One of the first things our friend mentioned to us when we first arrived in Mahdia was the Friday Market, or the Souk. Since our first full day in Mahdia was the Friday after arriving, we were too jet-lagged and tired to venture too far, so we had opted to take a walk on the beach instead and then found the grocery store so that we could stock up on bottled water and food for our lunches over the next few days. And I can’t remember why we didn’t make it to the Souk the following Friday, but we didn’t. So it wasn’t until our third and last Friday that we finally experienced Mahdia’s Friday Souk…and boy, were we regretting not having been there sooner! Our friend had told us that the Souk stretched throughout Mahdia, but still we weren’t expecting the vast extent of it. It stretched through several blocks on the main street through the centre of Mahdia, and then stretched for several more blocks outward from the city centre, and then stretched again as far as the eye could see in all directions. It seemed that every merchant and vendor from Mahdia and surrounding areas had come here to sell their wares.
Everything you can imagine was being sold at this Souk. Aside from the usual market fare of fresh produce, just-caught fish and live chickens, there were stalls displaying everything from bathroom fixtures to fine china, sterling silver cutlery to fine crystal glasses of every description…carpets, mattresses, bed linens…toys, tools, trinkets of every kind for every age…colourful knapsacks and purses of every size hanging above even more colourful clothing…bras, holey jeans, underwear, leather jackets, blinged jeans, socks, leggings, winter jackets, pashminis…and shoes! The shoes!!! There was one fairly long street which seemed to be the shoe capital of the entire world. Spiked heels, stiletto heels, wedged heels, cowboy boots, warm winter boots, ankle boots, name-brand sneakers of every colour, flimsy flip-flops, shiny blinged sandals, light-up sneakers for the children…it was impossible to take it all in, there was so much to see. And because of the crowds of people who didn’t want their pictures taken, impossible to photograph properly.
We browsed for over two hours and reluctantly came out with only a handful of treasures, because by then our suitcases were already at risk of being overweight. (Which is why we’ll be bringing half-empty suitcases next time we travel to Mahdia!) I did manage to take a few pictures, but always asked the people behind the stalls for permission…which only a few gave willingly. At one point I tried to take a picture of an interesting and colourful wallpaper display but the stall-owner’s eyes and wringing hands pleaded with me to not do so, so even though there would have been no people in the photo, I put the camera away.
As fun and interesting as our day at the Souk was, the highlight by far was when a young girl came bounding out of the crowds and gave me a huge, warm hug. We hugged each other for quite a few moments, while her Mother stood a few steps away clearly upset and apologizing for her daughter’s bold behaviour…but I smiled and hugged her daughter even closer, and the Mother relaxed and smiled and even asked us to take a picture of her daughter and herself together. I thought we had taken a picture of me with the young girl as well, but it never showed up on the camera, so I only have two, the one I took of the girl and her Mother and the other of them with Andre. To this day, that young girl’s smile and warm hug still light up my heart and make me smile to remember.
So here is the collection of photos from our day at the Souk in Mahdia. (I did not caption any of the photos in this gallery except for the picture of the young girl.) You can click on the pictures to see larger versions of them and to see more clearly the items on display. And if you ever go to Mahdia yourself, leave plenty of space in your suitcase and visit the Souk the FIRST Friday of your vacation…in case you want to go back the following Friday for more great bargains!
In the next segment, we’ll visit El Jem, (aka DJem) home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Roman Amphitheatre of Thysdrus, one of the most remarkably well-preserved and beautiful displays of Roman ruins we have ever seen in all of our travels.