The small nation of Tunisia (located in the middle of the North African coast – whose Mediterranean shoreline faces Sicily and Sardinia) has a rich history which goes back to the Phoenicians, who first settled there in the 12th century BC. Out of that migration from what’s now Lebanon, the civilization of Carthage was eventually formed (a rival to Ancient Greece), only to be defeated by the Romans during the Battle of Carthage in 149 BC.
As evidenced by the ruins they left behind (from amphitheaters to temples), the Romans were a prominent presence in Tunisia, and introduced Christianity during its latter periods of power over the Mediterranean. By the 8th century AD, Arab Muslims conquered Tunisia and the rest of North Africa. The country would then fall under Ottoman domination by the 16th century. Still, Tunisia, which was governed by Turkish governors called Beys, was in effect autonomous from the 1700s until the late 1800s (when the French invaded the country). By 1881, Tunisia was a French protectorate. Since then, as many as 144,000 Frenchmen settled in Tunisia by World War II.
Tunisia, like nearby Libya, was transformed into a battle zone in World War II between the Germans and Allied Forces, with the Nazis being driven out of Tunisia and Libya by 1943. With French occupation continuing after World War II, the country became independent in 1956 (while its neighbor Algeria was undergoing a civil war of independence, and its eastern neighbor Libya was already free from Allied occupation). After undergoing decades of autocratic, corrupt rule under President Ben Ali, the Tunisian Revolution was launched in 2010 (as part of the “Arab Spring” political uprisings that took places in various North African and Middle Eastern countries). Ben Ali was ousted from power a year after, ushering in a transition to democracy in Tunisia. At present, Tunisia is the only democracy in the Arab world (guaranteeing women’s rights — with women holding as many as 31% of the constituent assembly.
Thanks to its enviable Mediterranean location, tourism is a major part of Tunisia’s economy. Not surprisingly, the majority of tourists visiting Tunisia are from Western European countries. In 2018, a record 8.3 million tourists came to Tunisia, many of whom took advantage of the year-round Mediterranean weather during the harsh winter months in northern Europe. That, the country’s tourism revenues rose to $1.36 billion – a 45% hike from 2017 (with tourism currently accounting for 8% of the country’s GDP).