Home of the ancient city of Carthage, Tunisia was once an important player in the Mediterranean, thanks to its location in the centre of North Africa, close to vital shipping routes.
The Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and French realised its strategic significance, making it a hub for control over the region.
French colonial rule ended in 1956, and Tunisia was led for three decades by Habib Bourguiba, who advanced secular ideas, foremost of which was the emancipation of women.
Tunisia is more prosperous than its neighbours. Agriculture employs a large part of the workforce and tourism is a key sector.
Mass protests unseated President Ben Ali in 2011 – the first of a series of popular uprisings to sweep the region.
The country’s transition has been relatively peaceful, but secular Tunisians, especially women, are worried about the growing influence of ultra-conservative Islamists. And there is a mounting challenge posed by Islamist militants who claimed responsibility for attacks in 2015 in which 60 people were killed, most of them foreigners.
- Tunisian Republic
- Capital: Tunis
- Population 10.7 million
- Area 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq miles)
- Major languages Arabic (official), French
- Major religion Islam
- Life expectancy 73 years (men), 77 years (women)
- Currency Tunisian dinar