Geographically, Tunisia contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert. Much of the rest of the country's land is fertile soil. Its 1,300 kilometres of coastline includes the African conjunction of the western and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Basin and, by means of the Sicilian Strait and Sardinian Channel, features the African mainland's second and third nearest points to Europe after Gibraltar.
Tunisia is a unitary semi-presidential representative democratic republic. It is considered to be the only full democracy in the Arab World. It has a high human development index. It has an association agreement with the European Union; is a member of La Francophonie, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League, the OIC, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77; and has obtained the status of major non-NATO ally of the United States. In addition, Tunisia is also a member state of the United Nations and a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Close relations with Europe – in particular with France and with Italy – have been forged through economic cooperation, privatisation and industrial modernization.
In ancient times, Tunisia was primarily inhabited by Berbers. Phoenician immigration began in the 12th century BC; these immigrants founded Carthage. A major mercantile power and a military rival of the Roman Republic, Carthage was defeated by the Romans in 146 BC. The Romans, who would occupy Tunisia for most of the next eight hundred years, introduced Christianity and left architectural legacies like the El Djem amphitheater. After several attempts starting in 647, the Arabs conquered the whole of Tunisia by 697, followed by the Ottomans between 1534 and 1574. The Ottomans held sway for over three hundred years. The French colonization of Tunisia occurred in 1881. Tunisia gained independence with Habib Bourguiba and declared the Tunisian Republic in 1957. In 2011, the Tunisian Revolution resulted in the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, followed by parliamentary elections. The country voted for parliament again on 26 October 2014, and for President on 23 November 2014.
The word Tunisia is derived from Tunis; a central urban hub and the capital of modern-day Tunisia. The present form of the name, with its Latinate suffix -ia, evolved from French Tunisie., in turn generally associated with the Berber root ⵜⵏⵙ, transcribed 'tns', which means "to lay down" or "encampment". It is sometimes also associated with the Punic goddess Tanith (aka Tunit), ancient city of Tynes.
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 Russian Туни́с (Tunís) and Spanish Túnez. In this case, the same name is used for both country and city, as with the Arabic تونس, and only by context can one tell the difference.
Before Tunisia, the territory's name was Ifriqiya or Africa, which gave the present day name of the continent Africa.
Farming methods reached the Nile Valley from the Fertile Crescent region about 5000 BC, and spread to the Maghreb by about 4000 BC. Agricultural communities in the humid coastal plains of central Tunisia then were ancestors of today's Berber tribes.
It was believed in ancient times that Africa was originally populated by Gaetulians and Libyans, both nomadic peoples. According to the Roman historian Sallust, the demigod Hercules died in Spain and his polyglot eastern army was left to settle the land, with some migrating to Africa. Persians went to the West and intermarried with the Gaetulians and became the Numidians. The Medes settled and were known as Mauri, later Moors.
The Numidians and Moors belonged to the race from which the Berbers are descended. The translated meaning of Numidian is Nomad and indeed the people were semi-nomadic until the reign of Masinissa of the Massyli tribe.
At the beginning of recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 12th century BC (Bizerte, Utica). The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century BC by Phoenicians. Legend says that Dido from Tyre, now in modern-day Lebanon, founded the city in 814 BC, as retold by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians.
After the 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.
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 Roman power. From the conclusion of the Second Punic War in 202 BC, Carthage functioned as a client state of the Roman Republic for another 50 years.
Following the Battle of Carthage in 149 BC, Carthage was conquered by Rome. After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the main granaries of Rome and was fully Latinized.
During the Roman period the area of what is now Tunisia enjoyed a huge development. The economy, mainly during the Empire, boomed: the prosperity of the area depended on agriculture. Called the Granary of the Empire, the area of actual Tunisia and coastal Tripolitania, according to one estimate, produced one million tons of cereals each year, one-quarter of which was exported to the Empire. Additional crops included beans, figs, grapes, and other fruits.
By the 2nd century, olive oil rivalled cereals as an export item. In addition to the cultivations and the capture and transporting of exotic wild animals from the western mountains, the principal production and exports included the textiles, marble, wine, timber, livestock, pottery such as African Red Slip, and wool.
There was even a huge production of mosaics and ceramics, exported mainly to Italy, in the central area of El Djem (where there was the second biggest amphitheater in the Roman Empire).
