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A North African Treasure

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Tunisia is a North African country with one of the richest cultural heritages in the world. It is home to the ancient city of Carthage, which was graced with the rule of such legendary peoples as the Phoenicians, Romans, Ottomans, and Arabs, and is now a World Heritage Site. From the Sahara Desert to the Atlas Mountains, its landscape is as rich as its history. It’s Mediterranean coast is certainly not lacking in beautiful beaches, as well as bays and hidden harbors. Take a Tunisian cruise to experience this jewel of the Mediterranean!

Tunisia's Cultural Renaissance

Tunisia has a complex history, and has been influenced by many legendary cultures: native, Phoenician, Roman, Ottoman, Arab, and French. The ancient city of Carthage has been declared a World Heritage Site, as it is three thousand years old and has been ruled by several of those legendary cultures mentioned. The Tunisian government is currently working with UNESCO to conserve and restore this incredible site. A Tunisian culture cruise is a perfect way to visit this window into history.

Although Islamic fundamentalism and radicalism has been repressed in the country, the majority of Tunisians are Muslims, and so Islam plays a huge role in the country’s cultural identity. Many Tunisians observe the tradition of praying five times a day. Tunisian family life is highly influenced by Muslim tradition as well; it is the most important aspect of Tunisian life.

Arabic is the official language spoken in the country, although French is still spoken in some areas as well.

Tunisia is in the midst of a cultural renaissance; President Ben Ali has designated a large budget to develop the country’s cultural aspect, with a significant focus on human cultural achievements. Museums and art galleries abound in the country’s urban centers, especially in the capital city of Tunis. Tunisian literature, theater, and poetry have already begun to follow in the footsteps of internationally-renowned Tunisian film.

A Tunisian culture cruise is the perfect way to take in some of this rich heritage!

Tunisian Terrain

Tunisia is a small country in North Africa, bordered on the south by Libya and Algeria on the west. Located on the Mediterranean, Tunisia boasts some beautiful beaches that a cruise to the country will surely take advantage of. It has an extremely varied landscape packed into its small land area.

The legendary Sahara Desert covers almost 40% of Tunisia’s landscape, across the southern area of the country. This low feature is dramatically contrasted by the Dorsal, which is the northern edge of the Atlas Mountains; it rises out of the northwest corner of Tunisia. The northern tip of Tunisia is characterized by low, rolling plains and hills called the Tell. The Sahil plain covers most of the northeast peninsula, and is famous for its olive production. The Steppes lie between the Sahil and the Dorsal.

Politics of Tunisia

Tunisia is, for the most part, a single-party government with a strong presidential regime. Ben Ali has been in office since his 1987 ouster of Bourguiba. His party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally, has been the only legal party for several years.

The President and the Chamber of Deputies come up for election every 5 years, and are selected by popular vote. The President appoints his Camber of Advisors, who terms of six years. The President also appoints the Prime Minister and cabinet. Although Tunisia is a small country, it is divided into 24 governates, or provinces.

Mediterranean Climate

Tunisia has a beautiful Mediterranean climate. The best time to take a Tunisian cruise stretches all the way from October to May. The summer months can be extremely hot, and so are considered the “off-season” for visiting the country. Temperatures can drop to cool mid-50s at night, and reach a perfect 80 during the day. Sunshine is abundant, making for gorgeous days year-around. Spring is a particularly good time to visit, when the landscape is blanketed with wildflowers.

Cuisine Culture of Tunisia

Tunisia’s diverse past has contributed to the evolution of a sophisticated food culture. It is mainly based on olive oil and Mediterranean spices that create a flavor unique to the region. Bread is still the most basic component of most meals, whether it’s the French baguette or traditional unleavened country bread.

Lamb is the base of many meat dishes in Tunisia, whether flavored with cumin, coriander, or tomato paste. Seafood is also common, from shrimp to sardines, and fish is often grilled to a mouth-watering perfection.

Olives, capers, and hard-boiled eggs will appear as garnishes on many side dishes and salads in Tunisia. Baklava and other pastries have been borrowed from the country’s Turkish influence, rounding out your meal on a Mediterranean cruise perfectly!

Tunisia's Environmental Threats

Tunisia faces some serious environmental threats to its landscape. Loss of agricultural land is a current challenge, as erosion is threatening 76% of arable land. Overgrazing is also degrading range and forest lands across the country. Overcrowding in the country’s urban areas, combined with poor sanitation regulations and infrastructure have created some serious pollution problems as well.

On the brighter side, Tunisia is at work protecting endangered species inside its borders, and has established four national parks. NGOs and non-profits have become involved to conserve Tunisia’s diverse environment; in fact, a World Wildlife Fund campaign was successful in saving the Atlas deer from imminent extinction.

Road to Tunisian Independence

Tunisia’s mid-1800s government made a series of bad decisions that led to the financial downfall of the country. Governor Bey attempted to borrow money from France in an attempt to save his country by “Westernizing” it. France took this as a cue to move in, the era of French colonialism began in Tunisia. The country was officially named a French protectorate in 1881.

Tunisia has the dubious honor of being the first site of operations by the Allied Forces against the Axis during World War II, and continued to be a region where serious battles were fought. After the war, the nationalist attitude that has developed within the country intensified.

France relented and granted a degree of autonomy to the North African country. The French population in Tunisia prevented complete independence until 1955, and a year later, Tunisia elected its first Prime Minister, Habib Bourguiba. France finally evacuated completely in 1963 after heated conflicts over the independence of neighboring Algeria.

Bourguiba was ousted in 1987 by General Zine el Abidene Ben Ali. He signed diplomatic treaties with Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania, but instituted repressive measures against Islamic activists that were beginning to make a strong political showing. The Islamic party barred from participating in the 1994 elections. On suspicion of vote-rigging and with blatant intimidation, Ben Ali won the 1999 and 2004 elections as well.

Wildlife of Tunisia

Tunisia’s wildlife certainly does not disappoint the mythical African standard. On the more dangerous side, wild boars, jackals, and hyenas roam the countryside. On the more tranquil side, gazelles and hares also call the country home. Some poisonous snakes also inhabit Tunisia, including the horned viper and cobra. Travelers should also look to the skies to catch a glimpse of some of the majestic raptors that dominate Tunisia’s skies.

A Tunisian adventure cruise may present the opportunity to view some of these animals up close!

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