Mahdia, Tunisian Silks

As early as the 12th century, the traveller and geographer Al Idrisi described the opulence and refinement of the textiles woven in the city of Mahdia. He wrote: “From within and from without, the city looks beautiful; its inhabitants are handsome and nicely dressed. High quality garments in fine fabrics are produced here and, since their quality is impossible to imitate, they are widely exported.”
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Today the Tunisian textile industry is more readily associated with mass manufacturing. However this century old craft is still very much alive in the small streets of the Medina of this Tunisian fishing port. By following the sound of the shuttle thrown across the wooden looms, one can still discover a number of workshops scattered around its historic center.
Exclusive pieces of fabrics, jacquards woven with silk yarns, still reproduce traditional patterns. Used for wedding costumes, they contribute to the preservation of regional traditions. The Madhia bride layers an impressive number of fabrics and embroidered textiles to compose her wedding dress, each of them recalling the various skills of the city’s craftsmen. Woven with linen or cotton yarns, their spools of silk may also become shrugs or scarves.
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And even if one chooses not to acquire a complete bridal outfit in Madhia, there is always the production of the neighboring town of Ksar Hellal. Specialized in cotton weaving, the many workshops here produce foutas, or hammam towels, in every variety of stripes and patterns.