Berber bishop Donatus Magnus was the founder of a Christian group known as the Donatists. During the 5th and 6th centuries (from 430 to 533 AD), the Germanic Vandals invaded and ruled over a kingdom in North Africa that included present-day Tripoli. The region was easily reconquered in 533–534 AD, during the rule of Emperor Justinian I, by the Eastern Romans led by General Belisarius.
Sometime between the second half of the 7th century and the early part of the 8th century, Arab Muslim conquest occurred in the region. They founded the first Islamic city in North Africa, Kairouan. It was there in 670 AD that the Mosque of Uqba, or the Great Mosque of Kairouan, was constructed;. This mosque is the oldest and most prestigious sanctuary in the Muslim West with the oldest standing minaret in the world; it is also considered a masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture.
The Arab governors of Tunis founded the Aghlabid Dynasty, which ruled Tunisia, Tripolitania and eastern Algeria from 800 to 909. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule when extensive systems were constructed to supply towns with water for household use and irrigation that promoted 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).
After conquering Cairo, the Fatimids abandoned Tunisia and parts of Eastern Algeria to the local Zirids (972–1148). Zirid Tunisia flourished in many areas: agriculture, industry, trade, and religious and secular learning. Management by the later Zirid emirs was neglectful though, and political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and agriculture.
The invasion of Tunisia by the Banu Hilal, a warlike Arab Bedouin tribe encouraged by the 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, but following the conquest of Tunisia in 1159–1160 by the Almohads the last Christians in Tunisia disappeared. The Almohads initially ruled over Tunisia through a governor, usually a near relative of the Caliph. Despite the prestige of the new masters, the country was still unruly, with continuous rioting and fighting between the townsfolk and wandering Arabs and Turks, the latter being subjects of the Muslim Armenian adventurer Karakush. Also Tunisia was occupied by Ayyubids between 1182 and 1183 and again between 1184 and 1187.
The greatest threat to Almohad rule in Tunisia was the Banu Ghaniya, relatives of the Almoravids, who from their base in Mallorca tried to restore Almoravid rule over the Maghreb. Around 1200 they succeeded in extending their rule over the whole of Tunisia, until they were crushed by Almohad troops in 1207. After this success, the Almohads installed Walid Abu Hafs as the governor of Tunisia. Tunisia remained part of the Almohad state, until 1230 when the son of Abu Hafs declared himself independent. During the reign of the Hafsid dynasty, fruitful commercial relationships were established with several Christian Mediterranean states. 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.
The first Ottoman conquest of Tunis took place in 1534 under the command of Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, the younger brother of Oruç Reis, who was the Kapudan Pasha of the Ottoman Fleet during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. However, it wasn't until the final Ottoman reconquest of Tunis from Spain in 1574 under Kapudan Pasha Uluç Ali Reis that the Ottomans permanently acquired the former Hafsid Tunisia, retaining it until the French conquest of Tunisia in 1881.
Initially under Turkish rule from Algiers, soon the Ottoman Porte appointed directly for Tunis a governor called the Pasha supported by janissary forces. Before long, however, Tunisia became in effect an autonomous province, under the local Bey. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957. This evolution of status was from time to time challenged without success by Algiers. During this era the governing councils controlling Tunisia remained largely composed of a foreign elite who continued to conduct state business in the Turkish language.
Attacks on European shipping were made by corsairs, primarily from Algiers, but also from Tunis and Tripoli, yet after a long period of declining raids the growing power of the European states finally forced its termination. Under the Ottoman Empire, the boundaries of Tunisia contracted; it lost territory to the west (Constantine) and to the east (Tripoli).
Great epidemics ravaged Tunisia in 1784–1785, 1796–1797 and 1818–1820.
In the 19th century, the rulers of Tunisia became aware of the ongoing efforts at political and social reform in the Ottoman capital. The Bey of Tunis then, by his own lights but informed by the Turkish example, attempted to effect a modernizing reform of institutions and the economy. Tunisian international debt grew unmanageable. This was the reason or pretext for French forces to establish a Protectorate in 1881.
In 1869, Tunisia declared itself bankrupt and an international financial commission took control over its economy. In 1881, using the pretext of a Tunisian incursion into Algeria, the French invaded with an army of about 36,000 and forced the Bey to agree to the terms of the 1881 Treaty of Bardo (Al Qasr as Sa'id). With this treaty, Tunisia was officially made a French protectorate, over the objections of Italy. 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.
