Tunisia, from the Fertile Coasts to the Arid Desert – March 7th, 2009
Tunisia is a country situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Valley. It is the northernmost country on the African continent.
Around forty percent of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and a 1300 km coastline.
An abrupt southern turn of its shoreline gives Tunisia two faces on the Mediterranean.
Despite its relatively small size, Tunisia has great geographical and climactic diversity.
The Dorsal, an extension of the Atlas Mountains, traverses Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula, highlighted in the first close-up. An algal bloom hugs the coastline from the western side of the peninsula to near the capital city of Tunis.
North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, although in the northwestern corner of Tunisia, the land reaches elevations of 1,050 meters.
The Sahil is a plain along Tunisia’s eastern Mediterranean coast famous for its olive monoculture. The second close-up focuses on an algal bloom off this eastern coast, including the Gulf of Gabès.
Inland from the Sahil, between the Dorsal and a range of hills south of Gafsa, are the Steppes. Much of the southern region is semi-arid and desert. The final close-up shows the Chott el Djerid, a large endorheic salt lake in southern Tunisia.
It is the largest salt pan of the Sahara with a surface area of over 7,000 km² (some sources state 5,000 km²). Due to the extreme climate with annual rainfall of only 100 mm and temperatures reaching 50° C, water evaporates from the lake. In summer Chott el Djerid is almost entirely dried up.
South of Chott el Djerid, the Grand Erg Oriental desert begins.