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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Tunisia’s history begins with the founding of Carthage by the Phoenicians in the ninth century B.C.E. Carthage became one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities on the Mediterranean Sea, and in 211 B.C.E., the great Carthaginian military leader Hannibal led a successful assault against the Roman republic. Rome had its revenge in 146 B.C.E., however, when its forces burned Carthage to the ground. The Romans rebuilt Carthage, and it flourished as one of the greatest cities in the empire, until the Vandals invaded in the fifth century A.D.
Subsequent years were marked by rule by the Byzantines and the Arabs; the latter held power until the 16th century. Until the 1800s, Tunisia was a part of the Ottoman Empire, but the area retained a fair amount of autonomy. In 1881, France invaded Tunisia and thereafter maintained control of the land for almost a century. Habib Bourguiba, the founder of the pro-independence Neo Destour Par
ty, became the first prime minister of Tunisia when the country gained its independence, in 1956, and became president after Tunisia declared itself a republic in 1957. Bourguiba ruled until 1987, when he was removed from power by a bloodless coup and replaced by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who remains the president. Despite some political turmoil within the country, Tunisia is seen as one of the most moderate Arab countries and draws large numbers of tourists.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. The capital and largest city in the country, Tunis, is also the capital of the Tunis Governorate, one of Tunisia’s 24 provinces.
2. The currency of Tunisia is the Tunisian dinar. There are 1,000 millimes in every dinar.
3. Numerous newspapers are published in Tunisia, including La Presse, Al-Horria, Nouvelles de Tunisie, Assabah, and Le Quotidien.
4. Arabic is the official language of Tunisia. French is spoken widely, as are English and German.
5. Smoking in public is prohibited in Tunisia. Within private institutions, spaces may be allocated for smoking.