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Destination : Tunisia




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Cartography :


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Cook and drinks :
Tunisian food is well prepared and delicious, particularly the authentic lamb or dorado (bream) couscous, the fish dishes, tajine and brik or brik à l'oeuf (egg and a tasty filling fried in an envelope of pastry).

Tunisian dishes are cooked with olive oil, spiced with aniseed, coriander, cumin, caraway, cinnamon or saffron and flavoured with mint, orange blossom or rose water.

Restaurants catering for tourists tend to serve rather bland dishes and 'international' cuisine, and visitors are advised to try the smaller restaurants.

Prices vary enormously, and higher prices do not necessarily mean better meals.

Tunis and the main cities also have French, Italian and other international restaurants.

Self-service may sometimes be found but table service is more common.

Moorish cafes, with their traditional decor, serve excellent Turkish coffee or mint tea with pine nuts.

Although Tunisia is an Islamic country, alcohol is not prohibited.

Tunisia produces a range of excellent table wines, sparkling wines, beers, aperitifs and local liqueurs, notably Boukha (distilled from figs) and Thibarine.


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Geography and climate :
Climate:

Tunisia, which is located in the southern side of the Mediterranean, is considered as a main bridge between North-Africa and Europe.

Tunisia has a warm climate all year.

Best periods are spring and autumn.

Temperatures can be extremely high inland. Winter is mild and has the highest rainfall.

Required clothing : Lightweights in summer, mediumweights and rainwear in winter. Sunglasses are advised.

Environment:

Looking like a well-driven wedge cleaving Algeria and Libya, Tunisia is dwarfed by its African neighbours, though it's not much smaller than most Mediterranean European nations.

The Mediterranean laps at roughly 40% of the country's border, with Sardinia and Corsica lying directly to the north and Malta and Sicily off to the northeast.

Rainfall dictates what grows where in Tunisia.

The Kroumirie Mountains in the north-west receive the lion's share of the sprinkling and are densely forested with evergreen holm and cork oak.

The strawberry tree is another common sight, named for its striking reddish fruit, which young boys can be seen hawking at the roadside in December.

The trees are covered with dense panicles of fragrant white flowers in autumn.

The small plains of the Tell contain small pockets of Aleppo pine, while Tunisia's last remnant of pre-Saharan savanna is found in the Acacia raddiana forest of Bou Hedma National Park.

The treeless plains of the south support large areas of esparto grass, while farther south the vegetation gives way altogether to desert and the occasional oasis.

The fauna of Tunisia has had a hard time of it over the centuries.

The war elephants employed by Hannibal and the Christian-fed lions of Rome, both now extinct, were two early casualties of foreign intervention.

French hunters also trophy-shot a share of species to the brink of extinction, including Barbary deer and a few species of gazelle, though these are recovering now under government protection.

Two antelope species, the addax and the oryx, have been reintroduced to Bou Hedma National Park, as have ostriches and maned mouflon (wild sheep).

In the forests of the north, look for the reclusive wild boar, mongooses, porcupines and genets (spectacular arboreal cat-like carnivores).

The mammals of the south include gerbils (they had to come from somewhere), foxes, hares and the squirrel-like suslik.

The nocturnal radar-eared fennec - once common in the deserts - is now extremely rare in the wild.

A relative of Australia's goanna and Indonesia's komodo dragon, the desert varanid is relatively common, as are horned vipers and scorpions.

Tunisia's feathered population is impressive, with more than 200 bird species on record.

Sightings include migrating storks, hawks and eagles in spring and autumn, colourful bee-eaters and rollers, and a host of wading birds and waterfowl.

There are no endemic species to draw the hardcore birder; rather, Tunisia is a place to enjoy a good variety of birds in a mild climate within comfortable distance from towns and other attractions.

Lake Ichkeul National Park - easily accessed from Tunis and the northern resorts - is a haven for water birds of all types.


