March 20 – Tunisia's Independence Day

Posted on March 20, 2014

It's a young democracy. In early 2011, the people of Tunisia rebelled against the dictator that had ruled their nation for 24 years.

This leader was about to be “elected” into power again...

But the people protested. They wanted real elections, free elections. After a month of protests, the dictator and his family fled to Saudi Arabia.

And soon after that, the Tunisians did get their free elections. But there were more effects of this overthrow: a wave of protests, demonstrations, even riots swept over the Arab world. According to Wikipedia, in just two years rulers had been forced from power in Egypt (twice), Libya, and Yemen; uprisings had occurred in Bahrain and Syria; major protests had been held in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan; and minor protests had broken out in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and the Palestinian territories!

Who knew that little Tunisia had such influence in the region?

This wave of protest has been called "Arab Spring." But it has nothing to do with Tunisia's Independence Day. Instead, today commemorates the nation's 1956 independence from France.

Unfortunately, that particular “independence” did not usher in freedoms and liberties—instead it ushered in the repressive rulers that Tunisia finally escaped in 2011.

Tunisia is the northernmost nation in Africa. The southern portion of this nation is covered by the Sahara Desert, but the part close to the Mediterranean Sea is rich and fertile. The country is a little bit smaller than Wisconsin.

Did you know...?

  • The ancient city of Carthage is near the modern-day capital of Tunis. It was THE city to be in Africa at the time of the Romans, and there are plenty of Roman ruins to explore now, including public baths and an amphitheater.

  • Several Star Wars movies feature the planet of Tatooine, and the Tatooine scenes were largely shot in Tunisia! In addition to the desert locations such as the one pictured here, Luke Skywalker's movie home is a real-life hotel in Tunisia. Each room has been carved out of sandstone and is in fact a cave that has been painted white! If you stay at the hotel, you can see some of the futuristic Star Wars equipment that was left behind. (Other movies—like a little film called Raiders of the Lost Ark—were partially shot in Tunisia, as well.)
  • In Tunisia, you can see a really large chott. I know you're wondering if I just made up that word, but the lake beds in the Sahara Desert that are dry most of the year but have a little water in the wet season are, in fact, called chotts. The 5,000-square-kilometer chott pictured here is covered with salt crystals, so it seems very white and even sparkly. There are a few stops along the road that goes through the chott; at most stops there are some natural salt “sculptures” and a refreshment booth.

Also on this date:

Snowman Burning Day 

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