During World War II, French Tunisia was ruled by the collaborationist Vichy government located in Metropolitan France. The antisemitic Statute on Jews enacted by the Vichy was also implemented in Vichy North Africa, and overseas French territories. Thus, the persecution, and murder of the Jews from 1940 to 1943, was part of the Shoah in France.
From November 1942 until May 1943, Vichy Tunisia was occupied by Nazi Germany. SS Commander Walter Rauff continued to implement the Final Solution there. From 1942–1943, Tunisia was the scene of the Tunisia Campaign, a series of battles between the Axis and Allied forces. The battle opened with initial success by the German and Italian forces, but the massive supply and numerical superiority of the Allies led to the Axis surrender on 13 May 1943.
Tunisia achieved independence from France in 1956 with Habib Bourguiba as Prime Minister. A year later, Tunisia was declared a republic, with Bourguiba as the first President. From independence in 1956 until the 2011 revolution, the government and the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), formerly Neo Destour and the Socialist Destourian Party, were effectively one. Following a report by Amnesty International, The Guardian called Tunisia "one of the most modern but repressive countries in the Arab world."
In November 1987, doctors declared Bourguiba unfit to rule and, in a bloodless coup d'état, Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumed the presidency in accordance with Article 57 of the Tunisian constitution. The anniversary of Ben Ali's succession, 7 November, was celebrated as a national holiday. He was consistently re-elected with enormous majorities every five years (well over 80 percent of the vote), the last being 25 October 2009, until he fled the country amid popular unrest in January 2011.
Ben Ali and his family were accused of corruption and plundering the country's money. Economic liberalisation provided further opportunities for financial mismanagement, while corrupt members of the Trabelsi family, most notably in the cases of Imed Trabelsi and Belhassen Trabelsi, controlled much of the business sector in the country. The First Lady Leila Ben Ali was described as an "unabashed shopaholic" who used the state airplane to make frequent unofficial trips to Europe's fashion capitals. Tunisia refused a French request for the extradition of two of the President's nephews, from Leila's side, who were accused by the French State prosecutor of having stolen two mega-yachts from a French marina. Ben Ali's son-in-law Sakher El Materi was rumoured as being primed to eventually take over the country.
Independent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Protection International, documented that basic human and political rights were not respected. The regime obstructed in any way possible the work of local human rights organizations. In 2008, in terms of Press freedom, Tunisia was ranked 143rd out of 173.
The Tunisian Revolution was an intensive campaign of civil resistance that was precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms and poor living conditions. Labour unions were said to be an integral part of the protests. The protests inspired the Arab Spring, a wave of similar actions throughout the Arab world.
The catalyst for mass demonstrations was the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor, who set himself afire on 17 December 2010 in protest at the confiscation of his wares and the humiliation inflicted on him by a municipal official named Faida Hamdy. Anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death on 4 January 2011, ultimately leading longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to resign and flee the country on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power.
Protests continued for banning of the ruling party and the eviction of all its members from the transitional government formed by Mohammed Ghannouchi. Eventually the new government gave in to the demands. A Tunis court banned the ex-ruling party RCD and confiscated all its resources. A decree by the minister of the interior banned the "political police", special forces which were used to intimidate and persecute political activists.
On 3 March 2011, the president announced that elections to a Constituent Assembly would be held on 23 October 2011. International and internal observers declared the vote free and fair. The Ennahda Movement, formerly banned under the Ben Ali regime, won a plurality of 90 seats out of a total of 217. On 12 December 2011, former dissident and veteran human rights activist Moncef Marzouki was elected president.
In March 2012, Ennahda declared it will not support making sharia the main source of legislation in the new constitution, maintaining the secular nature of the state. Ennahda's stance on the issue was criticized by hardline Islamists, who wanted strict sharia, but was welcomed by secular parties. On 6 February 2013, Chokri Belaid, the leader of the leftist opposition and prominent critic of Ennahda, was assassinated.
In 2014, President Moncef Marzouki established Tunisia's Truth and Dignity Commission, as a key part of creating a national reconciliation.
Tunisia was hit by two terror attacks on foreign tourists in 2015, first killing 22 people at the Bardo National Museum, and later killing 38 people at the Sousse beachfront. Tunisian president, Beji Caid Essebsi, renewed the state of emergency in October for three more months.
