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1. Around town

2. The black passage

3. Place du Caire

4. The great mosque

5. Town museum

6. Doors

7. Fish market

8. Borj el-Kebir

9. Punic ruins

10. The Fatimid port

11. Sailors' cemetary

12. Cap d'Afrique

13. Tourist's beach


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Finger pointing at the sea
The promise of Mahdia has a tendency of coming almost true. While wandering around the city, many of the elements of the city's past is spotted, but it either is too obviously restored, or too little. In the 10th century Mahdia was a very important city, but even more, it was the capital of one of the Muslim worlds most important line of rulers, the Fatimids. The first Fatimid ruler declared himself as the Mahdi, the last prophet of Islam. The Fatimids moved their centre to Egypt after conquering Cairo, and Mahdia had been the capital for just 50 years.

Mahdia, Tunisia

Mahdia was chosen as the capital because of the proximity to the sea, and the promontory on which an important military settlement had been since the time of the Phoenicians. With a wall 10 metres thick, man and nature had built one of this coast's best fortresses. The move of the Fatimids did mean that it was less thoroughly defended, and invasions by Christians, Normans and Turks in the following centuries lead to heavy destruction of the original bastion.
Entering today's Mahdia is greatest part of the visit. As you pass through the 10 metre thick wall, that functions as the gate to the city, history feels close. The city never opens after this, and all over Mahdia narrow streets never extends beyond small squares. Mahdia's great charm are the narrow streets, trees, the life of the locals, the cafés. The only really open part of the city is in front of the Great Mosque, which is only great in size,- otherwise it is a sad attempt to reconstruct the mosque of the first Fatimids.

Mahdia, Tunisia
The base of the old city of Mahdia is not tourism, but weaving. In the Arab world, quarters and cities often specialised in one product which they sold widely around, and Mahdia has a large part of the production of wedding cloth for the rest of Tunisia.

By Tore Kjeilen