Where is Tunisia
Current information on Tunisia can be found in the large French-language newspapers La Presse and Le Temps as well as on numerous private information portals. The online magazine Inkyfada offers good background coverage. Information from the Tunisian press translated into German is provided by the privately operated website Tunesienexplorer. The website of the Ministry of Tourism provides information about tourist offers. All laws and decrees are published in the Journal Officiel, which appears on Tuesdays and Fridays (in Arabic; the non-binding French and English translations usually follow a few weeks later).
location and size
Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean Sea and borders Algeria to the west and south-west (965 km shared border) and Libya to the south-east (459 km). The Tunisian coast is 1148 km long. With an area of 163,610 km², the country is almost half the size of Germany. In addition to the island of Djerba in the south and the Kerkennah islands off Sfax, many small islands such as Yalta, Zembra and Zembretta in the north of the country belong to the Tunisian national territory. However, most of them are only accessible to a limited extent or not at all, as they are either protected by nature or are military territory.
Basic data and sources of information
Tunisia has almost 11 million inhabitants, of which around 2.5 million live in the greater Tunis area (in the governorates of Tunis, Manouba, Ariana and Ben Arous). Around two thirds of Tunisians live in cities, with Sfax being the second largest city in the country after Tunis.
A good half of the population is under 30 years of age, life expectancy is 75 years, and the literacy rate is around three quarters of the population.
The official language of Tunisia is Arabic (with the Tunisian dialect spoken in everyday life); French is widely used as a commercial and educational language. Some Berber languages are still spoken in the south of the country. Italian is understood and partly spoken by many Tunisians, since before the advent of satellite television in Tunisia, only French and Italian channels could be received in addition to the national ones. English is now relatively widespread among younger Tunisians and in the tourist coastal regions.
The overwhelming majority of Tunisians, around 98%, are Muslims (predominantly Malekite Sunnis), and there are also small Christian and Jewish minorities.
Further information and data are provided in English by the CIA factbook of the US foreign intelligence service and the Tunisian statistical agency. It provides information in Arabic, French and English. The reliability of the data from the time before the overthrow of January 14, 2011 is not guaranteed. Studies by the statistical office, for example, on the unemployment rate and the poverty line, come to values that deviate from current calculations by the Tunisian Ministry of Social Affairs. The data from the 2014 census are available separately and presented in a more clear manner.
Many German and international organizations provide further information on Tunisia, including the Federal Foreign Office, the World Bank, the UNDP's Human Development Report and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Climate and landscape
Despite its small size, Tunisia has a very varied landscape. The north is dominated by a Mediterranean, fertile hilly landscape with pine and pine forests and the nature reserve of Lac Ichkeul, which offers refuge for many species of birds. Citrus fruits, vegetables and vines grow on the Cap Bon peninsula in the north-east of the country, and the vast steppes in the Sahel region in the middle of the country are used to grow grain and olives. The desert with the large salt lake Chott El Djerid makes up around a third of the area of Tunisia and extends in the south along the Algerian and Libyan borders. The highest point is the mountain Jebel Echchambi with 1544m, the lowest is in the salt lake Chott el Gharsa with -17m.
In the north of the country around the capital Tunis, the climate is Mediterranean, with humid but relatively mild winters and hot summers. The average temperatures are between 10 ° C in winter and 26 ° C in summer. In some years snow also falls on the high altitudes on the Algerian border. In the steppe region of the Sahel the climate is semi-arid, in the desert the temperatures rise in summer to sometimes up to 50 ° C and in winter ground frost is possible at night. The hot desert wind called chhili often causes high temperatures in the north of the country in summer. Precipitation falls mainly in the winter months, while in summer it is almost continuously dry across the country.
Tunisia has relatively few natural resources. In the south of the country, in the area around Gafsa and Metlaoui, phosphate is mined, and there are also lead, iron ore and zinc deposits. Tunisia also has oil and gas reserves. The information about the oil reserves vary widely. The mining of phosphate is one of the most important economic factors in the country. Production has slumped since 2011 and came to a standstill due to frequent strikes.
