Welcome to Gafsa, the capital of the southwest of Tunisia and a city with a rich history and culture. With a population of over 111,000, Gafsa is the ninth-largest city in Tunisia and is located 335 kilometers from the capital Tunis. Gafsa is both a historical oasis and home to the mining industry of Tunisia. In this article, we will explore the ancient history, climate, economy, recent history, and more of this fascinating city.

== Ancient history ==
Gafsa has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times. Excavations at prehistoric sites in the Gafsa area have yielded artefacts and skeletal remains associated with the Capsian culture. This Mesolithic civilization has been radiocarbon dated to between 10,000 and 6,000 BCE. The associated ancient population, known as the Snail eaters, are known for their extensive middens of snail shells. They are believed to be the ancestors of the modern Berbers.

The city of Capsa belonged to King Jugurtha, who deposited his treasures there. It was captured by Gaius Marius in 106 BC and destroyed, later becoming reestablished under the Punic-style magistracy of sufetes before being granted the status of a Roman colonia. Capsa was an important city of Roman Africa near the Fossatum Africae. Roman cisterns are still evident in the city ruins.

The Vandals conquered the Roman city and ruled it until the death of Genseric (477). The Berbers then occupied it, making it the capital of a Romano-Berber kingdom until subjected to Byzantium under Justinian I (527–565). He made Capsa the capital of the province of Byzacena. The Duke of Byzacena resided there. In 540, the Byzantine governor general Solomon built a new city wall, naming the city Justiniana Capsa.

The Arab army of Uqba ibn Nafi conquered Gafsa in 688, in spite of resistance from the Berbers. After the Arab conquest, Capsa started to lose importance, replaced by Muslim-founded Kairouan. Historians such as Camps and Laverde consider Gafsa the place in North Africa where African Romance last survived, until the 13th century, as a spoken language. Al Yacoubi reports that this time its inhabitants were considered Romanized Berber and Al-Idrissi says they continued to speak an African Latin and part of them remained faithful to the Christian religion.

== Climate ==
Gafsa has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh). The city experiences hot summers and mild winters, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 40°C throughout the year. The best time to visit Gafsa is during the winter months when the temperatures are cooler.

== Economy ==
Gafsa is developing thanks to the mining of phosphates, the deposit of which discovered in 1886 is one of the largest in the world. Tunisia extracted nearly five million tonnes of phosphates in 2011. Production fell after the revolution to reach 3,500,000 tonnes in 2016. Tunisia has thus fallen from seventh in the world to tenth. The Compagnie des phosphates de Gafsa had its own private railway line until 1966, on the basis of an agreement signed on 25 August 1896. Paradoxically, the city is quite poor and does not benefit from income from phosphate.

== Recent history ==
Phosphate mines were discovered in 1886, and Gafsa today is home to one of the largest mines of phosphate in the world. In the Second World War, Gafsa suffered heavy bombardment from both the German and Italian side and the Allies. Part of its Kasbah was destroyed. On 27 January 1980, a group of dissidents armed and trained by Libya occupied the city to contest the régime of Habib Bourguiba. 48 people were killed in the battles. The Gafsa region has had an active political voice throughout its history, and various events there have shaped its political developments in the various phases of modern Tunisia. In 2008, Gafsa was the center of riots directed against the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The government was swift and brutal in its suppression of the uprising, but this movement has since been credited with sowing the first seeds of the Jasmine Revolution that removed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power three years later, igniting the Arab Spring across much of North Africa and the Middle East. In 2014, a lake suddenly appeared around 25 kilometers from the town. The cause of the lake’s formation is currently unknown.

== Transport ==
Gafsa – Ksar International Airport is located in the city, making it easy to access for tourists. The city is also well-connected by road and rail, with regular buses and trains running to and from Tunis and other major cities in Tunisia.

== Sport ==
El Kawafel Sportives de Gafsa is the main football club of Gafsa. The club was founded in 1948 and has a rich history in Tunisian football. The team plays its home matches at the Stade 7 Novembre, which has a capacity of 15,000 spectators.

== Media ==
Radio Gafsa is the main radio station in the city, broadcasting on frequencies 87.8 FM, 93.5 FM, and 91.8 FM. Other government and private Tunisian radios broadcast in Gafsa as Shems FM, RTCI, Youth Radio, Culture Radio, Zitouna, and the National Radio.

== Twin towns – Sister cities ==
Gafsa is twinned with Naples, Italy, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

== See also ==
African Romance
Capsian culture

== References ==

== External links ==
Gafsa – The Historical Oasis (in Italian)
History of Roman Capsa (in Italian)

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