Activities in Mahdia will take you back in time, when the beautiful city was the capital of the Fatimid Caliphate and its harbour was one of the major trading ports of the Carthaginians in the much coveted Cape of Africa. Culture and art live in the streets, with well-kept historical buildings and peculiar museums containing objects that tell a lot about local people and their lives.
What to do and what to see in Mahdia
- Mahdia’s medina: The medina is the historical gem of the most authentic Mahdia. Today, thousands of visitors walk its streets, which used to be part of a big souk on this coast of Tunisia, on a peninsula extending into the Mediterranean Sea. Inside the medina, you can explore a maze of winding streets and find beautiful buildings with typical minarets and domes.
- Old cemetery: It is in the far end of the peninsula, by the spectacular cape, and is one of the most peculiar places in Mahdia’s medina. A series of graves in bright white sits against the deep-blue sea that embraces it all. It is the old cemetery, where local fishermen were buried.
- Mahdia’s Great Mosque: The Great Mosque is the main religious building in the medina. It was built in the 1960s over the former mosque, which had been torn down by the Spaniards during the capture of Mahdia in 1554. Only Muslims can get into the mosque, but tourists can still admire the nice interior courtyard.
- Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions: Housed in a stately home, it contains an important collection of decorative items and traditional tools from this part of the Tunisian coast. The museum is a good way to approach the people of Mahdia and their customs.
- El Jem amphitheatre: It is an impressive complex of Roman ruins, known as the Thysdrus coliseum, actually the largest in North Africa and one of the largest in the world, included in the Unesco World Heritage List. The monument has kept, without alteration, most of its architectural and architectonic components. From the tiers of seats you can enjoy vistas of the outskirts of Mahdia. It was one of the locations chosen by the director of Gladiator.
- Museum of Tapestry: Open every day except Monday, this lovely museum is a must-visit for tourists interested in learning more about the culture of this Tunisian village. Inside is a comprehensive collection of traditional costumes, regional dresses and tapestries made in this area of Tunisia.
- Borj el Kébir: This fort or kasbah was built in the sixteenth century on the site of the former Fatimid palace. The spectacular vaulted ceilings and the views with the sea in the background from the strong walls are amazing.