There weren’t too many corners of Mahdia that we didn’t walk through in our three weeks there. Even with the crazy sidewalks, walking through Mahdia was always an enjoyable adventure. But my favourite part of Mahdia was the Medina, just beyond the huge stone wall. In comparison to the Medinas we’ve visited in Morocco, the Medina in Mahdia is smaller in size, but very large in kindness. Gosh, even now, the memory of the kindness and genuine friendliness of people we met in the Mahdia Medina brings a warmth to my heart. And I don’t have pictures of too many people, because most of people we met throughout Mahdia didn’t want their picture taken. But I did take pictures of some of the shops, so maybe, if you’re ever in Mahdia, you can stop in and meet these wonderful people for yourselves.
You can’t miss the entrance to the Mahdia Medina. Looming tall and magnificent, the main entrance to the Medina is called Skifa Kahla, and is the last remnant of an ancient fortress built in 916 AD by the Fatimids.
Once we travelled the long dark cobblestone passageway (about 50 meters long) through the great wall, we emerged into the first crossroads inside the Medina. Maybe it was because it was still early in the morning, but it felt tranquil and hospitable inside these old walls. Right away I was glad to be there and eager to explore. Right, left, straight ahead…we were surrounded by colour and history…colourful ceramics, handmade weavings, jewellery, silk pashminis and scarves, clothing, carpets and knick-knack souvenirs of every possible description.
We opted for the first shop on the left…and were glad we started there. Full of delightful little treasures, it was a feast for my souvenir-hunting eyes. Right away, the shop owner came running into the store, introduced himself, offered my husband a chair in the corner in the store and asked if we would like some mint tea. It didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted (two blue/white porcelain tagines – exact matches to some souvenirs we had bought in Morocco), and our shop host was quick to see that we knew how to bargain and quickly offered us a price we couldn’t refuse.
From there we wandered through the labyrinth of narrow lanes, noting the places we wanted to come back to when we finished the rest of our tour of the Medina and the Old City. I was especially interested in the looms and weavings, and on the way back through the Medina, we stopped in one tiny shop where a woven pink pashmini had caught my eye. It was so soft, and I think I still regret not buying it, but instead, I bought a red and black one with a rose motif that would be more useful for me back home.
As we continued meandering through the Medina, we stopped and bought several more souvenirs for loved ones back home. And we stopped and chatted to people along the way as well, which was fun and interesting. At one intersection, while hubby was chatting with an elderly man, another pink concoction caught my eye and I ventured into the shop…and came out with the beautiful pink sweater in hand…one of the hotel employees told me later that I probably overpaid for it, but I didn’t care, it’s a cosy souvenir that I’ve already worn several times and am glad to have hanging in my closet.
That was the end of our first trek through the Medina, but we returned a few more times and always enjoyed our meanderings and encounters there. On one of our return visits, the gentleman from that first shop warmly greeted us and took us to some other interesting shops buried deep in the labyrinth…one in particular was one of our favourites, filled with aromatic spices of every colour. We did buy some, but ended up giving them away later because we weren’t sure about bringing loose spices back through Canadian customs…I looked it up online, but still wasn’t sure enough to risk it, so we gave the spices away before leaving Mahdia.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the nooks and crannies of the Mahdia Medina and would count this as a “must-see” sight if you ever go to Mahdia yourself. The Medina and the Friday “Souk” Market, which I’ll cover in the next segment, are a big reason that if we ever go back to Madhia, we plan to go with half-empty suitcases so we can fill them with the treasures that we didn’t have space for this time.
Coming up next…let’s go to the Friday Souk!