Tunis (tōnĭs) [key], city (1994 pop. 674,100), capital of Tunisia, NE Tunisia, on the Lake of Tunis. Access to the Gulf of Tunis (an arm of the Mediterranean) is by a canal terminating at a subsidiary port, Halq al Wadi (La Goulette). Products include textiles, carpets, and olive oil. There are railroad workshops and a lead smelter. Popular resorts make tourism an important source of revenue. Tunis has notable mosques, the Univ. of Tunis, and a national museum. The ruins of Carthage are nearby, to the northeast. The famous Festival of Carthage is held there each year.
Tunis is probably pre-Carthaginian. Surviving from the Middle Ages are walls, an aqueduct, and a mosque. Tunis became the capital of Tunisia under the powerful Hafsid dynasty (13th–16th cent.) and was a leading center of trade with Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Turks under Barbarossa took it in 1534 but were temporarily (1535–69, 1573–74) dislodged by the Spanish. After 1591, the Turkish governors (the beys) were practically independent, and the city prospered as a center of piracy and trade. Under the French occupation (1881–1956), a modern European quarter was built and the port was improved. In World War II, Tunis was held by Axis forces from Nov., 1942, to May 7, 1943, and was the base for their final stand in Africa. The Arab League was headquartered in Tunis from 1979 to 1990.