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Health and safety :
Health risks: typhoid (Also known as enteric fever, Typhoid is transmitted via food and water, and symptomless carriers, especially when they're working as food handlers, are an important source of infection.

Typhoid is caused by a type of salmonella bacteria, Salmonella typhi. Paratyphoid is a similar but milder disease.

The symptoms are variable, but you almost always get a fever and headache to start with, which initially feels very similar to flu, with aches and pains, loss of appetite and general malaise.

Typhoid may be confused with malaria.

The fever gradually rises during a week.

Characteristically your pulse is relatively slow for someone with a fever. Other symptoms you may have are constipation or diarrhoea and stomach pains.

You may feel worse in the second week, with a constant fever and sometimes a red skin rash.

Other symptoms you may have are severe headache, sore throat and jaundice.

Serious complications occur in about one in 10 cases, including, most commonly, damage to the gut wall with subsequent leakage of the gut contents into the abdominal cavity.

Seek medical help for any fever (38°C and higher) that does not improve after 48 hours. Typhoid is a serious disease and is not something you should consider self-treating.

Re-hydration therapy is important if diarrhoea has been a feature of the illness, but antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment), diphtheria (Vaccination against this serious bacterial disease is very effective, so you don't need to worry if you've been properly immunised against it.

It mainly affects children and causes a cold-like illness that is associated with a severe sore throat.

A thick white membrane forms at the back of the throat which can suffocate you, but what makes this a really nasty disease is that the diphtheria bug produces a very powerful poison which can cause paralysis and affect the heart.

Otherwise healthy people can carry the bug in their throats, and it's transmitted by sneezing and coughing. It can also cause a skin ulcer known as a veldt sore. Vaccination protects against this form too.

Treatment is with penicillin and a diphtheria antitoxin, if necessary), yellow fever (A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas), hepatitis (Several different viruses cause hepatitis; they differ in the way that they are transmitted.

The symptoms in all forms of the illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-coloured faeces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated food and drinking water.

Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods.

Hepatitis E is transmitted in the same way as hepatitis A; it can be particularly serious in pregnant women.

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, blood products or body fluids, for example through sexual contact, unsterilised needles (and shaving equipment) and blood transfusions, or contact with blood via small breaks in the skin.

The symptoms of hepatitis B may be more severe than type A and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state.

Hepatitis C and D are spread in the same way as hepatitis B and can also lead to long-term complications.

There are vaccines against hepatitis A and B, but there are currently no vaccines against the other types.

Following the basic rules about food and water (hepatitis A and E) and avoiding risk situations (hepatitis B, C and D) are important preventative measures).


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Indentity card :
Full country name: Republic of Tunisia

Area: 163,610 sq km

Population: 9.92 million

People: 98% Arab-Berber, 2% European and Jewish

Language: French, German, English, Arabic

Religion: Islam, Christianity, Judaism

Government: republic

Head of State: President Zine el-Abidine ben Ali

Head of Government: Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi


GDP: US$67 billion

GDP per capita: US$6,800

Annual Growth: 5%

Inflation: 2.5% Major

Industries: Petroleum, mining, tourism, textiles, footwear, food, beverages

Major Trading Partners: EU, North African countries, Asia, US


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Lodging  :
Budget: TD7-15

Mid-range: TD15-30

High: TD30-55

Deluxe: TD55+

Tunisia is not a budget buster, especially for Western visitors.

It's usually possible to get a clean room for about US$5 per person, and main dishes in local restaurants are often in the US$4 range.


If you're fighting to keep costs down, you can get by on around US$15 a day, but you'll have more fun with a budget of about US$25 and can live like royalty for upwards of US$40.

American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook travellers cheques are widely accepted, and the US dollar is a good currency to carry them in.

ATMs are found in almost every town large enough to support a bank and certainly in all the tourist areas.

Credit cards are accepted in souvenir shops and upmarket hotels and restaurants.

Tipping is not a requirement, but most local café and restaurant patrons toss a few coins on the table as they leave, and waiters in tourist restaurants are accustomed to tips of around 10%.

