Tunisia has traditionally been one of the more liberal Arab states, moving toward a multiparty democracy, but its government is now facing a challenge from Islamic fundamentalists.
Geography: Mountains in the north are surrounded by plains. Vast, low-lying salt pans in the center. To the south lies the Sahara Desert.
Climate: Summer temperatures are high. The north is often wet and windy in winter. Far south is arid.
People and Society: The population is almost entirely of Arab-Berber descent, with Jewish and Christian minorities. Many still live in extended family groups, in which three or four generations are represented. Women have better rights than in most other Arab countries and make up over 30% of the workforce. Parliamentary and municipal quotas aim to increase their representation in politics. A low birth rate is a result of a long-standing family planning policy.
The Economy: Competitive and diversified. Expanding manufacturing. Exports olives, dates, citrus fruit, phosphates. Tourism. Free trade area with EU.
Insight: Tunisia was the center of trading empires from the 9th century BCE
Official Name: Republic of Tunisia
Date of Formation: 1956
Population: 10.3 million
Total Area: 63,169 sq. miles (163,610 sq. km)
Density: 171 people per sq. mile
Languages: Arabic*, French
Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish 1%
Ethnic Mix: Arab and Berber 98%, Jewish 1%, European 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Tunisian dinar = 1000 millimes