The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its work in building a peaceful, pluralistic political order in Tunisia.
Tunisia is situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Delta. It is bordered by Algeria on the west and southwest and Libya on the south east. It lies between latitudes 30° and 38°N, and longitudes 7° and 12°E. An abrupt southward turn of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia gives the country two distinctive Mediterranean coasts, west-east in the north, and north-south in the east.
Though it is relatively small in size, Tunisia has great environmental diversity due to its north-south extent. Its east-west extent is limited. Differences in Tunisia, like the rest of the Maghreb, are largely north-south environmental differences defined by sharply decreasing rainfall southward from any point. The Dorsal, the eastern extension of the Atlas Mountains, runs across Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula in the east. North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, again an extension of mountains to the west in Algeria. In the Khroumerie, the northwestern corner of the Tunisian Tell, elevations reach 1,050 metres (3,440 ft) and snow occurs in winter.
The Sahel, a broadening coastal plain along Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world's premier areas of olive cultivation. Inland from the Sahel, 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 (713 mi) long. In maritime terms, the country claims a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles (44.4 km; 27.6 mi), and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).
Tunisia's climate is Mediterranean 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 Chott el Djerid at 17 metres (56 ft) below sea level and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi at 1,544 metres (5,066 ft).
Tunisia is a representative democracy and a republic with a president serving as head of state, prime minister as head of government, a unicameral parliament, and a civil law court system. The Constitution of Tunisia, adopted 26 January 2014, guarantees rights for women and states that the President's religion "shall be Islam". In October 2014 Tunisia held its first elections under the new constitution following the Arab Spring.
The number of legalized political parties in Tunisia has grown considerably since the revolution. There are now over 100 legal parties, including several that existed under the former regime. During the rule of Ben Ali, only three functioned as independent opposition parties: the PDP, FDTL, and Tajdid. While some older parties are well-established and can draw on previous party structures, many of the 100-plus parties extant as of February 2012 are small.
Rare for the Arab world, women held more than 20% of seats in the country's pre-revolution bicameral parliament. In the 2011 constituent assembly, women held between 24% and 31% of all seats.
Tunisia is included in the European Union's European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which aims at bringing the EU and its neighbours closer. On 23 November 2014 Tunisia held its first Presidential Election following the Arab Spring in 2011.
The Tunisian legal system is heavily influenced by French civil law, while the Law of Personal Status is based on Islamic law. Sharia courts were abolished in 1956.
A Code of Personal Status was adopted shortly after independence in 1956, which, among other things, gave women full legal status (allowing them to run and own businesses, have bank accounts, and seek passports under their own authority). The code outlawed the practices of polygamy and repudiation and a husband's right to unilaterally divorce his wife. Further reforms in 1993 included a provision to allow Tunisian women to transmit citizenship even if they are married to a foreigner and living abroad. The Law of Personal Status is applied to all Tunisians regardless of their religion. The Code of Personal Status remains one of the most progressive civil codes in North Africa and the Muslim world.
After the revolution, a number of Salafist groups emerged and in some occasions have violently repressed artistic expression that is viewed to be hostile to Islam.
Since the revolution, some non-governmental organizations have reconstituted themselves and hundreds of new ones have emerged. For instance, the Tunisian Human Rights League, the first human rights organization in Africa and the Arab world, operated under restrictions and state intrusion for over half of its existence, but is now completely free to operate. Some independent organizations, such as the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development, and the Bar Association also remain active.
Homosexuality is illegal in Tunisia and can be punished by up to three years in prison. On December 7, 2016, two Tunisian men were arrested on suspicion of homosexual activity in Sousse. According to 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, 94% of Tunisians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.
The Tunisian regime has been criticised for its policy on recreational drug use, for instance automatic 1-year prison sentences for consuming cannabis. Prisons are crowded and drug offenders represent nearly a third of the prison population.
In 2017, Tunisia became the first Arab country to outlaw domestic violence against women, which was previously not a crime. Also, the law allowing rapists to escape punishment by marrying the victim was abolished. According to Human Rights Watch, 47% of Tunisian women have been subject to domestic violence.
