Mahdia: integration of archaeological sites into tourist circuit is an urgent need

(TAP/Mohamed Neji Ben Gamra) – Located in the east coast and less than an hour south of Sousse, the city of Mahdia is a modern tourist resort with some of the most beautiful beaches of Tunisia, and well-known for its active fishing harbour.

Mahdia also witnessed some important historical events, starting from the Phoenicians and Romans and later the Fatimids, making the city host several monuments that remind of a prestigious past.

Speaking to TAP Mohamed Houas Mahdia regional museum curator and representative of the National Heritage Institute in Mahdia said the old Medina of Mahdia begins from the Skifa el Kahla (the black gate also known as Bab Zouila).

It is a small fort rebuilt in the 16th century, but now it represents a gateway separating the modern town and the old Medina.

The present gate is not originally built by the Fatimids but was rebuilt in 1554 using the stones from the Fatimid fortress after the Spanish destroyed the old city of Mahdia.

At the entrance of the Medina, we are attracted by the archeological museum which reflects the history of Tunisia and more specifically the city of Mahdia.

Ancient mosaics and objects dating back to Libyco-Punic and Roman-African antiquity and to Byzantine and Islamic period are put on display.

However all these historical and archeological potentials are not well tapped because of the lack of a tourist circuit that defines the route of the tourist destinations located in the old Medina of Mahdia, Mohamed Houas regretted.

He explained when a tourist enters the black gate he should be motivated to visit the places identified on the circuit.

The objective of having a tourist circuit is to increase the total number of visits to all the destinations on the circuit while providing to the tourist all the attractions located on the circuit.

Mohamed Boussouffara, Director of Judicial Affairs in Mahdia Municipality and officer in charge of External Relations and International Cooperation at the Municipalty told TAP as regards the tourist circuit the vision is nearly clear at first for the old Medina, and its cultural heritage requires that the municipal action be strengthened to reach the goal of its enhancement, while striving to meet tourists’ expectations.

He pointed to a 7- year action that includes several projects.

The Project of Sustainable Tourism for the Mediterranean focused on valuing the tourist circuit by three other components which provide for valuing and developing the fish market so as to make it a tourist attraction as part of this project, he indicated.

Mohamed Boussouffara spoke of the second component pertaining to the sea museum, which is still under development in addition to the valorisation of the local traditional heritage that concerns sailors in Mahdia whose cost along with the first component stands at €420,000, carried out by the Mahdia municipality and it will be ready to by 2019.

The third component includes the marine station for sea analysis which is meant for the tourists and the locals to take advantage of it in collaboration with the Salambo Institute.

This project is supervised by the Italian culture ministry in association with the Municipality of Mahdia with other partners from Tunisia, Jordan and Italy, he underlined.

The second project “the Future of Our Past” (FOP) worth €70 million provides for highlighting the cultural heritage by making an analytical study of the old medina.

A marketing plan of the medina was established and it will be the starting point of the policy that will implement this project which is a precise map of the tourist circuit with the establishment of some guest houses in the Medina, with the aim to reach 70 beds, Mohamed Boussouffara said. 

The FOP project includes also the friendship house, in association with the municipality of Mahdia and the Association of the Safeguard of the Medina of Mahdia, along with the French Department of Loire Atlantique.

It provides for the creation of a guesthouse in the medina with artisanal criteria that will be a model for investors to be completed under the aegis of the National Heritage Institute while respecting the architectural aspect of the Medina.

The project worth 300,000 dinars is co-funded by La Loire Atlantique to the tune of €70,000, while the rest is provided by the municipal council.

The third project is a bilateral co-operation between the Mahdia municipality and the Loire Atlantique department which is meant for enhancing the tourist circuit mainly through defining the monument, Boussouffara said.

The guided virtual visit is another project that aims to facilitate the tourist circuit for tourists and the people visiting the old Medina. It includes the fort, the great Mosque and the Mahdia museum by providing free applications to be used during the visit that gives information about the monuments visited. This project is lagging behind because of many obstacles mainly financial.

Yassine Sfar, Secretary-General of the Association of the Safeguard of the Medina spoke of a scientific research unit that seeks to conduct researches and studies on the old medina and other regions by collecting data on the historical monuments and archaeological sites in association with researches and the National Archives.

Yassine Sfar said there are monuments that are hidden and cannot be found. They are rather available in history books. If we want to attract tourists to the Medina, many researches must be done to find out about the hidden wealth of the Old Medina of Mahdia, he stressed.

TunisianMonitorOnline (TAP/Mohamed Neji Ben Gamra)

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