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Whilst obviously not in the Balkans the North African state of Tunisia has a rich Ottoman history that can be seen today.

In the 16th century Tunisia became the front line in the conflict between the Ottoman and Spanish empires. Ottoman interests were championed by the Barbarossa brothers based on the island of Jerba. After several exchanges Tunis finally fell to the Ottomans for the final time in 1574.

The Ottoman regency of Tunis was governed by a civil administrator the bey, a military commander the dey and the Sultan's representative the pasha. By merging the roles of bey and pasha an hereditary line was established known as the Muradids. Tunis was still primarily a base for piracy and attracted attention from western powers including Admiral Blake's bombardment of the pirate base Ghar el Melh in 1654.

By the 18th century the Muradids had been replaced by the Husaynids. Husayn Bin Ali was of Greek origin and he repulsed an invasion from Algeria. Internal strife combined with foreign intervention weakened the link with the Ottomans and European navies put an end to piracy. Ahmed Bey (1837-55) created a modern army but the economy could not support government expenditure and the country fell under French influence. This finally led to Tunisia becoming a French protectorate in 1881 after the Tunisian army participated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.

Whilst there is much to see in Tunisia the main Ottoman military interest is the National Military Museum in Tunis. This is situated in the former bey's palace in the suburb of Manouba, not far from the Bardo Museum with its famous Roman mosaics. The museum, whilst not easy to find, is run by the army and we had an excellent English speaking soldier as a guide.

The courtyard of the Bey's palace that houses the National Military Museum.

Ottoman military dress.

Ottoman helmet                    Tunisian troops off to the Russo-Turkish War in 1877


There is much more to see in Tunisia. The ancient remains of Carthage, Roman cities, many Arab forts, Spanish fortifications and the sights of the World War 2 campaigns. Of course you could always just sit on the sandy beaches ........


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Last modified: 01/23/12