Mahdia Resort in Tunisia
Mahdia - a resort in Tunisia of medium size, which on tourist web sites often characterize as "cozy", "quiet" or "suitable for family rest". Recreation in Mahdia has its advantages, but there are disadvantages, let's talk about it in detail, about the city itself, its history and inhabitants.
Mahdia on the map of Tunisia
Details of the location on the map of all Tunisian resorts, we told in the article " Map of Tunisia with resorts ."
Figures and facts
Modern Mahdia is a small city with a population of 52,000 people (this is the population living in the official city). Even in the suburbs of 37 cities with a large population. Despite its modest size, the city of Mahdia is the capital of the same province (province) of the country.
Now Mahdia is known as a resort, but the tourism industry here began to develop actively only in the late 90's. Prior to this, the city was well known only in Tunisia itself as a center for fishing and producing olive soap.
Also Tunisians know this city as the former capital of the country and the whole Maghreb. And the name of the city is "screaming".
The word "Mahdia" is translated from Arabic as "slave", and means "led by Allah" or "pious". Many Russians think the word familiar, they ask: "somewhere I've heard it, only where?" Some fans of science fiction even remember where there was something similar.
Recall. The famous novel by Frank Herbert "Dune". The main character Paul Atreides became the leader of the "free" ("fremans") - the people of the deserts of the planet Arrakis. He was called "Mahdi", which means "messiah" from the language of this people. The language of the desert people from this book is partly borrowed by the author from Arabic, a coincidence is not accidental. Even the word "Mahdia" can in some situations be translated as "prophet" or "messiah."
By the way, despite the name of the city "led by Allah", the hotels are supplied with imported and Tunisian alcohol , there is a store Generale (only it sells alcohol), and there is no religious fanaticism among the inhabitants. This name was given to the city by the name of its founder.
History of Mahdia
The first settlement on the site of modern Mahdia was built by the Phoenicians, who founded hundreds of colonies and trading stations on the Mediterranean coast. Smoothly the city entered the state of Carthage and was then called, presumably, Gemma.
In 146, the Romans stormed, plundered and completely destroyed Carthage, and the entire territory of modern Tunisia became their province. The city was renamed "Afrodizium", also it was called "Cap Africa".
The town of Aphrodisium was then not famous either as a large port or as a craft. But now he is famous, thanks to the "Mahdi shipwreck." In 1907, 5 kilometers from the port, a ship's skeleton was accidentally discovered. The ship turned out to be Greek, dated to about 80 BC. In the holds were found a magnificent collection of antique works of art from Athens.
Further, no serious events occurred in the history of the city, except for the fact that it disappeared. After the conquest of vandals, Byzantines and Arabs, many cities in Tunisia were abandoned by humans, Aphrodisium was among such cities.
The new city was built here in 916 by the founder and first caliph of the Fatimid dynasty, Ubaidallah al-Mahdi. It was he who gave the city its name. The city was built "from scratch" for five years. Mahdia became the capital of the Fatimids and the entire Maghreb (western part of northern Africa). In this status, Mahdia remained until 973, when the Fatimids moved the capital to Cairo in Egypt.
Mahdia is on the peninsula, which made it possible to build magnificent defenses. Around the city erected a wall 10 meters thick. In the center of the wall were the "Black Gate" or "Skela el-Kakhla." Now the walls are gone, but the gates are standing.
In the years 944-956, Mahdia sustained a heavy siege of the Kharijite army under the command of Abu Yazid, the walls were tested by war.
In 973, the capital of the Fatimid caliphate was moved to Cairo, but Mahdia remained the capital, but not the whole empire, but only Tunisia. In this status, the city stayed about 300 years - until the 12th century. These 300 years are the "golden age" of Mahdia, when the medina, kasba (fort) and the Great Mosque are being built. The historian Ibn Khaldun wrote in the 14th century: "Mahdia is the richest city of the Berber coast."
Mahdia was a large port, where traders and pirates arrived. Note that in those days there was not much difference between the two professions. Pirates were based not only here, but in Sfax and on the island of Djerba .
In 1086-1087 a coalition of Italian cities of Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi, Salerno and Gaeta arranged an anti-piracy operation. They took Mahdia by storm and burned all the ships in the harbor. The city was plundered, all the valuable was taken away. Given the latter fact, the question is ripening: was it an anti-piracy operation or just a pirate operation. The exported values were subsequently spent on the construction of the Pisa Cathedral .
It would seem that the important and fateful in this plunder of Mahdia, that we are giving this event so much text? The event was really fateful, it was here in Mahdia that the Crusades began!
The destruction of the Muslim fleet gave the Italians a dominance in the Mediterranean and the ability to supply the armies of the Crusades by sea. There would not be this sea battle at Mahdia, the knights-crusaders would not have farther than Constantinople.
After the 12th century Mahdia ceased to be a significant port, the city lives its own life - trade, fishing, periodic raids of pirates, nomads and Europeans.
