To talk about Tunisia, and not to talk about the role tourism plays in its economy would be remiss of me. It seems nearly every article I read about Tunisia talks about it’s natural beauty, and how it has also remained steadfast in its faith. On every level Tunisia seems to be a paradox of the Arab world, and as such it is completely fascinating. Not to mention that tourism can make upwards of 13% of the countries GDP, depending on the year (it went down dramatically after the terrorist attacks, but it is coming back up slowly.)
This article from the NY Times explains how the terrorist attacks affected the tourism of the country.
In short due to two deadly attacks which mostly seemed to be aimed at tourists, the country has had a hard time bringing them back in on vacation. There is still a travel ban imposed on British citizens after one of the deadly attacks killed 30 British citizens on holiday (in that attack a total of 38 people were killed.) One man interviewed in the article goes as far to say that as long as Libya is in flux, tourism in Tunisia will be as well. On the flip side, there is some upswing in tourists starting to come back. Easter Europeans, especially Russians seem to be making their way to Tunisia in greater numbers. At the peak of having tourists come in to the country, this article says 6.9 million people visited the country. The more recent numbers say only around 4.5 million people have visited in a given year.
While tourism may have a long way to come in rebounding back to its former glory, the fact that Tunisia has such a varied and beautiful country, steeped in history and tradition means tourists will always come.
Take for example these two very different cities within Tunisia.
Considered to be the oldest city in Tunisia. It is a port city on the Mediterranean said to be the most French city in the country. It was founded in 1100 BC, and it was the last city to gain its independence from the French. It is described as having both access to the sea, and an abundant flora and fauna mixture. This city still boasts a strong military presence, as well as year round tourism.
In contrast to the quaint European style city described above there is the city of Kairouan, Tunisia.
This city is steeped in its Arab past and rich Muslim culture. It was an original Byzantine garrison before the Arab’s took it over and established Kairouan in year 670. One of the mosques listed by the UNESCO site is known as the Mosque of Three Gates, another simply as the Great Mosque. It is to this day hailed as the 4th most holy city in the Muslim world and is host to many a pilgrimage.
These two cities represent all that I have learned about Tunisia. A city that embraces its culture, and its past while also respecting its religion and it’s people. It is a country of many paradoxes, but one that seems to be a beautiful representation of the Arab and Muslim worlds.