Jenny has the best of both worlds, dividing her time between Nottingham and Mahdia, enjoying a warm, relaxing winter in Tunisia, and returning to Britain, in time to catch the best of its summer weather.
Jenny's first-hand account, shows her love of her second home in the unspoilt, peaceful and traditional Tunisian town.
If you look in the guide books it will tell you that in the 10th century, Mahdia was the capital for the Fatimid's rulers before they moved to Cairo and to this day, you can still see signs of this ancient dynasty in the ruins along the coastal areas. For anyone interested, there is also a small museum near the port exhibiting many interesting artefacts.
Mahdia is a fairly large, traditional, fishing town situated 50 kilometres (31 miles) to the south of Monastir. In their wisdom, the local powers that be have ensured that the town remains unspoilt by the influx of tourism, so those who expect night clubs and miles of shops selling tourist trash will be sadly disappointed. However, in recent years we have seen a few fast food pizza restaurants appear, producing excellent food at absurdly cheap prices. There are also several excellent fish restaurants alongside the port serving fish caught a few hours earlier and you can't get fresher than that! 70% of the fish eaten in Tunisia is caught in Mahdia. For those more intrepid travellers, there are small, basic, local restaurants selling superb dishes of local food for a couple of dinars - highly recommended!
Places of Interest
Most of the places of interest will be found at the north of the town, after walking through the incredible, 16th century tunnel with 10 foot walls called Skifa el Kahla. Here you will find the small, tourist souk with colourful shops, inviting you to bargain for quality souvenirs. You will also find the Place du Caire coffee bar - a delightfully, quiet oasis of calm amid all hustle and bustle. Carrying on to the end of the Souk, you will see the huge, ancient mosque - and behind that, the Big Fortress. The view from the top of there must not be missed! Carry on walking and you will arrive at the famous Sidi Salam - a lovely restaurant/coffee bar literally perched on the cliff edge, where you can sit and enjoy your coffee whilst watching the fishing boats return to the port. Walk beyond the Sidi Salam and you will arrive at the beautiful sailor's cemetery behind which is the old working lighthouse.
The weekly market is held on Friday and is a must for everyone, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from beds to bracelets - panties to pickles - chicken to chocolate - spices to saucepans etc etc. (The only thing that I have failed to find was carrot seeds!) At the side of the open market is a large, indoor market selling excellent fish, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Also on Friday in the Skifa el Kahla you will find a huge array of beautiful wedding dresses and gold being sold. You can see many of the traditional, wedding clothes being woven in the workshops in the nearby medina.
With one exception, all the tourist hotels are situated about 6 kilometres (4 miles) to the north of the town centre, where there is a small centre including 2 cafes, a bank with ATM, a supermarket, taxiphones and several gift shops. You can walk along the beautiful beach to the town centre or get one of the numerous taxis for a few dinars. Opposite the hotels is the metro station where frequent trains run both south to Mahdia town and north to Monastir (1 hour journey) or Sousse (1 hour 30 minutes journey.) A daily train also goes to Tunis early every morning. For those preferring bus travel, there is an hourly bus to Sousse where you can get all the connections to the top, tourist sites of Tunisia.
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Traditional Mahdia - a quiet, peaceful and unspoilt town.