In the 16th century, the city even fell under the full power of the pirate, nicknamed Dragut. The Spaniards decided to get rid of him and in 1550 captured the city. In 1553, the Spaniards realized that they did not need Mahdia, and the Spanish King Charles V offered to give the city to the Order of St. John (then the order was owned by Malta). The Knights refused, and the Spaniards left. Leaving, they destroyed all the fortifications, the ruins of which are now watched by tourists (pictured right). After the departure of the Spaniards, Mahdia was occupied by the Turks and ruled here until the 19th century.
After the destruction of defensive fortifications, Mahdia has never been an important port and fortress. The city gradually reoriented from trade to fishing. The conquest of Tunis by the French, the Second World War and the country's acquisition of independence passed almost unnoticed for the inhabitants.
Only in the XX century in the late 90's Mahdia again becomes an important city and a famous resort. The active construction of hotels and tourist infrastructure is beginning.
Tourism in Mahdia
From the resorts of the group "Northern Tunisia" Mahdia is the most southern. Unfortunately, this fact does not give any advantages, the season here lasts from mid-April to the end of October, as in Sousse , El Kantaoui , Hammamet and other resorts in Tunisia. The temperature of water and air throughout the year is not very different from the rest of the Tunisian resorts. Read more in the article " The temperature of water and air in the resorts of Tunisia ."
In Mahdia, there is no international airport, tourists come here from the airport Monastir , 50 kilometers away - just over an hour away by bus. Uncomfortable, but there's nothing to be done.
Important advice! Buying a tour to the hotel in Mahdia, carefully look at the parameters of the flight. Specify to which airport you arrive. It happens that tourists arrive at the airport of Enfid, which is more than 120 kilometers away from the resort. We assure you that you will not get any pleasure from a 2.5 hour trip from Anfida Airport to Mahdia.
The hotels are not located in the city itself, but along the beach to the north - in the tourist zone "Zone Touristique". All hotels are located only on the first beach line (at the time of writing the article in 2016).
The second important advantage is that the tourist zone adjoins the city, even from the farthest city from the city to go to the medina no more than 7 kilometers.
You can get on a minibus or take a taxi , a trip which will cost no more than 5 Tunisian dinars . You can quickly and cheaply go to the sights of the city, the supermarket Carrefour (Carrefour) or the market.
There are only 20 full-fledged beach hotels. Of these, five "five" are El Mouradi Mahdia, Iberostar Royal El Mansour, Mahdia Palace, Vincci Nour Palace. 7 hotels for 4 stars and 9 hotels for 3 stars. In addition to hotels, you can stay in the apartment or room in the guest house, the choice is huge both in the city and in the tourist area.
As for the prices for tours and hotel accommodation, they are not much different from the prices in Sousse or Hammamet. Mahdia can not be called a cheap resort, nor expensive. However, souvenirs and gifts in Mahdia will be cheaper, thanks to the peculiarities of the region's economy.
Economy - what do the Mahdiyahs do
The local economy specializes in three sectors. First, it's fishing. On Friday in the city "market day", you can buy any fish that is just found in the Mediterranean.
Fishermen in Tunisia often fish in the old way - nets on small boats, as shown in the photo on the left.
In the restaurants of the city you can try amazing local fish dishes, the most famous establishments: el-Moez, Le Meriem, Le Neptune and Le Lido.
Secondly, tourism. Third, it is the cultivation of olives. Olives should be discussed in more detail, it's interesting.
The whole harvest of olives in Mahdia goes to oil, and the Mahdians do not pack butter in cans and bottles, they make soap out of it. Olive soap is a famous Tunisian product and one of the best gifts from Tunisia .
Also in Mahdia, the authorities support traditional crafts - weaving silk and wool, jewelry art, chasing, woodcarving. Products of local craftsmen are interesting for tourists, but they do not bring a significant contribution to the economy of the city.
The Black Gate (Skytha al-Kahla)
Are at the entrance to the Old Town. They are also called Bab Zoila. These gates were built in the 10th century, in 1554 the Spaniards destroyed them completely, the present gates were recreated in the 16th century.
On the Black Gate (pictured right), you can not only see, but also climb to the roof, from where you can see a magnificent view of the medina and the Old Town.
The Great Mosque
It was built in 921 year. During the departure of the Spaniards in 1554, she suffered greatly. In 1960, the mosque was completely dismantled, as it was close to a complete collapse. After assembled back without external changes.
Borj El Kebir
The fortress at the highest point of the peninsula is next to the Great Mosque.
Very interesting place. It houses part of the collection from the "Mahdi Shipwreck", the rest is in the Bardo Museum of Tunis . It's amazing how these items were not taken out by the French and did not end up in the Louvre. In addition to these artifacts, here you can see many items of Punic, Roman and Islamic periods of the history of Tunisia - bronze, ceramics, clothing.
Have a nice holiday in Mahdia, and read our other educational reviews about Tunisia ( links below ).
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