy on the day of the battle
Our heritage, among the nations, is the strength of our arms,
the arms as hard as the rock of these imposing buildings
And which hold high the banner of the country.
This banner makes us proud, and it is proud to be carried by
Arms that bring us towards the highest tops
Of glory and greatness
And which guarantee the realisation of our ambitions
Which will bring misfortune to the enemies of our Fatherland
But who are peaceful with all those who want peace.
When the people wants to live, destiny must surely respond
Darkness will disappear, chains will certainly break!