Sousse (Arabic سوسة Sousa), is a city of Tunisia. Located 140 km south of Tunis, the city has 173, 047 inhabitants (2004). It is in the central-east of the country, on the Gulf of Hammamet, which is a part of the Mediterranean Sea. The name may be of Berber origin: similar names are found in Libya and in the south of Morocco (Bilād al-Sūs). It is the capital of Sousse Governorate with 540,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate). Its economy is based on transport equipment, processed food, olive oil, textiles and tourism. It is home to the University of Sousse.
In the 7th century A.D. Arab-Islamic armies conquered what is now Tunisia and rapidly spread Arab culture across what had been a thoroughly Romanized and Christianized landscape. The Arabs seized the city, which in the aftermath of Rome's fall was but a remnant of its former self. They renamed the city Sûsa and within a few decades elevated it to the status of main seaport of the Aghlabid Dynasty.
When the Aghlabids invaded Sicily in 827, Sûsa was their main staging ground.
In the centuries that followed, as Europe gained technological ascendancy and began pushing back at Islam, Sûsa was briefly occupied by the Normans in the 12th century, was later more substantially occupied by the Spanish, and in the 18th century was the target of bombardments by the Venetians and the French. The French renamed the city Sousse (Actually the city is still called "Sûsa" in Arabic, i.e. no one renamed it since the Muslims conquered this area. The French just adapted its name for their own language, and the British borrowed it from the French).
Despite the turmoil around it, Sousse's character had retained the solidly Arabian look and feel it had assumed in the centuries after Islam's wars of conquest. Today it is considered one of the best examples of seaward-facing fortifications built by the Arabs. Its ribat, a soaring structure that combined the purposes of a minaret and a watch tower, is in outstanding condition and draws visitors from around the world.
These days, Sousse, with a population of more than 540,000, retains a medieval heart of narrow, twisted streets, a kasbah and medina, its ribat fortress and long wall on the Mediterranean. Surrounding it is a modern city of long, straight roads and more widely spaced buildings.
Sousse is home to many resorts and fine sand beaches backed by orchards and olive groves. It has a pleasant Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and warm, gentle wet winters. It also has a skilled population, and serves as a strategic geographic location.
Although Sousse is associated with olive oil making, this is far from being the only industry in the city. Tourism has become a central activity, with some 1,200,000 visitors every year coming to enjoy its many fine hotels and restaurants, trendy nightclubs, casinos, beaches, sports facilities, museums, and the Medina (the old city).
120 hotels with a capacity of 40,000 beds extend over a 20 km strip from the north of town down south to a traditional downtown area and bazaar, where wares are directed mainly at tourists.