Tunisia faces a number of ecological problems, mainly due to climate change and rising emissions and waste products due to the strong economic growth of the 1990s and 2000s. Greenhouse gas emissions have risen continuously over the past forty years, which, in addition to the increasing motorization of the population, is primarily due to the growth of the chemical industry. In 2002 Tunisia ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
For some years now, the government has been focusing more on sustainable energy generation. Wind power is generated on Cap Bon and on the north coast, and solar energy is also an option, especially in the south of the country. In 2008 the government launched a solar plan that was also funded by Germany. This is now to be implemented. The share of renewable energies is to be increased from 3% (2019) to 30% in 2030. In 2019, a KfW-supported solar park was opened near the city of Tozeur. Many Tunisians use solar panels to heat water. A project promoted in the days of former President Ben Ali to use nuclear energy with the support of France is still topical, at least on paper. The temporarily planned extraction of shale gas met with massive public protest. One of the biggest polluters are the state phosphate and chemical plants in the Gafsa, Gabes and Sfax regions. However, environmental issues are not a priority in Tunisian politics.
Biodiversity in Tunisia is endangered not least because of increasing urbanization and land utilization. Although the country has ratified a number of international conventions, they are not systematically observed. The climate crisis also has a negative impact on diversity.
Due to the increasing shortage of drinking water, Tunisia commissioned a seawater desalination plant on Djerba in 2018 with German financial support.
In 2019, single-use plastic bags were partially banned.
Water shortages and desertification are a particular problem in the south of the country. GIZ supports various projects in Tunisia that deal, among other things, with climate change, the adaptation of agriculture to the new framework conditions, and efficient water management.
Waste and sewage disposal pose a problem, both in terms of household waste and hazardous waste. Since the political upheaval in 2011, garbage collection has only operated sporadically in large parts of the country. In June 2017, the so-called environmental police took up their duties, which, among other things, is supposed to monitor the legally compliant waste disposal and can distribute severe penalties in the event of violations. In addition, rubbish bins were set up, initially only in metropolitan areas. Outside the big cities there is no functioning garbage disposal, so that waste and especially hazardous waste is not disposed of correctly. In some cities, garbage is temporarily stored in open air landfills within urban areas, often igniting and releasing toxins in the summer. Industrial wastewater is not always adequately treated and discharged unfiltered into the groundwater or the sea. The Groupe Chimique Tunisien, based in the southern Tunisian coastal town of Gabes, is particularly criticized here. She is accused of not adequately protecting employees and the environment from harmful substances.
The Tunisian Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development has launched large-scale awareness campaigns on environmental protection since the 1990s, aimed primarily at young Tunisians. Often, however, the campaigns focused more on symbols than on specific actions.
Around a third of GDP is generated in agriculture. However, organic farming still plays only a minor role in Tunisia, despite increasing production. Most of the products grown are intended for export, although it is difficult for smaller companies in particular to raise the costs for European organic certification.
Tunisia is divided into 24 governorates. The greater Tunis area alone has around 2.5 million inhabitants, 600,000 more live in the greater Sfax area, the second largest city and important economic center of the country, and 400,000 in and around Sousse. With an urban population of around two thirds, the country has a high degree of urbanization, with the cities being mainly on the coast while the hinterland is sparsely populated and poorly developed. The capital Tunis in particular is growing steadily and experiencing a construction boom. Since the outbreak of the war in Libya, many refugees have fled across the border into Tunisia and, if their financial means permit, have settled in the coastal cities in particular.
The country's road and rail network is relatively well developed. Tunisia has a 2165 km long railway network, which is operated by the state Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens (SNCFT), but is very old. In Tunis there is also the Metro Leger tram and the suburban train TGM (Tunis-Goulette-Marsa), which serves the suburbs northeast of the capital.
