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 Wednesday February 09, 2011
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Tunisia is a small country on the southern shores of the Mediterranean; most of its coastline faces eastwards on the Gulf of Gabes. It has a western boundary with Algeria and a southern border with Libya.
Although only about the same size as England, it is geographically diverse. Tunisia includes parts of the three major regions described for Algeria; in the north a narrow coastal strip backed by mountains; a central and western district of mountain and plateau or 'tell' country; and a low-lying region in the south which is either steppe or desert, the fringe of the Sahara.
In recent years Tunisia has developed a large tourist trade, taking advantage of a Mediterranean climate with mild to warm, sunny winters and hot summers that are almost completely dry. Most of the major tourist centres and hotels are situated on the coast and near the main towns: Tunis, Bizerta, Sfax, and Sousse.
The coastal regions, particularly in the north, and the northern mountains have a typically Mediterranean climate with moderate winter rainfall. Occasional rain may occur in the early summer and autumn and this can take the form of heavy but rare downpours. Summers are fine and hot.
In the wettest parts of the hills annual rainfall ranges between 600 mm/24 in and 900 mm/32 in. Snow may occur on about ten days a year in the higher parts, but is very rare on the coast. The table for Tunis is representative of these regions.
Rainfall in central Tunisia and the southern hills on the Algerian border is lower. Inland winter temperatures may drop quite low with occasional frosts. Summer temperatures are higher than near the coast. The table for Gafsa illustrates inland conditions.
The climate becomes progressively drier towards the south of Tunisia and summer temperatures can rise very high inland, since this area has a virtual Sahara climate. Rainfall can occasionally be heavy in spring and autumn although days with rain are rare.
Daily sunshine amounts are large everywhere, ranging from between seven and eight hours in winter to as much as twelve hours in summer.
The occasional very hot, dry, and dusty wind bringing air from the Sahara can affect any part of the country, particularly in spring, when a depression moving into the Gulf of Gabes from the west induces southerly winds on its eastern flank. This wind and associated weather is similar to the khamsin of Egypt but goes under the local name of chili.
When this occurs, temperatures may rise as high as 50°C/122°F, bringing a risk of heat exhaustion or even heatstroke; but such extreme conditions are rare and for most of the year the climate of Tunisia is healthy and pleasant. Temperatures on the coast are moderated by daily sea breezes, while the higher temperatures inland are rendered less enervating by low humidity.


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