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).
63 per square kilometres.
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.
Republic since 1959 and gained independence from France during
Head of State: President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali since
Head of Government: Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi since
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
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.
The principal religion is Islam. There are small
Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish
minorities in Tunisia.
GMT + 1.
220/110 volts AC, 50Hz and a 2-pin continental plug/adaptor is
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
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.