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Skifa Kahla, ancient gate to the city
Mahdia is located in Tunisia
Location in Tunisia
Coordinates: 35°30′N 11°04′E / 35.5°N 11.067°E / 35.5; 11.067
Country Flag of Tunisia.svg Tunisia
Governorate Mahdia Governorate
Population (2004)
 - Total 45,977
Time zone CET (UTC1)
For the Islamic eschatological figure, see Mahdi.
For the town in Guyana, see Mahdia, Guyana.
Marine cemetery in Mahdia

Mahdia, Arabic: المهدية (al-Mahdiya), is a Tunisian coastal city with 37,000 inhabitants, south of Monastir and southeast of Sousse.

Mahdia is a provincial centre north of Sfax. It is important for the associated fish-processing industry, as well as weaving.[1] It is the capital of Mahdia Governorate.



A city already existed at this site during the time of the Phoenicians and Romans, but was destroyed during the Arab conquest of North Africa. Mahdia was founded by the Fatimids under the Caliph Abdallah al-Mahdi in 921 and made the capital city of Ifriqiya, by caliph Abdallah El Fatimi.[2] It was chosen the capital because of its proximity to the sea, and the promontory on which an important military settlement had been since the time of the Phoenicians.[1] In 1087 the town was attacked by raiding ships from Genoa and Pisa who burned the Muslim fleet in the harbor. This played a critical role in winning control of the Western Mediterranean and allowing the First Crusade to be supplied by sea.[3] The Zirid dynasty had its residence here in the 11th century, but was brought to an end by the Norman conquest of the city in 1148. In 1160 the city comes under Almohad rule.[4]

The role of the capital was taken over by Tunis in the 13th century during the Hafsid Dynasty. Some buildings still exist from the 10th and 11th centuries, such as the Great Mosque and the Casbah, which have helped make the city an important tourist attraction.

Later the city was subject to many raids. In 1390 a French crusader army laid siege to the city but failed to take it. Eventually the city was destroyed and burnt down by the Spanish.[2]

Mahdia was also the site where Khaled Abdelwahhab hid approximately two dozen Jews from the Nazi occupiers during World War II.

See also


  1. ^ a b MAHDIA:Finger pointing at the sea
  2. ^ a b Mahdia: Historical Background
  3. ^ Fuller, J.F.C., A Military History of the Western World, Volume I, Da Capo Press, 1987, p. 408 ISBN 0306803046
  4. ^ Tunisia: History. LookLex Encyclopaedia.

External links

Coordinates: 35°30′N 11°04′E / 35.5°N 11.067°E / 35.5; 11.067


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MAHDIA (also spelt Mehdia, Mehedia, &c.), a town of Tunisia, on the coast between the gulfs of Hammamet and Gabes, 47 m. by rail S.S.E. of Susa. Pop. about 8000. Mandia is built on a rocky peninsula which projects eastward about a mile beyond the normal coast line, and is not more than a quarter of a mile wide. The extremity of the peninsula is called Ras Mandia or Cape Africa - Africa being the name by which Mandia was designated by Froissart and other European historians during the middle ages and the Renaissance. In the centre of the peninsula and occupying its highest point is a citadel (16th century); another castle farther west is now used as a prison and is in the centre of the native town. The European quarter and the new port are on the south-west side of the peninsula. The port is available for small boats only; steamers anchor in the roadstead about a quarter of a mile from the shore. On the south-east, cut out of the rock, is the ancient harbour, or cothon, measuring about 480 ft by 240 ft., the entrance being 4 2 ft. wide. There are manufactories of olive oil, but the chief industry is sardine fishing, largely in the hands of Italians.

Mandia occupies the site of a Phoenician settlement and by some authorities is identified with the town called Turris Hannibalis by the Romans. Hannibal is said to have embarked here on his exile from Carthage. After the Arab conquest of North Africa the town fell into decay. It was refounded in 912 by the first Fatimite caliph, 'Obaidallah-al-Mandi, after whom it was named. It became the port of Kairawan and was for centuries a city of considerable importance, largely owing to its great natural strength, and its position on the Mediterranean. It carried on an active trade with Egypt, Syria and Spain. The town was occupied by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century, but after holding it for about twelve years they were driven out in 1159 by the Almohades. In 1390 a joint English and French force vainly besieged Mandia for sixty-one days. In the early part of the 16th century the corsair Dragut seized the town and made it his capital, but in 1550 the place was captured by the Spaniards, who held it until 1574. Before evacuating the town the Spaniards dismantled the fortifications. Under the rule of the Turks and, later, the beys of Tunis Mandia became a place of little importance. It was occupied by the French in 1881 without opposition, and regained some of its former commercial importance.

During 1908 numbers of bronzes and other works of art were recovered from a vessel wrecked off Mandia in the 5th century A.D. (see Classical Review, June 1909).

Mahe, a French settlement in the Malabar district of Madras, India, situated in 11 0 43' N. and 75° 33' E., at the mouth of a river of the same name. Area, 26 sq. m.; pop. (r901), 10,298. It is the only French possession on the west coast of India, and is in charge of a chef de service, subordinate to the governorgeneral at Pondicherry. It is now a decaying place.

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