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Tunis (Arabic: تونسAbout this soundTūnis) is the capital and largest city of Tunisia. The greater metropolitan area of Tunis, often referred to as "Grand Tunis", has about 2,700,000 inhabitants. As of 2020, it is the fourth-largest city in the Maghreb region (after Casablanca and Algiers and Tripoli) and the sixteenth-largest in the Arab world.

Situated on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf (the Gulf of Tunis), behind the Lake of Tunis and the port of La Goulette (Ḥalq il-Wād), the city extends along the coastal plain and the hills that surround it. At its core lies its ancient medina, a World Heritage Site. East of the medina through the Sea Gate (also known as the Bab el Bhar and the Porte de France) begins the modern city, or Ville Nouvelle, traversed by the grand Avenue Habib Bourguiba (often referred to by media and travel guides as "the Tunisian Champs-Élysées"), where the colonial-era buildings provide a clear contrast to smaller, older structures. Further east by the sea lie the suburbs of Carthage, La Marsa, and Sidi Bou Said. As the capital of the country, Tunis is the focus of Tunisian political and administrative life and also the centre of the country's commercial and cultural activities.

Etymology

Tunis is the transcription of the Arabic name تونس which can be pronounced as "Tūnus", "Tūnas", or "Tūnis". All three variations were mentioned by the Greek-Syrian geographer al-Rumi Yaqout in his Mu'jam al-Bûldan (Dictionary of Countries).

Different explanations exist for the origin of the name Tunis. Some scholars relate it to the Phoenician goddess Tanith ('Tanit or Tanut), as many ancient cities were named after patron deities.[2][3] Some scholars claim that it originated from Tynes, which was mentioned by Diodorus Siculus and Polybius in the course of descriptions of a location resembling present-day Al-Kasbah; Tunis's old Berber village.[4][5]

Another possibility is that it was derived from the Berber verbal root ens which means "to lie down" or "to pass the night".[6] The term Tunis can possibly mean "camp at night", "camp", or "stop", or may have referred to as "the last stop before Carthage" by people who were journeying to Carthage by land. There are also some mentions in ancient Roman sources of such names of nearby towns as Tuniza (now El Kala), Thunusuda (now Sidi-Meskin), Thinissut (now Bir Bouregba), and Thunisa (now Ras Jebel). As all of these Berber villages were situated on Roman roads, they undoubtedly served as rest-stations or stops.[7]

History

Carthage

Archaeological Site of Carthage
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Ruines de Carthage.jpg
CriteriaCultural: ii, iii, vi
Reference37
Inscription1979 (3rd session)
Area616.02 ha

The historical study of Carthage is problematic. Because its culture and records were destroyed by the Romans at the end of the Third Punic War, very few Carthaginian primary historical sources survive. While there are a few ancient translations of Punic texts into Greek and Latin, as well as inscriptions on monuments and buildings discovered in Northwest Africa,[8] the main sources are Greek and Roman historians, including Livy, Polybius, Appian, Cornelius Nepos, Silius Italicus, Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and Herodotus. These writers belonged to peoples in competition, and often in conflict, with Carthage.[9] Greek cities contended with Carthage over Sicily,[10] and the Romans fought three wars against Carthage.[11] Not surprisingly, their accounts of Carthage are extremely hostile; while there are a few Greek authors who took a favourable view, these works have been lost.[9]

Suburbs

Municipality Population (2004)
Ettadhamen-Mnihla 118,487
Ariana 97,6

After World War II, suburbs began to rapidly spring up on the outskirts of Tunis. These form a large percentage of the population of the Tunis metropolitan area. It grew from 27% of the total population in 1956, to 37% in 1975 and 50% in 2006.

Climate

Tunis bay

Tunis has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa),[37] characterized by hot and dry, prolonged summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall. The local climate is also affected somewhat by the latitude of the city, the moderating influence of the Mediterranean sea and the terrain of the hills.

Winter is the wettest season of the year, when more than a third of the annual rainfall falls during this period, raining on average every two or three days. The sun may still increase the temperature from 7 °C (45 °F) in the morning to 16 °C (61 °F) in the afternoon on average during the winter. Frosts are rare. In spring, rainfall declines by half. The sunshine becomes dominant in May when it reaches 10 hours a day on average. In March temperatures may vary between 8 °C (46 °F) and 18 °C (64 °F), and between 13 °C (55 °F) and 24 °C (75 °F) in May. However, it is common for temperatures to soar even as early as April with record temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F). In summer, rain is almost completely absent and the sunlight is at a maximum. The average temperatures in the summer months of June, July, August, and September are very high. Sea breezes may mitigate the heat, but sometimes the sirocco winds reverse the trend. In autumn, it begins to rain, often with short thunderstorms, which can sometimes cause flash floods or even flood some parts of the city.[38][39] The month of November marks a break in the general heat with average temperatures ranging from 11 °C (52 °F) to 20 °C (68 °F).

Climate data for Tunis (Tunis–Carthage Internationa

Tunis has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa),[37] characterized by hot and dry, prolonged summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall. The local climate is also affected somewhat by the latitude of the city, the moderating influence of the Mediterranean sea and the terrain of the hills.

