Capital | Tunis
Population | 10,629,186 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 164,000 SQ KM
Official Language | Arabic
Holidays | Independence Day, 20 March (1956); also the anniversary of BEN ALI's assumption of the presidency, 7 November (1987
Currency | Dinar (TND)
Time Zone | UTC +1
Best Time to Visit | Mid-March to mid-May
Connecting with the Culture | Exploring the archaeological site of Carthage, rich in mythology and sea views. Navigating the mirages of the Chott el-Jerid causeway. Bathing in the hot springs of Ksar Ghilane as the sun sets over the dunes. Ambling the cobbled lanes of Le Kef. Spelunking the underground Roman villas of Bulla Regia. Gazing at the Mediterranean from the village of Sidi Bou Saïd. Haggling with Kairouan’s skilled carpet salesmen.
Read | Mustapha Tili’s novel Lion Mountain, or Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi.
Listen | to the El-Azifet Ensemble, fine purveyors of malouf, a traditional Arab-style music form.
Watch | the backgrounds of international films such as Star Wars and The English Patient (both set in Tunisia).
Eat | couscous with vegetables and harissa sauce (a fire-red chilli concoction made from crushed dried red peppers, garlic, salt and caraway seeds).
Drink | coffee, mint tea or, for an alcoholic tipple, try boukha—a gloopily sweet aromatic spirit made from distilled figs, served at room temperature or chilled, and often mixed with Coke.
In a Word | Bark kelorfik (thank you—a blessing)
Characteristics | Carthage; the Land of the Lotus Eaters; the Sahara Desert; pristine white-sand beaches.
Surprises | Tunisian proverbs include: ‘Good reputation is better than wealth’ and ‘High prices attract buyers’; Tunisia was the first predominantly Islamic independent state to ban plygamy (1956); Ibadism as practiced in Jerba is one of Islam’s smallest sects, found elsewhere only in the M’Zab Valley in central Algeria and in Oman.
NEWS ABOUT TUNISIA
Tunisia court fines TV station boss for airing animated film `Persepolis'
(HN, 5/3/12) - A Tunisian court has convicted the head of a private TV station, Nessma TV for disrupting public order & violating moral values by airing an animated film that some religious leaders say insults Islam. The court in Tunis ordered Nabil Karoui to pay a 2,400 dinar (£964) fine because his station aired the animated film `Persepolis' in October. The film is Iranian director Marjane Satrapi's adaptation of her graphic novel about growing up during Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution & previously won the jury prize at the 2007 Cannes film festival. The French-language movie, had earlier appeared in Tunisian theatres with little complaint. The case has pitted liberals & defenders of media freedom against hardline Islamic groups who say that the film, which includes a depiction of God, is sacrilegious. The legal battle has underscored a struggle between secularists & Islamists in the north African nation after last year's overthrow of its longtime dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first Arab spring uprising. Karoui's lawyer said he would appeal the verdict. The broadcast prompted angry demonstrations and Karoui's home was later firebombed. (Read more at The Guardian)