Get to know Tunisia

Tunisia is a country rich in culture, history, geography and peoples. From before 1000 BC until today, Tunisia has seen numerous rulers, civilizations, languages and religions. All of these have had a lasting impact on what Tunisia is today.  

 
 

The Roman Colosseum in El-Jem, Tunisia

History And The ever changing rulers of tunisia

Tunisia has been ruled by various people groups since it's first inhabitants marked out settlements. Originally Berber tribes dominated until the coming of the Phoenicians who founded the ancient civilization of Carthage around 814 BC. The Carthaginian Empire ruled the Mediterranean for hundreds of  years until a young Roman empire began to wrest control from them. After three Punic Wars, Roman rule of the region was secured and eventually a Roman colony was made in North Africa. Later, the Arab Muslim conquerors made their way across North Africa and secured the land for their new empire in the late 7th century. Rule in Tunisia switched hands between various Arab Muslim dynasties for centuries until the 1500s when the  Ottoman Turks grabbed control. A few centuries later the French seized an opportunity make a Protectorate out of Tunisia and ruled Tunisia for a measly 75 years. It was in 1956 that Tunisia finally acquired independence. Since then it's seen the rise and fall of two dictators culminating in the Jasmine Revolution that sparked a wave of Arab Spring revolutions throughout the Arab World.


Tunisian Culture and the Modern World

In Tunisia you often hear Tunisians declare themselves as neither Arab nor African, but rather just Tunisian. Because of its incredibly diverse past, modern Tunisia is seen as a cultural melting pot much in the same way America is. Its many past rulers and civilizations have all contributed to an overarching culture that is distinct and unique. Seen as incredibly progressive compared to most of the Arab World, Tunisia has intentionally shaped many aspects of its modern identity after its French neighbor across the sea. In many respects modern Tunisia is a mixture of conservative and liberal, yesterday and tomorrow. Seen as one of the few successes to come out of the Arab Spring Revolution, Tunisia is finding yet another new identity.


Local Bream from the Mediterannean Sea

Food and Flavors of Tunisia

The food in Tunisia is a mixture of Mediterranean influenced flavors, African character, and Middle Eastern tones. Not to mention the modern French additions. Unlike some places in the Arab World, Tunisians do not shy away from hot and spicy food. In fact they add it to nearly everything in the form of a distinct red chili paste called Harissa. Most meals involve rice, couscous or bread in some form. If you enjoy seafood be sure to sample the fish as it's sourced fresh from the Mediterranean sea daily and tastes as good as you would expect.


Language is supposed to enable communication right?

Language is like everything else in Tunisia - a mixture of things that came before. Tunisian Arabic (Derja) can be very difficult to understand for someone coming from a different dialect. Even native Arabic speakers from other countries can be confused. Tunisian Arabic has a foundation of Arabic with layers of French, Berber dialects, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, and English placed on top. In addition, because of its relationship to France most locals speak French to some degree. It's not uncommon for a conversation to swing wildly between French and Arabic. To a Tunisian this is done without any hesitation. To non-Tunisians it can be intimidating. More and more of the younger generations are learning English as well and it's not uncommon to find young people who speak Arabic, French and English.

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The Regions of Tunisia

Tunisia is a land that has an extremely varied landscape. In the North you can find forests, mountains, and open grassy plains. The capital and surrounding areas are densely sprinkled with Roman ruins and remains. Additionally, not too far from the capital is the Cap Bon Peninsula which is home to orchards, farmlands, and astonishing beach spots. Along the coastline heading south you find most cities and villages affected by their proximity to the ocean. In this region it's common to find tourist resorts, a slower pace of life, and incredible fish caught by local fisherman that morning. In the central south region you might stumble across a vast date palm oasis, an ancient roman site, or a modern city all within an hour's drive. This is also where movies like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark filmed some of their iconic scenes. The south of Tunisia is where you can encounter the Sahara desert.  The desert is a place of striking beauty and in Tunisia it offers some spectacular views and experiences.