Tunisia, republic of northern Africa, bounded on the north and east
by the Mediterranean Sea, on the south by Libya, and on the west by Algeria.
The total area is 164,418 sq km (63,482 sq mi).
II. Land and Resources
Tunisia's Mediterranean coast is indented by many harbors and inlets,
notably the gulfs of Tunis, Hammamet, and Qabis. The Gulf of Gabès
contains the islands of Jarbah (Djerba) and Qarqanah (Kerkennah). The total
length of coastline is 1,150 km (713 mi).
A. Natural Regions
Tunisia may be divided, from north to south, into four main topographic
regions. In the north, low-lying spurs of the Maritime Atlas Mountains
traverse the country in a southwestern to northeastern direction. Peaks
range in elevation from about 610 to 1,520 m (about 2,000 to 5,000 ft).
Fertile valleys and plains are interspersed among the mountains of this
region. The country's only major river, the Majardah, crosses the region
from west to east, emptying into the Gulf of Tunis. To the south the mountains
give way to a plateau that averages about 610 m (about 2,000 ft) in elevation.
Farther south, the plateau descends gradually to a chain of low-lying salt
lakes, known as shatts, or chotts, which extend east to west across the
country. Several of these lakes lie below sea level. On the south the shatts
adjoin the Sahara, which constitutes about 40 percent of Tunisia's land
In general, a mild Mediterranean climate prevails in the north of Tunisia;
toward the south the climate becomes progressively hotter and drier. In
the north, temperatures average 9°C (48°F) in January and 26°C
(78°F) in July. The northern regions have a rainy season that lasts
from October to May. Average annual rainfall is about 610 mm (about 24
in) but may vary greatly from year to year. Annual rainfall decreases to
the south and is only about 200 mm (about 8 in) in the Sahara.
C. Vegetation and Animal Life
The plant life of Tunisia, particularly that found in the coastal region,
is similar to that of southern Europe. The fertile, well-watered regions
of the north are characterized by flourishing vineyards and by dense forests
of cork oak, pine, and juniper trees. Farther south, the semiarid conditions
support a steppe vegetation dominated by wild grasses, notably esparto
grass, and a wide variety of shrubs. In the arid regions of the extreme
south, date palms flourish in oases. Among the wildlife found in the country
are hyena, wild boar, jackal, gazelle, and hare. Several varieties of poisonous
snakes, including cobras and horned vipers, are also present.
D. Mineral Resources
Petroleum is Tunisia's principal mineral resource. Reserves exist both offshore and on land, particularly in the south, and important new deposits were discovered in the early 1980s. Other mineral resources include natural gas, phosphates, iron ore, lead, and zinc.