A map of Tunisia Tunisia lies on North Africa’s Mediterranean coast. In the 4th century BC, Tunisia, the land where the great city of Carthage was founded, lay at the centre of the ancient Carthaginian civilization. Since then, the region has been ruled by the Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and France. Northern Tunisia is mountainous, crossed by a fork of the Atlas Mountains, whose highest peaks are capped by snow in winter. In the centre of the country, the mountains slope down to wide, hot plains; in the south, these plains merge into the Sahara Desert. Here, the climate is extremely hot and dry, with very little rainfall. The north has a milder, Mediterranean climate, with sunny, warm weather all year round.
The first people to settle were nomads, who arrived around 7000 years ago. Modern Tunisians are descended from their descendants, the Berbers, and from the Phoenician, Roman and Arab peoples who settled in the area later on. Tunisian Arabic, or Darija, is a variety of Arabic easily understood by neighbouring Algerians and Moroccans. Many people also speak French, which is widely used in schools and businesses. Although most of Tunisia’s population is Muslim, it is a secular country: people are free to practise whichever religion they choose.
After the Romans captured the ancient Tunisian city of Carthage in 146 BC, they razed it to the ground to make space for their own city, which they built on top of Carthage's remains.
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