PEOPLE AND CULTURE

Tunisian Girl Offers Tea in Matmata
Tunisian Girl Offers Tea in Matmata

Another reason for Tunisia’s popularity is the friendliness of its people. Most of them cannot do enough to help visitors, and like many Arab countries it is renowned for its hospitality. The desert dwellers here are the Berbers, whose roots go back at least 3000 years and who pride themselves both on their hospitality and their sense of humour. These elements have come down to the modern population, which is almost 11 million, with almost all of them being Arabs or Berbers, or a mix of the two.

The culture is not exclusively Arabic, though, as you will soon see. There has been a great French and Italian influence here, evident in things like food and architecture, so European visitors usually feel much more at home here than in other African countries. Tunisia has always been much more tolerant and liberal than other Muslim countries, a fact which has not always gone down well with its Arab neighbours. There is a more relaxed attitude towards alcohol, for instance, which Tunisians are forbidden to drink under Islamic law but which is freely available to visitors in hotels and most restaurants.

Nevertheless, visitors must remember that it is an Islamic country, and it is important to dress more respectfully away from the beach. It would cause offence and be seen as an insult if you tried to visit a mosque, for example, while wearing shorts or a skimpy top. Tolerance has to work both ways.

See this useful website for information on Etiquette in Tunisia.