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The Tunisian coastal resort of Mahdia is located on a rocky peninsula to the south of Monastir. A narrow strip of land is all that connects the town to the mainland. One of the country's newest destinations, Mahdia has expanded rapidly in recent years and boasts many fine beaches to the west of the town centre and to the north of the town. However, this is definitely not a tourist town so if you enjoy a quiet pace of life, Mahdia is definitely the place for you. A sense of atmosphere prevails and, combined with a slow pace of life, any time spent here is sure to be remembered as relaxing and unforgettable.
The town's past can be described as adventurous and interesting with a history of battles, piracy and power struggles throughout the ages. Today, however, the town is peaceful yet alive with activity. As well as visiting ancient buildings and historic sites, visitors can enjoy a wide range of modern cafes, restaurants and hotels to suit all budgets. Free from commercialisation, Mahdia is the perfect place in which to watch the world go by whilst enjoying a relaxing seaside holiday.
The town holds many fascinating attractions for the visitor and it can be worth investing in a good guide book to read up on Mahdia's colourful past. To enter the town you have to pass through a wall which is more than 10 metres thick. The gate at the entrance is known as The Black Gate. Passing through here provides a sense as to the town's 1,000 year history. After the grand entrance, visitors will find that the town is largely comprised of narrow streets, each with something of interest to discover and enjoy.
In July or August an annual festival is held in the town. There are performances of folk and classical dancing and the fishing boats in the bay are illuminated with beautiful lanterns.
The town's main attraction is The Great Mosque. Built in the year 921, the building was attached to the town walls. However, most of the mosque was destroyed in later years by the Spanish with the exception of the north front. A temporary structure was erected but this was considered to be inadequate and in danger of collapse. As a result, the Great Mosque was rebuilt in the 1960s on its original site to its original plans. Beautiful doorways and arches surround an inner courtyard. There is a prayer hall with nine aisles. Anyone who has visited Mahdia will tell you that no visit to the town is complete without a visit to the mosque.
The Archaeological Museum is another fascinating indoor attraction and has excellent examples of ancient artefacts dating back through the ages from all periods of Tunisia's history from Christian, Roman and Islamic periods.
If you simply want to relax and people watch, you can enjoy a coffee in the Place du Caire, the town square. You are sure to find a shady spot and will be surprised as to just how quickly you adapt to the slow pace of Mahdia where nothing seems to be hurried.
No visit here is complete without a visit to the Medina. Here you can haggle with vendors selling everything from leather goods to silverware and carpets as well as admiring the town's impressive fortifications. In the old part of the town it is weaving rather than tourism which is most prominent in the life of Mahdia today. Many towns or quarters in the Arab world provide one speciality to the rest of the country and Mahdia provides fabric for wedding gowns for brides throughout Tunisia.
For lovers of water sports, many of the town's hotels will help in organising these on request. There is a diving school in the town and the blue clear waters around the coast hold some fantastic sights as well as being warm and inviting.
For those who prefer sightseeing, on a hot summer's day there is often a gentle breeze blowing off the waters to cool the body. By day fishermen can be seen mending their nets whilst by night Medina lights up with colourful fishing boats which have little lanterns to light their way.
Historical though it may be, Mahdia also boasts first class hotels, banks, modern shops, chemists, travel agents and food outlets. On Fridays a market is held on the harbour in Place Farhat Hached. Public transport is excellent with a railway station and hourly trains to and from the nearby city of Monastir.