Tunisia is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It is the smallest country in North Africaby land area and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa, with the northernmost point on the African continent, Ras ben Sakka.
Tunisia contains the eastern streamers of the Atlas Mountains, while the south of the country contains the northern reaches of the Sahara desert. The country’s coasts represent the natural African conjunction between the Western and Eastern Mediterranean Basins, and feature the second and third nearest points of mainland Africa to Europe after Gibraltar, by means of the Sicilian Strait to the northeast and the Sardinian Channel to the northwest.
Tunisia is almost 165,000 square kilometres in area, with an estimated population of just under 10.7 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the northeast. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 kilometres of coastline.
Tunisia has an association agreement with the European Union and is a member of La Francophonie, the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League, and the African Union. Tunisia has established close relations with Europe and France in particular, through economic cooperation, industrial modernization, and privatisation programs.
Farming methods reached the Nile Valley from the Fertile Crescent region about 5000 BC, and spread to the Maghreb by about 4000 BC. Agricultural communities in the humid coastal plains of central Tunisia then were ancestors of today’s Berber tribes.
It was believed in ancient times that Africa was originally populated by Gaetulians and Libyans, both nomadic peoples. According to the Roman historian Sallust, the demigod Hercules died in Spain and his polyglot eastern army was left to settle the land, with some migrating to Africa. Persians went to the West and intermarried with the Gaetulians and became the Numidians. The Medes settled and were known as Mauri latter Moors.
The Numidians and Moors belonged to the race from which the Berbers are descended. The translated meaning of Numidian is Nomad and indeed the people were semi-nomadic until the reign of Masinissa of the Massyli tribe.
Tunisia’s climate is temperate in the north, with mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The south of the country is desert. The terrain in the north is mountainous, which, moving south, gives way to a hot, dry central plain. The south is semiarid, and merges into the Sahara. A series of salt lakes, known as chotts or shatts, lie in an east-west line at the northern edge of the Sahara, extending from the Gulf of Gabes into Algeria. The lowest point is Shatt al Gharsah, at 17 metres below sea level and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi, at 1,544 metres
Among Tunisia’s tourist attractions are its cosmopolitan capital city of Tunis, the ancient ruins of Carthage, the Muslim and Jewish quarters of Jerba, and coastal resorts outside of Monastir. According to The New York Times, Tunisia is “known for its golden beaches, sunny weather and affordable luxuries
The culture of Tunisia is mixed due to their long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Italians, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.
The adult literacy rate in 2008 was 78%.[Education is given a high priority and accounts for 6% of GNP. A basic education for children between the ages of 6 and 16 has been compulsory since 1991. Tunisia ranked 17th in the category of “quality of the [higher] educational system” and 21st in the category of “quality of primary education” in The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-9, released by The World Economic Forum.
While children generally acquire Tunisian Arabic at home, when they enter school at age 6, they are taught to read and write in Standard Arabic. From the age of 8, they are taught French while English is introduced at the age of 12.
The four years of secondary education are open to all holders of Diplôme de Fin d’Etudes de l’Enseignement de Base where the students focus on entering university level or join the workforce after completion. The Enseignement secondaire is divided into two stages: general academic and specialized. The higher education system in Tunisia has experienced a rapid expansion and the number of students has more than tripled over the past 10 years from approximately 102,000 in 1995 to 365,000 in 2005.The gross enrollment rate at the tertiary level in 2007 was 31 percent, with gender parity index of GER of 1.5.