Mahdia is situated on a peninsula in northeastern Tunisia and is today a charming small town surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea. Founded by the Phoenicians, the city has always been of interest due to its strategic location and has been occupied by Italians, Spaniards, French, and the Ottoman Empire. Traces of this centuries-old and multicultural history can be admired in Mahdia's Medina, or old town.
Today, tourists who have just discovered this town appreciate not only its many beautiful monuments but, above all, the peace that prevails in the city and the proximity to typical tourist towns like Monastir and Sousse, which can be easily reached from Mahdia by local transportation.
Beautiful Beaches and the Underwater City
Mahdia can charm you with its clean and wide sandy beaches, where you can find many beautiful seashells. Sunbeds and umbrellas can be rented. Here, the conditions are perfect for water sports, and divers will have a chance to explore underwater caves, the magnificent defense fortress, and the sunken city.
When in Mahdia, be sure to visit the small and extremely cozy Medina. Every Friday, there is a market here where you can buy aromatic spices, coffee beans, or fresh fish and seafood brought here directly from the fishermen's boats.
The local Medina extends along the peninsula from the fortified 50-meter-long Skifa el-Kahla gate to the beautiful white and red lighthouse at Cap Africa. It's a perfect place for long walks among the narrow cobblestone streets of the old Arab city and for visiting one of the small pubs serving local delicacies.
Not far from here is a historic Muslim cemetery located on a hillside and the stone-carved fishing harbor.
For a moment's rest, it's worth stopping at the beautiful Place du Caire, where you will encounter many young Mahdians relaxing in the shade of the trees.
Today, Mahdia is considered the religious center of Tunisia, so it's worth seeing the local mosques, especially the Grand Mosque (open to tourists until 1:00 PM), and the kasbah.
History enthusiasts should visit the vast regional museum located in the city center and Dar Sghir, a traditional Tunisian house museum where you'll see traditionally decorated rooms and traditional costumes.
Those who don't want to explore on foot or use public transport can easily rent bicycles or quad bikes in the city.
A Cozy and Flavorful Corner
The main advantages of Mahdia are its intimate atmosphere and the opportunity to see how real Tunisians live, as well as the absence of crowds of tourists that you'll encounter in other coastal towns in Tunisia.
There are plenty of cozy cafes and restaurants serving fresh, tasty dishes, as well as atmospheric shisha bars where you can not only smoke hookah but also taste Arabic coffee, excellent French and Italian wines, or Turkish yogurt ayran.
The flavors that definitely evoke associations with Mahdia are the ubiquitous fish, seafood, and "land snails," which are considered a delicacy here.
On well-stocked markets and bazaars, it's worth buying mushrooms in various forms, caught here, aromatic spices, especially turmeric, anise, and cardamom.
The local population greatly appreciates peas, which are prepared not only in Mahdia but also throughout Tunisia in hundreds of ways.
Try brik, a traditional deep-fried filo pastry turnover. Brik is traditionally served with tuna and eggs but is also available in a sweet version, with almond filling, honey, and pistachio sprinkles on the outside. A cherished souvenir from Mahdia will be a colorful shawl or scarf.
Weaving has a very long history in Mahdia, and linen, silk, or cotton fabrics will remind us of a holiday in this quiet Arab city full of polite and hospitable residents.