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Despite being rather small by North African standards, Tunisia is an exceptionally varied and interesting country, one whose wealth of cultural and architectural attractions are sometimes poorly served by a tourist industry focussed on all-inclusive beach package holidays. Formerly part of the Roman Empire, Tunisia is studded with relics from this ancient era, ranging from the magnificent Roman Colosseum at El-Jem to the spectacular Sufetula Temple Complex at Sbeitla. This African post of ancient Rome was particularly well known for its mosaic work, many fine examples of which can be seen in situ all around the country or at the Bardo and ...

Despite being rather small by North African standards, Tunisia is an exceptionally varied and interesting country, one whose wealth of cultural and architectural attractions are sometimes poorly served by a tourist industry focussed on all-inclusive beach package holidays. Formerly part of the Roman Empire, Tunisia is studded with relics from this ancient era, ranging from the magnificent Roman Colosseum at El-Jem to the spectacular Sufetula Temple Complex at Sbeitla. This African post of ancient Rome was particularly well known for its mosaic work, many fine examples of which can be seen in situ all around the country or at the Bardo and El-Jem Mosaic Museums. Tunisia is also the site of ancient Carthage, but little of the historic city remains. Predominantly Islamic, but with a mood that seems more closely aligned to Mediterranean Europe than to Arabia, Tunisia is studded with ancient Islamic cities centered on bustling medinas whose alleys are ideally suited to whimsical exploration on foot. Tunis, the capital, has the busiest medina, but is also rather touristy compared to its more low-key counterparts in Sfax, Sousse and Kairouan. Some of the country's most interesting Islamic architecture is to be found on the island of Djerba, whose curvaceous whitewashed mosques recall their Sahelian counterparts. Djerba is also one of the best beach resort areas in a country blessed with a wonderful coastline. Altogether different from the rest of the country is the far south, whose Berber residents live in lovely adobe mountain strongholds known as Ksours. Odder still is Matmata, most of whose Berber residents live in subterranean dwellings so odd that they were used as a setting in the movie Star Wars.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic, is a country situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. It is the northernmost African country and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range.
  • Language: Arabic
  • Currency: Tunisian Dinar
  • Research: Wikitravel | Tunisia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight