Old town, walks on headland, great beach, big hotels a long way from centre
Historical.....more than just sun and beaches
On the southern coast of the peninsula is the remains of the Old Harbour which was used by the Fatimid's. It measures 126m (138yds) by 57m (62yds) and may have been used by the Romans. The narrow entrance channel, 15m (16yds) long, was protected by two Fatimid watch-towers which were incorporated in the town walls and were later linked by an arch.more
Dotted on the southern side of the peninsula are the remains of the original Fatimid walls that were built during the 10th century. To get some idea of how they and the rest of Mahdia would have looked, head to the museum beside the Skifa el-Khala and walk up to the first floor where there's a reconstruction plan.more
This massive square fortress, built in 1595, is commandingly situated on the highest point on the peninsula. It was built on the site of a palace built by Mahdia's founder, Obaid Allah el Mahdi in the 10th century. In the courtyard of the fortress is a small mosque. In the masonry of the tower at the southwest corner are two reliefs which are...more
The Great Mosque was built in 921 AD by the founder of the town, Obaid Allah el Mahdi. It was the first Fatimid mosque modeled on the Sidi Oqba Mosque in Kairouan. It was connected on two sides with the town walls and when these were blown up by the Spaniards the mosque too was destroyed with the exception of the north front. A temporary building...more
Route de la Corniche, Mahdia, 5111, Tunisia
Good for: Business
Route Touristique BP 98, Mahdia, 05100, Tunisia
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Route de la corniche Rejiche Mahdia, Mahdia, 5121, Tunisia
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
Erosion has not just been eating away at East Anglia...a small part of Mahdia has also fallen into the sea, and to reach the spectacularly situated Cafe Sidi Salem by the coast road, you now have to laugh in the face of warning signs and hurdle a barrier, before skirting the edge of a half-fallen-away road. If this was England, half the roads in...more
In high season, Mahdia has a lot of restaurants, mostly catering to the tourists who come here and demand pizza and steak au poivre. Around the port are a couple of upmarket-looking fish restaurants, and the corniche has quite a few pizzerias. Out of season, most places are closed, and you'll be stuck with the roast chicken and chapati stalls along...more
I have few restaurant tips in Tunisia : as we have most of the time camped, we do not go very often to restaurants but buy local food and cook it. However, I remind one special meal in Mahdia, while we were camping on the shore, a few kilometers out of town. We had been to the fish market and found nice fresh pilchards (sardines, Sardina...more
In summer, I remember being amazed that the Corniche remained packed until 4 or 5am...cars zoomed, horns beeped, people ambled along slowly, perhaps munching on popcorn or nuts, or sat on the wall waiting for....what? Nothing seemed to happen...but every night was the same. What amazed me more was that, this being a growing tourist resort popular with Europeans, there was not a foreigner in sight. If you join in, and there's no reason why you shouldn't unless you're an attractive female in a bikini, don't expect to be left alone..."hello bonsoir mister comment ca va what is your name where you come from..." You know what I mean....
Out of season, hardly a soul stirs after 9pm, although one block inland on the street running parallel to the Corniche, a few (mainly male) cafes and fast food places attract people until relatively late at night (I'm talking 11pm, not much later). The Corniche is positively eerie and very dark, so if walking back from the old town after dark, take the busy main road one block inland instead.
Heading to Moknine, Monastir, Monastir Airport and Sousse, the most sensible option is to take to Sahel Metro, a fast and comfortable train service that leaves Mahdia fairly regularly and takes just over an hour to reach Monastir, an hour and a half for Sousse. The terminus is in Mahdia city centre, although if you are staying in the zone touristique, there are two stops in that area. Some trains also continue on to Tunis.
The louage station is a couple of kilometres south of town in a residential/insudtrial area. It is walkable from the town centre, if you're into that sort of thing (follow the railway tracks south, and ask if it isn't obvious). Louages regularly head to Sfax, 2 hours to the south (5.3 TD) and El Jem, as well as some other local small towns...although for better choice, head to either Sousse (for points north) or Sfax (for points west and south) and change.
Be warned that the Sahel Metro stops in the evening, so if your flight arrives at Monastir late at night, the only way to get to Mahdia is by forking out for a taxi (expensive)...unless you can talk your way onto one of the package transfer buses. It may be more economical to head to Sousse or Monastir for the night.
Many Asian and African countries, including Tunisia, are predominantly Muslim, so the religious sites you are most likely to encounter, are, predictably, mosques. This is a brief tip of advice, written from the point of view of a non-Muslim, female traveler (yours truly!!!):
- Do dress modestly, covering arms, legs, shoulders and the like, no frivolous dressing will be allowed. Hire the modest dress if needed;
- Check whether you are allowed into the mosque at all, since most of them admit you only into the courtyard, and some do not admit non-Muslims at all. However, in several countries you may be able to visit the interiors of many mosques;
- Respect the boundaries laid and do not attempt to enter further (I saw such a thing once, and it did arouse ill-feeling);
- If possible try to avoid going even to the courtyard on Friday afternoon, since I remember this is the most important praying time of the week;
- If you are curious, feel free to ask questions (though not of people hurrying to pray) and most likely you will be answered: Iýve always found people proud of their culture and heritage and ready to explain it;
- Do not criticize things we in Europe and in the West might (such as separate praying space for men and women), for such are the customs of the land and mosques are the least appropriate places for such topics.
This advice is based only on common sense, but it allowed me to see something of the mosques and learn loads of interesting info on Muslim countries, their religion, and culture. Really helped me when we had a general education class on religions at University:))
Try to keep your bracelet hidden whilst out and about - it is quite common for people to approach you and pretend that they work at the hotel and then offer to take you around the town for a guided tour. In reality they know your hotel from the wrist band and are getting paid commission for each shop you buy from.
As you enter the main gate to the old city in Mahdia, there is a row of tourist shops - they are quite pushy, and this could be enough to put some people off visiting the old city altogether. Some of their sales techniques are quite amusing - we heard 'lovely jubbly' and even a ' we have Asda price here'! (Asda is a supermarket chain in England). You can easily get talked into buying something you didn't want here, although I imagine it is much worse in the more popular tourist resorts like Monastir and Hammamet.
Fun Alternatives: Try an alternative souvenir....something you might actually use once you get back. A mosque alarm clock perhaps? Or some locally made wooden bowls (Sfax is the place for olive wood goods)? A CD or two of Tunisian/Algerian rai music? Shops selling useful items usually have local prices and there's less hassle to buy.
I mean, does grandma really want that stuffed camel? And do you really think "Tunisian Viagra" is going to improve anything? And what exactly are you going to do with that belly dancing costume when you get home?
Travels to places like Tunisia involves a lot of fighting the heat, especially if you, like me (I am still surprised as to why I did that), go there right in the middle of the summer. Here’s a list of useful items to take:
- Hats and other covering: Large brimmed hats that provide head covering and some shade. For women, they are also a proof of modesty, welcomed when visiting old churches and mosques. Scarves and the like covering shoulders and arms can keep the sun off during treks. A cloth hat or scarf can be soaked to help keep the head cool.
- "Squeeze Breeze": this is a water bottle with a sprayer and a battery-operated fan attached. The beach toy to take with you!
- Sun block: While sun blocks may be purchased in Tunisia, people tend to prefer sticking with their own favourite brand (the skin, too, ‘gets used’ to it), and there’s not guarantee you’ll find it on the spot. So take your own, if you have preferences!
Go off season! November, February, April....the zone touristique hotels stand forlorn and empty, the pizzerias in town are all shuttered and abandoned, but life goes on in Mahdia in winter, and the atmosphere is much much more relaxed than in summer. In spring, Cap d'Afrique is prettier anyway, with all the dandelions and grass everywhere...by...more
There are now very few boats sailing with the ancient so called Latin sail that was used around the whole Mediterranean for centuries. It has almost disappeared now from the Tunisian coasts and I was very lucky to spot one. I saw it from the road and it was far away. Luckily, it does not sail fast and I could drive into mud trails to get closer to...more
149 Reviews and Opinions
In the museum on the first floor is a reconstruction plan of how Mahdia would have looked when it was built by the Fatimids. It reminds me of Valletta (the capital of Malta) which was also a fortified peninsula. Note that the walls once went round the whole town and that the Great Mosque had the sea on two sides. There was also a smaller oval...more
The beach at Mahdia was fantastic. The sand was white, the water like a bath, and it was very interesting to see Tunisians on holiday. I never realised you could need so much on a day out at the beach - the Tunisians erected huge tents, and brought with them half the kitchen, and extended families came en masse. The sea was perfect for swimming -...more