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For other uses, see Mahdia (disambiguation).
Skifa Kahla, ancient gate to the city
Skifa Kahla, ancient gate to the city
Official seal of Mahdia
Mahdia is located in Tunisia
Location in Tunisia
Coordinates: 35°30′N 11°04′E / 35.500°N 11.067°E / 35.500; 11.067
Country Flag of Tunisia.svg Tunisia
Governorate Mahdia Governorate
Population (2004)
 • Total 45,977
Time zone CET (UTC1)

Mahdia (Arabic: المهدية‎ al-Mahdiya), is a Tunisian coastal city with 45,977 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.


Marine cemetery in Mahdia

A city already existed at this site during the time of the Phoenicians and Romans; classically it was known as Ruspae and later as Henchir Sbia or just Sbia.[2] The Mahdia shipwreck – a sunken ship found off Mahdia's shore, containing Greek art treasures – is dated to about 80 BC, the early part of Roman rule in this region.

In the sixth century it was known as Ruspina, and had a western church diocese.[3] It was destroyed during the Arab conquest of North Africa.[citation needed]

The Muslim 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.[4] It was chosen as 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. The attack played a critical role in Christians' seizure of control of the Western Mediterranean, which allowed the First Crusade to be supplied by sea.[5] 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 came under Almohad rule.[6]

The role of the capital was taken over by Tunis in the 12th century during the Almohad era, which it remained 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 it was the target of the Mahdian Crusade, when a French army laid siege to the city but failed to take it. Eventually the city was destroyed and burnt down by the Spanish.[4] Though rebuilt, in later times the town lost its logistic and commercial importance.

During the Nazi Occupation of Tunisia in World War II, Mahdia was the site where Khaled Abdelwahhab hid approximately two dozen persecuted Jews.

Twin cities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "MAHDIA:Finger pointing at the sea". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  2. ^ Favreau, Robert (1995) Etudes d'epigraphie medievale: recueil d'articles de Robert Favreau rassemblés à l'occasion de son départ à la retraite Pulim, Limoges, page 357, footnote 113; in French
  3. ^ Thomas, Joseph (1887) "Fulgentius" The Universal Dictionary of Biography and Mythology: Volume II CLU-HYS (second edition) J.S. Virtue, London, page 976, OCLC 5462851
  4. ^ a b "Mahdia: Historical Background". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  5. ^ Fuller, J.F.C., A Military History of the Western World, Volume I, Da Capo Press, 1987, p. 408 ISBN 0-306-80304-6
  6. ^ Tunisia: History. LookLex Encyclopaedia.

External links[edit]

Media related to Mahdia at Wikimedia Commons Coordinates: 35°30′N 11°04′E / 35.500°N 11.067°E / 35.500; 11.067