Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Mediterranean Sea to the north and east, Libya to the southeast, and Algeria to the west and southwest.
Facts About Tunisian Culture, Geography, and History
The following 11 captivating facts gives you a tip of the larger magnificent iceberg that awaits you to unveil should you dive into experiential exploration of Tunisia on your own.
11. Tunis is situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The area commonly called the old city of Medina.
Tunis is a beautiful city famed for its warm and magnificent weather. It is a land of great ancient architecture that blends Arabic, Italian and French artistic creations.
Tunis is home to one of the oldest Medinas in the Arab world. Tunis medina is buttressed by a fortress wall fence created to guard it against enemy attacks. Medina of Tunis has over 700 historic monuments that dates back to the Almohad and the Hafsid periods.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with most of these monuments comprising of fountains, mausoleums, mosques, madrasas, and even palaces.
10. Though it is relatively small in size, Tunisia has great environmental diversity.
Tunisia is the smallest country in the Maghreb region comprising of a population of about 12 million people over an area of 163,610 square kilometers. However, its small size doesn’t diminish its status as a spectacular jewelry etched on the sands of the expansive Sahara desert.
While it shares the Sahara desert with so many Arab countries in the north, it has its own shades of unique climate that includes the temperate Mediterranean climate that makes it conducive for olives to grow.
This environmental diversity makes it attractive and habitable by Western tourists – not so hot, yet not so cold – and still not far off Europe.
9. The Sahel, a broadening coastal plain along Tunisia’s eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world’s premier areas of olive cultivation.
Olive is one of the most appreciated plants in the Mediterranean region. Its extract, the Olive oil, is revered by world’s culinary experts and nutritionists for its unique healthy properties.
The Sahel olive growing region covers about 6,600 square kilometers and extends through three governorates – Sousse, Monastir and Mahdia. Sahel region is not only popular with olive farming but also covers the highest number of pristine beaches along its coastline.
It is home to almost 14% of Tunisia’s population of 12 million people.
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8. Tunisia has only ever had five presidents.
Tunisia has had 5 presidents since its independence from France in 1956 with Habib Bourguiba as Prime Minister who eventually become its first president on July 25, 1957 upon its proclamation as a Republic. He was later succeeded on by his Prime Minister Ben Ali in a coup d’état of November 7, 1987.
Ben Ali was overthrown by a civilian uprising (the ‘Arab Spring’) on On January 14, 2011. Fouad Mebazaa took over as acting President overseeing drafting of the new Constitution which paved way for election of President Moncef Marzouki on December 12, 2011 as the president.
On December 21, 2014, the current president Beji Caid Essebsi took over after defeating Marzouki in a General elections.
7. Tunis is currently the only town in Tunisia to be equipped with a metro (“tube”) service, which is more like a tramway.
Known as Métro léger de Tunis, is a network of light train system. Currently, it operates 14 lines with the longest line stretching 15 kilometers. The passenger services commenced in 1985 after completion some time later in 1984.
6. Tunisia has served as a popular location for some of Hollywood’s biggest films, among which include Star Wars, Jesus of Nazareth, The English Patient and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Tunisia’s tradition of theater entertain is almost two millenniums old. This is evidenced by the famous Amphitheater of El Jem in the city of El Djem built around 238 AD. Many films have been captured within and around this amphitheater.
Matmata is another great location for film-shooting. The Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata is where Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was shot in 1976. Two of Call of Duty Finest Hour’s missions were shot in the outskirts of Matmata.
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5. In the Matmata area of Tunisia, people still live in underground houses.
Matmata is a small town in southern Tunisia inhabited by the aboriginal Berber-speaking people. These traditional underground homes became essential as a way of people escaping the strong heat from the desert.
These underground houses are created by digging a big open pit. Once the pit is dug, its walls are caved in to create houses (troglodyte houses) and rooms. One large pit can form a small underground village comprising of 5 to 9 families.
4. The most venomous spider in the world can be found in Tunisia.
Tunisian rocks and sands harbor quite a number of biting insects. Some of these biting insects include spiders.
Some spider bites have proved so severe that they cause serious bodily effect. Thus it is important to take care when you receive a strange bite that you hardly know its source.
3. In Tunisia, women can pass on their names and nationalities to their children.
Tunisia is one of the most liberal countries in the Maghred region in as a far as women rights are concerned. There have been various law reforms to bridge the rights gap between men and women. Recently, Tunisia passed law that allows women to pass nationality to children.
Other than nationality, women can pass their family names onto their children (in some ways recognizing single parents). The law also allows women to equally inherit property from their parents.
2. Traditional Tunisian cuisine reflects local agriculture. It stresses wheat, in the form of bread or couscous, olives and olive oil, meat (above all, mutton), fruit, and vegetables. Couscous is the national dish, and most people eat it daily in simple forms.
Kosksi (Couscous) is Tunisia’s staple cuisine. Kosksi is of Berber origin. It comprises of semolina, vegetables and meat (preferably, lamb meat). Djerba is a common type of Kosksi whereby dry meat or fish is steamed or seasoned together with vegetables. The dry meat is preserved with olive oil.
Other popular cuisines include pasta (the most popular Tunisian cuisine) which is largely influenced by Italian presence, Chackchouka (whose ingredients include potatoes, soft-boiled eggs, onions, tomatoes, garlic and spices, prepared with olive oil).
1. The city Kairouan is the fourth most important city in the Islamic world after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
Kairouan is one of the most ancient cities in the Maghreb region. It was founded in 670 AD by Uqba ibn Nafi. It is the capital city of Kairouan Governorate in northern Tunisia.
It hosts the the holy Mosque of Uqba. It was a center of Islamic teachings, Quranic learning and Sunni scholarship in the entire Maghreb. It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site
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A final look at Tunisia
Tunisia is a tiny Maghreb country famous for its olives, pristine beaches and fair weather. It is also home to some of Islam’s ancient monuments. If you are olive lover or beach-goer, Tunisia is a place not to miss on your travel itinerary.