The Sahara Desert is a great desert area in North Africa that extends from the Atlantic Ocean eastward past the Red Sea to Iraq. The entire desert, the largest in the world, is about 1600 km wide and about 5000 km long from east to west. The true Sahara begins to the south-west of the Salt lakes. These great dunes are known as the Grand Erg Oriental and they are most certainly spectacular. The Erg is a classic desert with rolling dunes, suitable only for Camels and four-wheel drive vehicles.
Tunisia’s terrain consists of mountains in north; a hot, dry central plain; and a semi-arid south which merges into the Sahara desert. The central plateau region of the Sahara Desert runs for about 1600 km, about 1000 miles in a Northwest to Southeast direction. The plateau itself varies in height, from about 600 to 750 m (about 1900 to 2500 ft). Peaks in the several mountain ranges that rise from the plateau are from about 1800, to more than 3400 m (about 6000 to more than 11,200 ft) high.
Tourism is recovering after the end of combat operations in Iraq. Tunisia is gradually removing barriers to trade with the European Union. Broader privatization, further liberalization of the investment code to increase foreign investment, improvements in government efficiency, and reduction of the trade deficit are among the challenges ahead.
Following independence from France in 1956, President Habib Bourguiba established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation; 98% of the present population are Islamic Arabs. In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
- The AA Explorer Guide: Tunisia (ISBN 9780749517175)