Motorways exist between Tunis and Bousalem and Bizerte in the northwest, and Tunis and Sfax in the south. The latter is currently being extended piece by piece, initially to Gabes and then to Ras Jedir on the Libyan border. Overall, Tunisia has a road network of 19.232 km in length, of which 12 655 km are paved roads and 6577 km are slopes and dirt roads. In addition to buses operated by the state transport company Sintri and various regional bus routes, there are collective taxes that also have a tight network in the countryside. The so-called Louage are white (supraregional) or yellow (local) minibuses with usually nine seats that do not operate according to a fixed timetable, but drive when all seats are occupied.
Tunisia has 32 civil and military airports, only half of which have paved runways. The most important airports are Tunis-Carthage with a capacity of around 5 million passengers per year, Monastir airport near Sousse, which is mainly served by charter planes, Djerba-Zarzis airport, and the new Enfidha airport. This prestigious project of the ousted President Ben Ali started operations in the spring of 2010 and is intended to provide long-term relief with a potential capacity of 20 million passengers per year in Tunis and Monastir. However, it is currently only served irregularly and mainly by charter planes. There are also national passenger airports in Tozeur, Gabes, Gafsa, Sfax and Tabarka. A new airport is to be built in Tunis in the coming years, as the capital's airport is overloaded and is now in the middle of the city, surrounded by residential areas. A new location has not yet been determined. At the end of 2017, Tunisia signed an OpenSky agreement with the EU, from which Tunis Airport will be excluded. It has not yet come into force.
The five Tunisian seaports are in Bizerte, Rades / La Goulette (near Tunis), Sfax, Skhira and Gabes. Passenger ferries to and from France and Italy call at the port of La Goulette. A new deep-sea port is also being planned in Enfidha.
The Tunisian flag
The Tunisian flag, which was introduced by the Bey Hassan I in 1835, shows a red crescent moon and star in a white circle on a red background. It is reminiscent of the Turkish flag, from which it only differs by the white circle. This is a reference to the fact that Tunisia used to be part of the Ottoman Empire. The crescent moon and star stand for Islam, red symbolizes the blood of martyrs and white symbolizes peace.
The Tunisian coat of arms
The national coat of arms is divided into three parts and shows a scale, a lion carrying a sword and a Punic galley. These symbolize the state's motto “order, freedom, justice”, which adorns the shield in Arabic. Above the shield there is a circle with a crescent moon and a star in white and red. The coat of arms was adopted with independence in 1956 and has only changed slightly since then.
The National anthem
The Tunisian national anthem Humat al-Hima (Defender of the Fatherland), the refrain of which comes from a poem by the "national poet" Abou El-Kacem El-Chebbi, was used from the end of the monarchy in Tunisia in 1957 until the new hymn Ala Khallidi was selected in 1958 provisional national anthem used. Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali declared Humat al-Hima to be the official national anthem again after his coup in 1987, as Ala Khallidi openly referred to his predecessor Habib Bourguiba. During Ben Ali's reign, Humat El-Hima, which celebrates the country's liberation from its oppressors, became one of the most sung songs by demonstrators during the revolution in January 2011.
Jasmine is the national flower of Tunisia. It grows across the country, and its fragrant flowers are sold on every street corner in the summer. They are traditionally tied in bouquets behind the ear by men and worn as chains by women. The revolt in January 2011 is often referred to as the Jasmine Revolution, especially in the European media. This term is problematic because Zine El Abidine Ben Ali originally chose this term for his dismissal of Habib Bourguibas in 1987. For this "medical coup", however, the terms "changement", "November 7th" or simply "1987" prevailed in Tunisia, the term jasmine revolution was not used.
The country information portal
The contributions in the country information portal (LIPortal) were supervised by proven country experts until December 2020 in order to give an introduction to one of approx. 80 different countries. The LIPortal thus offered an orientation to country information in the WorldWideWeb - many references are still up to date.
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