The Tunisian Republic, often referred to as Tunisia, presents visitors with many faces. The most northerly country in Africa and an Islamic nation since the end of the first century AD, it became a French colony in the late 19th century. Today it is an independent republic and a fascinating mélange of its three main influences without being overwhelmed by any one of them. Tunis has a pearl of a Medina, or Old Town, at its center but it is a modern and expanding metropolis as well. The population is mostly Muslim, but Tunisia is one of the most liberal countries in the Arab world; alcohol is not banned, and western fashions are seen as often as Islamic dress on the city streets. Modern Tunis also wraps around the remains of ancient Carthage, one of the most important cities in the ancient Mediterranean world.