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Tunisia General Info
Tunisia General Information - TravelPuppy.com
Capital

Tunis.

Area

163,610 square kilometres (63,170 square miles).

Population of Tunisia

10.7 million people (official estimate 2005).

Population of Tunis

700,000 people (official estimate 2003).

Population Density

63 per square kilometres.

Geography

The Republic of Tunisia is located on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Sicily and 160 kilometres (100 miles) due south of Sardinia. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya on the southeast.

The landscape varies from the cliffs of the north coastal areas to the woodlands of the interior, from deep valleys of lush arable land to desert, and from soaring mountains to the salt pans lower than sea level. To the south of Gafsa and Gabès is the Sahara desert. The 1,100 kilometres (700 miles) of coastline is dotted with many small islands, notably Kerkennah in the east and Jerba in the south. From the northwest to the southeast the coastline is backed successively by pine-clad hills, orchards, lush pasture vineyards and olive groves.

Government

Republic since 1959 and gained independence from France during 1956.

Head of State: President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali since 1987.

Head of Government: Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi since 1999.

Recent history

Celebrating fifty years of independence from France during 2006, Tunisia has so far had only 2 Presidents. The ‘Founding Father’ of the independent country, Habib Bourgiba, ruled from 1956 until he was pronounced senile and unable to continue in power during 1987, when the current president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumed power in a coup. The Rassemblement Constitutionel Démocratique (RCD) continues to hold a considerable majority in the Majlis al-Nuwaab (Chamber of Deputies). A Presidential poll was held in March 1994 and Ben Ali was ‘re-elected’ with 99.9% of the vote. At the legislative elections held at the same time, half of the 19 seats reserved for the opposition were allocated to the Democratic Socialists and the others separated between the Mouvement de la Renovation (formerly the Communists), the Parti de l'Unité Populaire and the Union Démocratique Unioniste.

The 1999 Presidential vote produced a similar result, giving Ben Ali a 3rd consecutive term. Strictly speaking, a 4th term was forbidden by the constitution but a Referendum during 2002 allowed Ali to stand for up to another 2 terms. Predictably, Ali won the controversial 4th term in 2004 with the main opposition party withdrawing 2 days prior to the vote stating that their involvement would only serve to legitimise a rigged election.

Under the 1959 constitution, legislation is the responsibility of the unicameral Chamber of Deputies, whose 163 members are elected by universal adult suffrage for 5 years. All but 19 seats, which are set aside for opposition parties under the system of proportional representation, are elected under a simple majority system. The President, who is also elected by universal suffrage for a 5-year term, is Head of State and appoints the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers who exercise executive power under his leadership.

There are also various advisory bodies including:

The State Council
The Constitutional Council
The Social and Economic Council
The Higher Islamic Council

Language

Arabic is the official language and French is the second language. Italian is spoken in some of the major cities, and English and German mainly in the tourist resorts.

Religion

The principal religion is Islam. There are small Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish minorities in Tunisia.

Time

GMT + 1.

Electricity

220/110 volts AC, 50Hz and a 2-pin continental plug/adaptor is required.

Social Conventions

Arabic in culture and tradition, the country is nevertheless 1 of the more liberal and tolerant Muslim countries. The nomadic Bedouin still pursue their traditional way of life in the southern part of the desert. The Tunisians' varied origins are shown in their crafts, architecture, music and regional folk dances. Tunisia has also developed an international reputation as an academic and cultural centre.

Shaking hands is the most usual form of greeting. Hospitality is very important and a small gift in appreciation of hospitality or as a token of friendship is always very much appreciated.

Dress can be informal but should regard the conventions of Islam when visiting religious monuments, ie: shoulders and knees must be covered. Outside of the tourist resorts, insufficient beachwear should not be worn.
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