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It is a truly kaleidoscopic nation, ranging from Mediterranean beaches to the Sahara desert, from ancient souks to Star Wars film locations. This Arab-Berber nation is one of the most liberal in the Islamic world; alcohol is freely available and women need not feel intimidated. The capital, Tunis, reflects the country’s diversity. Its French colonial past has a far-reaching influence (it only gained independence in 1956), most obviously in its cuisine that blends sophisticated French styles with Arab spice. Older history is evident in the remains of what was Roman Carthage, while the Roman ruins at Dougga and El Jem are some of the finest in Africa.

Practical Information

Area: 163 610 km² (63 170 miles²)

Capital: Tunis. Population: 2 million

Population: 10.7 million

Currency: Tunisian Dinar (TND) = 1,000 millimes

Government: Republic since 1959. Gained independence from France in 1956.

Tipping: 10% for all services.

Time zone: GMT + 1

Languages: Arabic

Additional descriptions

Tunisia: Social customs

Arabic in culture and tradition, Tunisia is nevertheless one of the more liberal and tolerant Muslim countries. The nomadic Bedouin still follow their traditional way of life in the southern desert. TheRead more Tunisians’ varied origins are shown in the architecture, crafts, music and regional folk dances. Tunisia has also developed an international reputation as an intellectual and cultural centre. Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. Hospitality is very important and a small gift in appreciation of hospitality or as a token of friendship is always appreciated. Dress can be informal but should respect the conventions of Islam when visiting religious monuments, ie shoulders and knees must be covered. Outside tourist resorts, scanty beachwear should not be worn.

Tunisia: Food and local specialties

Tunisian food is well prepared and delicious. Tunisian dishes are cooked with olive oil, spiced with aniseed, coriander, cumin, caraway, cinnamon or saffron and flavoured with mint, orange blossom or roseRead more water. Restaurants catering for tourists tend to serve rather bland dishes and ’international’ cuisine, and visitors are advised to try the smaller restaurants. Prices vary enormously, and higher prices do not necessarily mean better meals. Tunis and the main cities also have French, Italian and other international restaurants. Self-service may sometimes be found but table service is more common. Moorish cafes, with their traditional decor, serve excellent Turkish coffee. Things to know: Although Tunisia is an Islamic country, alcohol is not prohibited. Tunisia produces a range of excellent table wines, sparkling wines, beers, aperitifs and local liqueurs. The national specialties are: Dorado (bream). Couscous. Tajine (a fish dish). Brik or brik à l’oeuf (egg and a tasty filling fried in an envelope of pastry). Mint tea with pine nuts. Boukha (wine, distilled from figs). Thibarine (wine).

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