Tunis was founded by the Berbers in the 2nd millennium BCE, where it was controlled by Phoenicians, Romans, Arab Muslims, the Ottomans, the Spanish, the French and the Germans respectively before it achieved  its independence as the capital city of Tunisia in 1956.

Its great history as a network of narrow alleyways, mosques, mausoleums, palaces and a souq where shoppers haggle over the price of everything from filigree gold to inexpensive souvenirs, has made it one of Africa’s most interesting and unforgettable places.

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Photo: TunisiaDestination.com

Tunis Interesting Facts

  • In 1160, Tunis became the provincial capital of the Moroccon-based Almohad dynasty.
  • The Almohads built the qasba (citadel) that remained the seat of political power in the city until France’s protectorate (1881).
  • In the thirteenth century, under the Hafsid dynasty, Tunis became the national capital, a distinction it has retained ever since.
  • Corsair wealth of the deys and beys transformed Tunis into a cosmopolitan complex dominated by mosques, madrasas (Islamic secondary schools), zawiyas (Islamic mystic centers), palaces, and elegant homes.
  • Prior to 1858, Tunis was organised into a quarter system centred on major mosques. The gates between quarters were locked at night and whenever public disturbances occurred.
  • The loose administration ended in 1858, when Muhammad Bey established the City Council (almajlis al-baladi) and appointed the shaykh al-madina to head this council of fifteen members.
  • Today the shaykh al-madina is president of the City Council and is appointed by the country’s president.
  • In the twentieth century, Tunis became the major destination of rural-to-urban migration because of its being the political, social, educational, economic, and entertainment centre of Tunisia.
  • It is the seat of the national government and the national headquarters of the government party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (Ralliement Constitutionel Démocratique; RCD), and the site of the national university.
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The ruins of Thurburbo Maius, 50km southwest of Tunis. Photo: TunisiaDestination.com