Tunisia Socio-geographical Conditions

Lac Ichkeul in northern Tunisia

Tunisia is divided into 24 governorates. The greater Tunis area alone has around 2.5 million residents, 600,000 more live in the greater Sfax area, the country’s second largest city and important economic center, 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 mainly located 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 allow, 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 national 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 lines, 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, which do not operate according to a fixed timetable, but drive when all seats are occupied.

According to aristmarketing, Tunisia has 32 civil and military airports with only half having 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 prestige 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, because the capital’s airport is congested 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.

Lac Ichkeul in northern Tunisia

Flags and symbols

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 the 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 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 Tunisian coat of arms

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 again the official national anthem after his coup in 1987, as Ala Khallidi openly referred to his predecessor Habib Bourguiba. During the reign of Ben Ali played only on official occasions was humate El Hima, which sings of the liberation of the country from its oppressors, while the revolution in January 2011 as one of the most frequently sung songs of the protesters.

Jasmine

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”, “7 November” or simply “1987” prevailed in Tunisia; the term jasmine revolution was not used.