Tunisia’s strategic location on the northern coast of Africa have long attracted conquerors throughout the ages. Its proximity to Sicily and Sardinia meant millennia of European incursions, but this land on the edge of the Sahara Desert also attracted people from lands further away.
The most famous city of Carthage is thought to have been founded by a princess from Tyre, Lebanon, named Dido. She was the first to settle among the native people and founded Carthage in the 9th century BCE. The city quickly grew to be a major Mediterranean power, and that attracted rivals, most notably, Rome. They fought several wars, but in the end, Rome prevailed and destroyed Carthage, razing it to the ground in the 2nd century BCE. Rome ruled for another 500 years. Arab conquerors arrived in the 7th century and converted the native Berbers to Islam. The land was ruled by successive Islamic dynasties until being taken over by French colonial rule in the late 19th century.
After achieving independence in 1956, Tunisia mostly pursued a progressive social agenda and sought to modernize its economy under two long-serving presidents, Habib Bourguiba and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. However, Tunisia remained an authoritarian state with an all-powerful ruling party and no significant institutions of representative government.
This came to an end in early 2011 after the popular uprising against corruption and authoritarian rule called the Jasmine Revolution caused Ben Ali to flee. It was also the spark of the popular uprisings across most of North Africa and the Middle East. Democratic elections have been held in Tunisia, and the transition to representative democracy, while not perfect, has been more successful here than in other countries in the region.
Tunisian society is very diverse, and Christians and Jews have lived among the Muslim majority for centuries. The old and the new are present in cities like the capitol of Tunis where the traditional Arab souk resides among modern office buildings. The tree and cafe-lined main boulevard in the city could be anywhere in southern Europe.
Tunisia has long been a popular holiday destination for Europeans and more and more Americans. Vacations in Tunisia can take many forms – a beach holiday, exploring ancient Roman and Punic ruins, discover the Berber culture, wander through extensive oases, Enjoy the beaches, but also enjoy the history and culture of this North African gem.