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During the Second World War though the Tunisians sided with the Allies even after much of France had fallen to Germany and they ceased to be in control.

Tunisia was also of course a major battleground as the Allies fought for control of North Africa against the Axis powers controlled by Rommel the Dessert Fox.

Later Justinian sent his Byzantine armies to recapture Tunisia from the Vandals in 553 AD and took the cities of the area back with few problems and finding the cities far from vandalised by the Vandals in fact maintained and kept in much the way the Roman Empire had left them.

Arabian armies spreading the Islamic faith eventually pushed out the Christian Byzantines and spread their religion, though Arabs and Berbers fought for control for much of the next thousand years, the result was that the area became split between different tribes though Islam slowly became dominant.

With no dominate ruler the Christian Spanish and Islamic Ottomans fought for control in the 1500s with Turkey controlling Tunisia until their power also waned and the Husseinite dynasty came to rule an independent Tunisia.

Tunisia remained independent until France came on to the scene at first controlling the nation unofficially through a series of treaties and the moving in of forces, initially to put down uprisings.

Of course the beautiful, usually sandy, coastline is a major attraction but the interior of the country going down to the edges of the Sahara and the across to the Atlas mountains should also be explored by those with a sense of adventure and there is enough to keep history buffs transfixed for weeks.

The first thriving centres of culture in Tunisia were the Phoenician cities with Carthage founded in 814BC.

Kairouan has two famous mosques, The Great Mosque can only be entered by Muslims but non-Muslims can enjoy the splendid exterior.

Ben Ali’s rule was generally considered to be that of a dictator using sham elections to give himself legitimacy and using violence and intimidation to keep down protests.

Many of the people of Tunisia though rose in protest with numbers that Ben Ali was no longer to control in late 2010 and on January 14th 2011 Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia and an interim government took control, making Tunisia’s government the first to change during the Arab Spring.

The Axis armies in Tunisia surrendered in May 1943 and the Tunisians now looked to declare full independence from France as the war came to a close, it was 1957 though that Tunisia would officially become a independent republic.

Bourguiba, still a national hero had been the main force behind independence for Tunisia and was the new republic’s first president: he was succeeded in 1987 by Ben Ali following a coup d’etat.

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