Posted on November 12, 2012
Ever since the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunis on Sept. 14th, Tunisia has been under a “Travel Advisory” by the U.S. State Department. For a country still reeling from the economic blow-back from the Jasmine Revolution this further escalates hardships in the tourism industry.
My secular Tunisian friends, the best and brightest in the travel industry, were wonderful when I visited Tunisia twice in 2009. I recall them supporting the government ban on wearing the hijab (traditional Muslim headscarf), enjoying the country’s developed healthcare system, delighting in equal opportunities for women and eager to extent their cultural hospitality to every religion.
However, they also resented the regime’s suppression of freedoms, the corrupt and extravagant lifestyle of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the staggering unemployment rate. Hence, reasons for the revolution.
Tensions are now fomenting among intolerant ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis. They have protested and clashed with Tunisian police, destroyed businesses they feel offend Islam and espoused jihad (violence) against Western ideals.
Tunisia relies heavily on returning to the days of safe tourism but this post-revolutionary unrest among Dr. Mohamed al-Khelif and his explosive religious movement reflects challenges that could seriously compromise the country’s achievements specifically the new constitution passed by the three-tiered party system last October.
Travelers are understandably worried but I’m hopeful that the most beautiful place in the world will bounce back stronger than ever. To learn more about Tunisia, visit the Tunisian National Tourism Office and Lonely Planet.