Photographer's Note

Brief history of Mahdia:

Situated on the headland of Cap d'Afrique the old town is surrounded by sea on three sides. An ancient Punic port, Mahdia followed Carthage and Khairuan as the capital Of Tunisia in the 10th century. A small coastal town, Mahdia is the second largest fishing port 60km south of Sousse, a charming little town has escaped the tourist mania of the rest of the coast. The town goes back to the early 10th century and was founded by Shiite Fatimid dynasty as a jumping off point for their conquest of Eygpt. The town had defensive position and the Fatimid left behind a small harbour. The history of Mahdia is closely linked with Shiite branches of Islam. After 7 years of war with Ahghlabids, Ubaydallah known as El Mehdi for whom the place is named, the founder of the Fatimid Dynasty finally secured victory and sought to establish his own capital.

Mahdia was founded in 912AD on an early defended site and El Mahdi settled in this still unfinished town in 921AD in order to reinforce this power and protect himself. In 944AD the city was besieged unsuccessfully for eight months by the army of Abu Yazid. Eventually the 3rd Fatimid Caliph moved the capital inland to Khairouan. The inhabitants of this abandoned capital turned to the sea for their livelihood.

In the medieval Mediterranean world, with its ever shifting frontiers, reprisals were not slow in coming, with first unsuccessful Christian expedition to dislodge the pirate in 1088AD, then occupation by Roger of Sicily from 1148-1160AD. Later various other attempts were made to rid the town of the pirates by a joint French forces in 1390 and in 1550 by Charles V of Spain. The Spanish were finally successful in 1550, but when forced to evacuate in 1554 resorted to destroying the city. Eventually the inhabitants had to revert to more traditional way of life such as olive cultivation, production and weaving of silk. Under Husseinid Bey, the town became home to a cosmopolitan population with Albanians, Anatolians, Greeks, Italians, and French. In late 19th century the Sicilians began to come, introducing the 'Lamparo' night fishing technique. They nicknamed Mahdia 'the sardine city' and built a new neighborhood north of the port.

Today, this little town is one of the largest fishing ports in Tunisia, mackerel and sardines forming a major part of the catch.

View of ancient Fatimid harbour now used by the local fisherman. It looks like a big almost squarish basin that connects to the sea by a small channel, very little remains. On both sides of the channel - the entrance- were towers, the base of these are still there, but it is hard to imagine what it must have looked like. Further along the coast, remains of Fatimid fortifications can be found. The whole eastern tip of the peninsular must have appeared as a sea-based fortress. In the distance is the Red Lighthouse - built by the French - seating on the tip of Cap d'Afrique overlooking the Mediterrenean sea. The dotted white on the slopes is part of extensive burial ground covering most section of eastern end of the peninsular. The hauntingly beautiful white "Sailors' Cemetery" was laid out in this manner so that almost every grave can have a commanding view of the sea, relating to Mahdia's long maritime history of this coastal town. This marine cemetery evokes a very unique sense of peace and spiritual calm....

Photo Information
  • Copyright: abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6665 W: 150 N: 14578] (64237)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2010-12-02
  • Categories: Ruins
  • Exposure: f/20.0, 1/125 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2011-02-10 2:43
Viewed: 4865
Points: 98
  • None
Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6665 W: 150 N: 14578] (64237)
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