Handicrafts are about the only items you'll be able to haggle over in Tunisia.


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Money :
Currency : Tunisian Dinar (TD) = 1000 millimes.

Notes are in denominations of TD30, 20, 10 and 5.

Coins are in denominations of TD1, and 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 millimes.

Currency exchange : All banks change money, as do most hotels of three stars and above.

Credit & debit cards : American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted.

Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

There are ATMs in every large town and tourist destination.

Travellers cheques : Readily cashed in banks and the usual authorised establishments; to avoid additional exchange rates, travellers are advised to bring travellers cheques in US Dollars.

Currency restrictions : The import and export of local currency is strictly prohibited.

The import of foreign currency is unlimited.

The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount imported although re-exchange of local into foreign currency must be only up to 30 per cent of the total imported, up to a maximum of TD100.

All currency documentation must be retained.

Banking hours : Mon-Fri 0730-1130 (summer); Mon-Thurs 0800-1100 and 1400-1615, Fri 0800-1100 and 1300-1600 (winter).


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Reception :
Tunisia's list of attractions would do justice to a country twice its size.

From the Roman-era hot springs at Hamman Mellegue to the space-age sets of Star Wars (parts of which were filmed at Matmata), its lush-to-lunar landscapes have seen more action than the New World nations combined.

Spend a few days here and you'll agree: daydreaming at the famous Roman ruins of Carthage and El-Jem is almost as good as stepping into Virgil's Aeneid and knocking one back with Dido, while a day's dawdling on the north coast's beaches will leave you wondering why Hannibal ever left.

Tourism remains very low-key throughout most of the country, though if you're looking for resort life you can find that too.

Be it Tunis' French-Arab culture collage or the Sahara's unthinkably massive expanse, you're going to be impressed with what you find in Tunisia. After all, they've had 3000 years to prepare for your visit.


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Sports and leisures :
Watersports:

Tunisia's clear waters, coral beds and diverse sea life make it a popular destination for scuba diving.

Tabarka Yachting Club and the International Diving Centre at Port el Kantaoui are recognised by the World Confederation for Diving and offer fully equipped lessons and trips.

Permission must be obtained to dive to the natural reserve islands of Zembra and La Galite.

For underwater fishing, it is necessary to bring one's own equipment, and obtain details of conservationist underwater fishing restrictions from the National Tourist Office.

Visitors who have brought their own equipment can refill their air bottles at the offices of the Société d'Air Liquide at Mégrine, 7km (4 miles) from Tunis, and at Sfax.

Most hotels on the coast have a heated pool as well as a private beach suitable for swimming.

Port el Kantaoui is a port of international standard offering mooring for 340 boats, harbour master's office, deep-sea navigation school, sailing school, ship-chandler, boat-rental and a dry-docking area with maintenance shops.

Prices are competitive, especially for winter careening services. There is a marina at Cap Monastir with similar facilities.

Among other sailing (and water-skiing) centres is Le Club Nautique de Sidi-Bou Said, which has a marina complex.

The abundance and great variety of fish makes fishing very popular.

Catches include mullet, ray, dogfish, groupers, red rock mullet, crayfish and shrimp.

A wetsuit is necessary only between November and April.

One can watch coral fishing at Tabarka, octopus fishing off the Kerkennah Islands, sponge fishing at Sfax, on the island of Jerba and in the Gulf of Gabès, and tuna fishing by the experts at Sidi Daoud.

These 'fishing spectacles' take place in May and June. Golf: There are excellent courses at Port el Kantaoui near Sousse, Monastir, Tabarka, Carthage at Tunis, Tozeur, Djerba and Hammamet. Players of all abilities will find very high-quality facilities.

The Open Golf Championships there have already attracted many leading competitors from all over the world.

Created by eminent golf-course architects, the courses are dotted with palm, olive and pomegranate trees, and are next to the sea.

Each of the 18 holes is on a different kind of terrain, and treated turf has been imported from California.

