14 May 2012

The Geography and Climate of Tunisia

It does appear to be a gross oversight on my part that I have been writing a blog about Tunisia for almost two years and I have not until today written about the geography and the climate of the country.  Please accept my sincere apologies.  Actually, there is a simple explanation and that is that I wrongly assumed that people would already have some prior knowledge concerning the geography and the climate of this country.  However, my experiences have shown that I was quite wrong to make these assumptions.  Most people have a rather limited understanding of the geography and the climate of Tunisia.  Not only that, but before the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011 many people did not even know where Tunisia was so, at least now thanks to the Jasmine Revolution they will be aware of the geographical location of Tunisia.  

In my travels in other countries, I have come across people who have asked me whether Tunisia was full of vast sand dunes and exoticly dressed people in flowing robes riding camels across the desert and also whether there were elephants and giraffes here.   As you will discover when you read the informative Wikipedia entry below on the geography and the climate of Tunisia, there are arid, desert like areas in the south.  However, there are no elephants and giraffes in North Africa.  Some people tend to think that the entire continent of Africa is full of elephants, giraffes and lions.  Although having said that, the geographical range and habitat of lions did at one time extend from Libya through to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.  The last lion was said to have been hunted and killed in Tunisia around 1890.  To see these and other wild animals now, you will have to go to South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania to name a few countries.

Tunisia's topography


Tunisia is situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Delta. It is bordered by Algeria on the west and Libya on the south east. It lies between latitudes 30° and 38°N, and longitudes 7° and 12°E. An abrupt southward turn of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia gives the country two distinctive Mediterranean coasts, west-east in the north, and north-south in the east.

Though it is relatively small in size, Tunisia has great environmental diversity due to its north-south extent. Its east-west extent is limited. Differences in Tunisia, like the rest of the Maghreb, are largely north-south environmental differences defined by sharply decreasing rainfall southward from any point. The Dorsal, the eastern extension of the Atlas Mountains, runs across Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula in the east. North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, again an extension of mountains to the west in Algeria. In the Khroumerie, the northwestern corner of the Tunisian Tell, elevations reach 1,050 metres (3,440 ft) and snow occurs in winter.

The Sahel, a broadening coastal plain along Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world's premier areas of olive cultivation. Inland from the Sahel, between the Dorsal and a range of hills south of Gafsa, are the Steppes. Much of the southern region is semi-arid and desert.

Tunisia has a coastline 1,148 kilometres (713 mi) long. In maritime terms, the country claims a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles (44.4 km; 27.6 mi), and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).

Tunisia's climate is temperate in the north, with mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The south of the country is desert. The terrain in the north is mountainous, which, moving south, gives way to a hot, dry central plain. The south is semiarid, and merges into the Sahara. A series of salt lakes, known as chotts or shatts, lie in an east-west line at the northern edge of the Sahara, extending from the Gulf of Gabes into Algeria. The lowest point is Shatt al Gharsah, at 17 metres (56 ft) below sea level and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi, at 1,544 metres (5,066 ft).

The above photograph was taken in late April in the north west of Tunisia when poppies and other wildflowers were abundant.

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