Winter is the wettest season of the year, when more than a third of the annual rainfall falls during this period, raining on average every two or three days. The sun may still increase the temperature from 7 °C (45 °F) in the morning to 16 °C (61 °F) in the afternoon on average during the winter. Frosts are rare. In spring, rainfall declines by half. The sunshine becomes dominant in May when it reaches 10 hours a day on average. In March temperatures may vary between 8 °C (46 °F) and 18 °C (64 °F), and between 13 °C (55 °F) and 24 °C (75 °F) in May. However, it is common for temperatures to soar even as early as April with record temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F). In summer, rain is almost completely absent and the sunlight is at a maximum. The average temperatures in the summer months of June, July, August, and September are very high. Sea breezes may mitigate the heat, but sometimes the sirocco winds reverse the trend. In autumn, it begins to rain, often with short thunderstorms, which can sometimes cause flash floods or even flood some parts of the city.Winter is the wettest season of the year, when more than a third of the annual rainfall falls during this period, raining on average every two or three days. The sun may still increase the temperature from 7 °C (45 °F) in the morning to 16 °C (61 °F) in the afternoon on average during the winter. Frosts are rare. In spring, rainfall declines by half. The sunshine becomes dominant in May when it reaches 10 hours a day on average. In March temperatures may vary between 8 °C (46 °F) and 18 °C (64 °F), and between 13 °C (55 °F) and 24 °C (75 °F) in May. However, it is common for temperatures to soar even as early as April with record temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F). In summer, rain is almost completely absent and the sunlight is at a maximum. The average temperatures in the summer months of June, July, August, and September are very high. Sea breezes may mitigate the heat, but sometimes the sirocco winds reverse the trend. In autumn, it begins to rain, often with short thunderstorms, which can sometimes cause flash floods or even flood some parts of the city.[38][39] The month of November marks a break in the general heat with average temperatures ranging from 11 °C (52 °F) to 20 °C (68 °F).

Tunis has been the capital of Tunisia since 1159. Under Articles 43 and 24 of the Constitution of 1959,[46] Tunis and its suburbs host the national institutions: the Presidential Palace, which is known as Carthage Palace, residence of the President of Tunisia, the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Advisors and parliament, the Constitutional Council and the main judicial institutions and public bodies. The revised Tunisian Constitution of 2014 similarly provides that the National Assembly is to sit in Tunis (article 51) and that the Presidency is based there (article 73).[47]

Municipality

Institutions

City Hall
Photo of Souad Abderrahim.
Souad Abderrahim, mayor of Tunis since 2018.

Following the municipal elections of 6 May 2018, Ennahdha obtained 21 seats out of 60. Nidaa Tounes came second with 17 seats. On 3 July 2018, the head of the Ennahdha list Souad Abderrahim was elected by the council as the new mayor of the capital.

Before 2011, unlike other mayors in Tunisia, the mayor of Tunis is appointed by decree of the President of the Republic from among the members of the City Council.

Budget

The 2008 budget adopted by the City Council is structured as follows: 61.61 million dinars for operations and 32,516 million dinars for investment.[48] It reflects the improved financial situation of the municipality, the year 2007 was a year registering a surplus in resources that allowed the settlement of debts of the municipality and the strengthening of its credibility with respect its suppliers and public and private partners.

Revenues are generated by the proceeds of taxes on buildings and vacant lots, fees for the rental of municipal property, income from the operation of the public, advertising, and that the fact that the municipality has capital shares in some companies. On the expenditure side, provision is made for the consolidation of hygiene and cleanliness, the state of the environment and urban design, infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation and renovation of facilities, and strengthening the logistics and means of work and transport.[48]

Administrative divisions

Map of the arrondissements of Tunis - 1, Médina; 2, Sidi El Béchir; 3, Sijoumi; 4, Bab Souika; 5, El Omrane; 6, Bab Bhar; 7, El Menzah; 8, El Omrane Supérieur; 9, Ettahrir; 10, Bardo; 11, Ezzouhour; 12, El Ourdia; 13, Jebel Jelloud; 14, Kabaria; 15, Cité El Khadra; 16, El Bouhaira; 17, La Marsa; 18, Carthage; 19, La Goulette; 20, Hrairia; 21, Sidi Hassine.

The city of Tunis, whose size has increased significantly during the second half of the 20th century, now extends beyond the Tunis Governorate into parts of the governorates of Ben Arous, Ariana and Manouba.

The municipality of Tunis is divided into 15 municipal districts:[49] These include El Bab Bhar, Bab Souika, Cité El Khadra, Jelloud Jebel El Kabaria, El Menzah, El Ouardia, Ettahrir, Ezzouhour, Hraïria, Medina, El Omrane, El Omrane Higher Séjoumi, Sidi El-Bashir and Sidi Hassine.

Demography

Tunis
Muslims in Tunis attend the mosque in 1899.
A souk shopkeeper
Year Municipality Metropolitan area
1891 114,121
1901 146,276
1911 162,479
1921 171,676 192,994
1926 185,996 210,240
1931 202,405 235,230
1936 219,578 258,113
1946 364,593 449,820
1956 410,000 561,117
1966 468,997 679,603
1975 550,404 873,515
Sources: Sebag (1998)
Old man in Tunis

In the years following independence, the population of the metropolitan area continued to grow: by 21.1% from 1956 to 1966 and by 28.5% from 1966 to 1975 (55.6% between 1956 and 1975).[50] This steady growth was accompanied by changes which affected the nature of the settlement of the capital. Decolonization led to the exodus of some European minorities whose numbers dwindled every year. The gaps created by their departure were filled by Tunisians who emigrated to Tunis from other parts of the country.

The population of the city of Tunis exceeds 2,000,000 inhabitants. After independence, the Tunisian government implemented a plan to cope with population growth of the city and country, a system of family planning, to attempt to lower the rate of population growth. However, between 1994 and 2004, the population of the governorate of Tunis grew more than 1.03% per annum. It represents, in the 2004 census, 9.9% of the total population of Tunisia.[51] As in the rest of Tunisia, literacy in the region of Tunis evolved rapidly during the second half of the 20th century and has reached a level slightly higher than the national average. The education level is only exceeded by the neighbouring governorate of Ariana which has many institutions of education.

Economy