What you didn’t know about Tunisians

A number of Tunisians drink wine during Eid- el Fitr celebrated by Muslims worldwide. While it may be shocking that an Islamic country like Tunisia has a wine industry, sales are even higher than normal during the feast of ‘Breaking the fast’.

Even though alcohol is generally considered to be prohibited under Islam, wine making in today’s Tunisia came into existence before Roman rule and was introduced by Phoenicians when Carthage was established. From the late 1990’s, the quality of wine improved following the introduction of large-scale production with over 10 wineries established. But this reduced following Tunisia’s conquest by Arabs and the subsequent departure of French winemakers. However wine was hardly eliminated as some Tunisians still discreetly sip a glass or more till now, particularly in the north.

In the early 2000’s production consisted of 60-70 percent rosé, 25-30 per cent red and under 10 percent white with most of the Tunisian wine production located in Cap Bon and the surrounding area. Last year industry figures estimated that about 14.3 million bottles of the country’s wine was consumed by Tunisians with about 14.4 million bottles consumed by visiting tourists. But with tourists pulling back after the country has continued to face socio political turmoil, winemakers will be left with a lot of unsold wine.

“The FCO [British Foreign Office] said it was working with tour operators including Thomas Cook and TUI Travel, to bring holidaymakers back to the UK,” Reuters news agency reported on Friday July 10. Thomas Cook and other tour operators are currently taking some 3,000 British visitors back home. A major setback for a country that had 400,000 holidaymakers from Britain in 2014.

Despite these concerns, winemakers remained hopeful and had every reason to smile towards the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. There is however a growing fear of attack on the industry as drinking wine is not welcomed by Islamic extremists and may therefore dampen all hopes for increased exportation. The Tunisian government needs to take appropriate measures towards ensuring safety and political stability; it is only by doing so that the tourism sector will gradually return to its past glories.

Wine is made available in major supermarkets with the restriction that it cannot be bought on Fridays- the holy day for Muslims, or during Ramadan which ended last weekend. 

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