Geography of Tunisia, Africa's Northernmost Country

View from hill Byrsa with ancient remains of Carthage and landscape
View from hill Byrsa with ancient remains of Carthage in Tunis, Tunisia. CJ_Romas / Getty Images

Tunisia is a country located in northern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Algeria and Libya and it is considered the northernmost country of Africa. Tunisia has a long history that dates back to ancient times. Today it has strong relations with the European Union as well as the Arab world and its economy is largely based on exports.

Tunisia has been in the news due to increasing political and social upheaval. In early 2011, its government collapsed when its president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown. Violent protests ensued and most recently officials were working to regain peace in the country. Tunisians revolted in favor of a democratic government.

Fast Facts: Tunisia

  • Official Name: Republic of Tunisia
  • Capital: Tunis
  • Population: 11,516,189 (2018)
  • Official Language: Arabic 
  • Currency: Tunisian dinar (TND)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary republic
  • Climate: Temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south
  • Total Area: 63,170 square miles (163,610 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Jebel ech Chambi at 5,066 feet (1,544 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: Shatt al Gharsah at -56 feet (-17 meters)

History of Tunisia

It is believed that Tunisia was first settled by the Phoenicians in the 12th century BCE. After that, by the fifth century BCE, the city-state of Carthage dominated the region that is Tunisia today as well as much of the Mediterranean region. In 146 B.C.E., the Mediterranean region was taken over by Rome and Tunisia remained a part of the Roman Empire until it fell in the 5fifth century CE.

Following the end of the Roman Empire, Tunisia was invaded by several European powers but in the seventh century, Muslims took over the region. At that time, there was a large amount of migration from the Arab and Ottoman worlds, according to the United States Department of State, and by the 15th century, Spanish Muslims and Jewish people began migrating to Tunisia.

In the early 1570s, Tunisia was made a part of the Ottoman Empire and it remained as such until 1881 when it became occupied by France and was made a French protectorate. Tunisia was then controlled by France until 1956 when it became an independent nation.

After gaining its independence, Tunisia remained closely connected to France economically and politically and it developed strong ties with western nations, including the United States. This led to some political instability in the 1970s and 1980s. In the late 1990s, Tunisia's economy began to improve, although it was under authoritarian rule that led to severe unrest in late 2010 and early 2011 and the eventual overthrow of its government.

Government of Tunisia

Today Tunisia is considered a republic and it was governed as such since 1987 by its president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. President Ben Ali was overthrown in early 2011, however, and the country is working to restructure its government. Tunisia has a bicameral legislative branch that is comprised of the Chamber of Advisors and the Chamber of Deputies. Tunisia's judicial branch is made up of the Court of Cassation. The country is divided into 24 governorates for local administration.

Economics and Land Use of Tunisia

Tunisia has a growing, diverse economy that is focused on agriculture, mining, tourism, and manufacturing. The main industries in the country are petroleum, the mining of phosphate and iron ore, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, and beverage. Because tourism is also a large industry in Tunisia, the service sector is also large. The main agricultural products of Tunisia are olives and olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds, beef, and dairy products.

Geography and Climate of Tunisia

Tunisia is located in northern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. It is a relatively small African nation as it covers an area of just 63,170 square miles (163,610 sq km). Tunisia is located between Algeria and Libya and has a varied topography. In the north, Tunisia is mountainous, while the central part of the country features a dry plain. The southern part of Tunisia is semiarid and becomes arid desert closer to the Sahara Desert. Tunisia also has a fertile coastal plain called the Sahel along its eastern Mediterranean coast. This area is famous for its olives.

The highest point in Tunisia is Jebel ech Chambi at 5,065 feet (1,544 m) and it is located in the northern part of the country near the town of Kasserine. Tunisia's lowest point is Shatt al Gharsah at -55 feet (-17 m). This area is in the central part of Tunisia near its border with Algeria.

The climate of Tunisia varies with location but the north is mainly temperate and it has mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. In the south, the climate is hot, arid desert. Tunisia's capital and largest city, Tunis, is located along the Mediterranean coast and it has an average January low temperature of 43˚F (6˚C) and an average August high temperature of 91˚F (33˚C). Because of the hot desert climate in southern Tunisia, there are very few large cities in that region of the country.


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Tunisia, Africa's Northernmost Country." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 16). Geography of Tunisia, Africa's Northernmost Country. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Tunisia, Africa's Northernmost Country." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).