The courses are well suited to all players.

There are luxurious clubhouses, equipment to rent and training/practice grounds with putting green.

In Tunis, the golf course at the Country Club at La Soukra has recently undergone extension and re-landscaping.

More courses are planned for every major resort. Gliding: The best-known venue for gliding enthusiasts is the Federal Gliding Centre at Jebel Rassas, 25km (15 miles) from Tunis, where gliders and qualified instruction in the sport are available to visitors.



Birdwatching:

Tunisia has many species of birds, most of which are protected in national parks.

The cork-oak forests of Ain Draham, the lake and marshes of Ichkeul near Bizerta, the coastal lagoons round Tunis and Sousse, the rocky hills and steps from Kef to Kasserine, and the oases and deserts of the south all have their characteristic birds.

Birdlife also varies with the seasons; in winter, spoonbills, geese, ducks, robins and wagtails seek refuge from the cold further north, while in spring and autumn, migrant swallows and warblers and birds of prey at Cap Bon pass through on their journeys between Africa and Europe.

In summer, Mediterranean species like storks, bee-eaters and rollers stay to nest.



Health spas:

There are about 100 hot-spring stations throughout Tunisia - mostly in the north of the country. Many of the spas have been used for this purpose since Roman and Punic times.

The most important stations are run by personnel specialised in the medical and paramedical fields, and treatments are available for rheumatism, arthritis, a variety of lung and skin complaints, circulatory troubles and gynaecological problems.

More information is available from the National Tourist Office.



Film tours:

Tunisia's desert near Tozeur has featured in numerous films, most notably in The English Patient and Star Wars.

An increasing number of tour operators now offer desert safaris to the locations where these famous blockbuster movies were shot.

For further information, contact the Tunisian National Tourist Office (see Contact Addresses section).


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Traditions :
The Islamic (or Hjira) calendar is a full 11 days shorter than the Gregorian (Western) calendar, so public holidays and festivals fall 11 days earlier each year.



Ras as-Sana is the Islamic celebration of the new year.



Moulid an-Nabi celebrates the prophet Mohammed's birthday. These celebrations include parades in the city streets with lights, feasts, drummers and special sweets.



Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, commemorating the month when the Quran was revealed to Mohammed.



Out of deference, the faithful take neither food nor water until after sunset each day.



At the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr), the fasting breaks with much celebration and gaiety.



Eid al-Adha is the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca, which each Muslim is expected to make at least once in their lifetime.

Streets are decorated with coloured lights and children play in their best clothes.

The ritual of Mahmal is performed in each village - passing pilgrims are given carpets and shrouds to take on their journey.



In terms of secular festivals, July and August are the months to remember.



The main event on the Tunis calendar is the Carthage International Festival, which fills those months with music, dance and theatre performances at Carthage's heavily restored Roman theatre.



The El-Jem International Symphonic Music Festival is held every July.

The Dougga Festival of classical drama also takes place in July and August in - you guessed it - Dougga.

After the summer heat dies down, the biennial Carthage International Film Festival (concentrating on Middle Eastern and African cinema) takes place in October in odd-numbered years.



Public Holidays 1 January

New Year's Day 20 March

Independence Day 21 March

Youth Day 9 April

Martyr's Day 1 May

Labour Day 25 July

Republic Day 3 August

Public Holiday 13 August

Women's Day 15 October

Evacuation Day 7 November : Anniversary of Ben Ali's Accession


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Cities :

Cities : 
@Korba Details
Carthage Details
Djerba Details
Douz Details
Hammamet Details
Kairouan Details
Mahdia Details
Monastir Details
Nabeul Details
Sfax Details
Sousse Details
Tabarka Details
Tataouine Details
Tozeur Details
Tunis Details
Zarzis Details

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Airports :

Airport :Code :
Djerba-ZarzisDJE
Monastir SkanesMIR
SfaxSFA
TabarkaTBJ
TozeurTOE
Tunis-CarthageTUN

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