As of 2008, Tunisia had an army of 27,000 personnel equipped with 84 main battle tanks and 48 light tanks. The navy had 4,800 personnel operating 25 patrol boats and 6 other craft. The Tunisian Air Force has 154 aircraft and 4 UAVs. Paramilitary forces consisted of a 12,000-member national guard. Tunisia's military spending was 1.6% of GDP as of 2006. The army is responsible for national defence and also internal security. Tunisia has participated in peacekeeping efforts in the DROC and Ethiopia/Eritrea. United Nations peacekeeping deployments for the Tunisian armed forces have been in Cambodia (UNTAC), Namibia (UNTAG), Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the 1960s mission in the Congo, ONUC.
The military has historically played a professional, apolitical role in defending the country from external threats. Since January 2011 and at the direction of the executive branch, the military has taken on increasing responsibility for domestic security and humanitarian crisis response.
Tunisia is subdivided into 24 governorates (Wilaya), which are further divided into 264 "delegations" or "districts" (mutamadiyat), and further subdivided into municipalities (baladiyats) and sectors (imadats).
Tunisia is an export-oriented country in the process of liberalizing and privatizing an economy that, while averaging 5% GDP growth since the early 1990s, has suffered from corruption benefiting politically connected elites. Tunisia's Penal Code criminalises several forms of corruption, including active and passive bribery, abuse of office, extortion and conflicts of interest, but the anti-corruption framework is not effectively enforced. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index published annually by Transparency International, Tunisia was ranked the least corrupt Arab African-country in 2016, with a score of 41. Tunisia has a diverse economy, ranging from agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and petroleum products, to tourism. In 2008 it had a GDP of US$41 billion (official exchange rates), or $82 billion (purchasing power parity).
The agricultural sector accounts 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. Although Tunisia managed an average 5% growth over the last decade it continues to suffer from a high unemployment especially among youth.
Tunisia was in 2009 ranked the most competitive economy in Africa and the 40th in the world by the World Economic Forum. Tunisia has managed to attract many international companies such as Airbus and Hewlett-Packard.
Tourism accounted for 7% of GDP and 370,000 jobs in 2009.
The European Union remains Tunisia's first trading partner, currently accounting for 72.5% of Tunisian imports and 75% of Tunisian exports. Tunisia is one of the European Union's most established trading partners in the Mediterranean region and ranks as the EU's 30th largest trading partner. Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, in July 1995, although even before the date of entry came into force, Tunisia started dismantling tariffs on bilateral EU trade. Tunisia finalised the tariffs dismantling for industrial products in 2008 and therefore was the first Mediterranean country to enter in a free trade area with EU.
Tunis Sports City is an entire sports city currently being constructed in Tunis, Tunisia. The city that will consist of apartment buildings as well as several sports facilities will be built by the Bukhatir Group at a cost of $5 Billion. The Tunis Financial harbour will deliver North Africa's first offshore financial centre at Tunis Bay in a project with an end development value of US$3 billion. The Tunis Telecom City is a US$3 billion project to create an IT hub in Tunis.
Tunisia Economic City is a city being constructed near Tunis in Enfidha. The city will consist of residential, medical, financial, industrial, entertainment and touristic buildings as well as a port zone for a total cost of US$80 Billion. The project is financed by Tunisian and foreign enterprises.
On 29 and 30 November, Tunisia held an investment conference Tunisia2020 to attract $30 billion in investment projects.
Among Tunisia's tourist attractions are its cosmopolitan capital city of Tunis, the ancient ruins of Carthage, the Muslim and Jewish quarters of Jerba, and coastal resorts outside of Monastir. According to The New York Times, Tunisia is "known for its golden beaches, sunny weather and affordable luxuries."
The majority of the electricity used in Tunisia is produced locally, by state-owned company STEG (Société Tunisienne de l'Electricité et du Gaz). In 2008, a total of 13,747 GWh was produced in the country.
Oil production of Tunisia is about 97,600 barrels per day (15,520 m3/d). The main field is El Bourma.
Oil production began in 1966 in Tunisia. Currently there are 12 oil fields.
Tunisia had plans for two nuclear power stations, to be operational by 2019. Both facilities are projected to produce 900–1000 MW. France is set to become an important partner in Tunisia's nuclear power plans, having signed an agreement, along with other partners, to deliver training and technology. As of 2015, Tunisia has abandoned these plans. Instead, Tunisia is considering other options to diversify its energy mix, such as renewable energies, coal, shale gas, liquified natural gas and constructing a submarine power interconnection with Italy.
