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The old and fortified part of a city that was built by Arabs is called the medina. Any invading army gets confused and is slowed down by their narrow and maze-like streets. Because of the narrow streets, the old medina is often free from car traffic nowadays.
Just like an invading army, the winding streets continue to confuse and slow down the invading tourists. A list of some cities with the most amazing old medina quarters that have survived is given here.
Best Cities with an Old Medina:
10. Algiers Casbah
Built on a hill, the Casbah of Algiers goes down towards the sea. The Casbah was the epicenter of the revolt during the Algerian struggle for independence.
The medina quarter seems like a confusing labyrinth of lanes and dead-end alleys flanked by striking houses to the outsiders. However, it is enough to go down towards the sea to relocate oneself if he/she gets mislaid.
9. Tripoli Medina
Tripoli’s medina is a part of the capital of Libya. It is positioned inside the old city walls and out to the Mediterranean Sea. Clearly, this amazing old medina is the most appealing part of town.
The Gurgi Mosque and the Arch of Marcus Aurelius are housed inside the medina. The Arch of Marcus Aurelius is the only surviving Roman monument in the city. The Roman made the basic street plan of the old medina. As a protective measure against attacks from the interior, they also built walls.
8. Tunis Medina
Tunis is one of the most famous cities, especially for its amazing old medina. During the 7th century AD, the medina of Tunis was built. Tunis was thought to be one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the Islamic world from the 12th to the 16th century.
There are about 700 monuments inside the medina. The monuments include palaces, mosques, mausoleums, and fountains, which testifies the remarkable past of this city.
Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco. Meknes name and fame are closely related to that of Sultan Moulay Ismail. The Meknes is turned into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style by the sultan.
The whole city is surrounded by high walls with great gates. Being a top tourist attraction in Morocco, the Meknes is a city with a historic old medina.
Located in the west of Libya, Ghadames is an oasis town that is designed to fight the impressive extremities of Saharan climate. A crowded network of whitewashed houses and covered streets are enclosed in the Ghadames walls.
In the 1990s, the entire population of the Medina has moved out to the modern nearby village. But when the summer becomes unbearably hot, they return to the old medina.
Around 700 BC, the Phoenicians inhabited and possibly first fortified the ancient city of Mdina. The Arab rulers and the Norman rulers of Malta added higher fortifications. The importance of Mdina as the seat of power faded steadily in the mid-1500s when the Knights Hospitaller arrived.
Mdina was once the old capital of Malta, but during that time it became the ‘silent city’, almost a ghost town. Most of the palazzos belonging to the old nobility are being restored. Even though there are only 300 inhabitants left in the city, the tourists bring life to the place.
4. Sousse Medina
Sousse is located on the coast and home to many tourist resorts and fine sandy beaches. This is a famous city as well as one of the older cities in Tunisia. The medina is an authentic one and of great historical interest.
Located on rising ground above the harbor in Sousse, the medina is surrounded by a wall first built in 859. The massive stone blocks of the wall came from ancient Roman buildings. Only two of the original six gates survived.
3. Marrakech Medina
The imperial city of Marrakech is located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It is an interesting city, which is full of history. In the 11th century, the medina of Marrakech was founded by the Almoravids and built its walls.
Marrakech prospered during the Almoravidian period and became an economic, political and cultural center of Morocco. Intertwining narrow passageways, riads and local shops fill up the old medina.
2. Sana’a Old City
The capital city of Yemen is Sana’a. For more than 2,500 years, the old fortified city of Sana’a has been inhabited. This old city possesses a wealth of intact architectural gems. The city is surrounded by ancient clay walls.
Sana’a features over 100 mosques, 12 hammams (baths) and 6,500 houses. Resembling the ancient skyscrapers, many of the houses are several stories high and topped with flat roofs. Elaborate friezes intricately carved frames, and stained glass windows decorate them.
1. Fes el Bali
Fes-al-Bali is the larger of the two medinas of Fes. Fes-al-Bali is a nearly intact medieval city. There are about 150,000 inhabitants in the city. By population, it is the largest car-free urban area in the world.
Donkeys, carriages, and motorbikes are used as transports of goods in this city. A high wall encloses the entire medina with a number of historic city gates. Only one large public square that is located near the geographic center of the old medina. A road connects the square and gives access to buses, and other transports.