As of 2015, Tunisia had a total renewable capacity of 312 MW (245 MW wind, 62 MW hydropower, 15 MW photovoltaics.)
The country maintains 19,232 kilometres (11,950 mi) of roads, with three highways: the A1 from Tunis to Sfax (works ongoing for Sfax-Libya), A3 Tunis-Beja (works ongoing Beja – Boussalem, studies ongoing Boussalem – Algeria) and A4 Tunis – Bizerte. There are 29 airports in Tunisia, with Tunis Carthage International Airport and Djerba–Zarzis International Airport being the most important ones. A new airport, Enfidha – Hammamet International Airport opened in 2011. The airport is located north of Sousse at Enfidha and is to mainly serve the resorts of Hamammet and Port El Kantaoui, together with inland cities such as Kairouan. Five airlines are headquartered in Tunisia: Tunisair, Syphax airlines, Karthago Airlines, Nouvelair, and Tunisair Express. The railway network is operated by SNCFT and amounts to 2,135 kilometres (1,327 mi) in total. The Tunis area is served by a Light rail network named Metro Leger which is managed by Transtu.
Tunisia has achieved the highest access rates to water supply and sanitation services in the Middle East and North Africa. As of 2011, access to safe drinking water became close to universal approaching 100% in urban areas and 90% in rural areas. Tunisia provides good quality drinking water throughout the year.
Responsibility for the water supply systems in urban areas and large rural centres is assigned to the Sociéte Nationale d'Exploitation et de Distribution des Eaux (SONEDE), a national water supply authority that is an autonomous public entity under the Ministry of Agriculture. Planning, design and supervision of small and medium water supplies in the remaining rural areas are the responsibility of the Direction Générale du Génie Rurale (DGGR).
In 1974, ONAS was established to manage the sanitation sector. Since 1993, ONAS has had the status of a main operator for protection of water environment and combating pollution.
The rate of non-revenue water is the lowest in the region at 21% in 2012.
Tunisia's population was estimated to be just under 10.8 million in 2013. The government has supported a successful family planning program that has reduced the population growth rate to just over 1% per annum, contributing to Tunisia's economic and social stability.
The population of Tunisia is primarily of Berber ancestral origin (>60%). Whilst the Ottoman influence has been particularly significant in forming the Turco-Tunisian community, other peoples have also migrated to Tunisia during different periods of time, including Sub-Saharan Africans, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians (Punics), Jews, and French settlers. Nonetheless, by 1870 the distinction between the Arabic-speaking mass and the Turkish elite had blurred and today the overwhelming majority, of about 98%, simply identify themselves collectively as Arabs. There is also a small purely Berber (1% at most) population located in the Dahar mountains and on the island of Djerba in the south-east and in the Khroumire mountainous region in the north-west.
From the late 19th century to after World War II, Tunisia was home to large populations of French and Italians (255,000 Europeans in 1956), although nearly all of them, along with the Jewish population, left after Tunisia became independent. The history of the Jews in Tunisia goes back some 2,000 years. In 1948 the Jewish population was an estimated 105,000, but by 2013 only about 900 remained.
The first people known to history in what is now Tunisia were the Berbers. Numerous civilizations and peoples have invaded, migrated to, or have been assimilated into the population over the millennia, with influences of population from Phoenicians/Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Spaniards, Ottoman Turks and Janissaries, and French. There was a continuing inflow of nomadic Arab tribes from Arabia.
After the Reconquista and expulsion of non-Christians and Moriscos from Spain, many Spanish Muslims and Jews also arrived. According to Matthew Carr, "As many as eighty thousand Moriscos settled in Tunisia, most of them in and around the capital, Tunis, which still contains a quarter known as Zuqaq al-Andalus, or Andalusia Alley."
Arabic is the official language, and Tunisian Arabic, known as Tounsi, is the national, vernacular variety of Arabic and is used by the public. There is also a small minority of speakers of Berber languages known collectively as Jebbali or Shelha.
French also plays a major role in Tunisian society, 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. In 2010, there were 6,639,000 French-speakers in Tunisia, or about 64% of the population. Italian is understood and spoken by a small part of the Tunisian population. Shop signs, menus and road signs in Tunisia are generally written in both Arabic and French.