No More Fishing

The most Arab city in Italy opens the doors of its Casbah

The names Mazara del Vallo or Mahdia del Vallo come from the Tunisian city which most of the Tunisian families who have been living in Mazara for decades originally came from. Mazara: the fishing town which no longer has fishing boats and fish, and will soon also lose its fishermen. Mazara and the Casbah: that cluster of small intersecting alleys, the original nucleus of the Arab city on the coast that was the first to be touched by the Fatimid dynasty coming precisely from Mahdia in 827. A connection that returns over time, which is tinted blue and white in the Casbah today, just like the arches and doors that make us feel like we’re in Tunisia, and comes out in the Tunisian dialect mixed with the Sicilian dialect of Mazara in the voices of children playing in the yards. 

The Muslim community of Mazara includes citizens of Moroccan and Macedonian origin, as well as dozens of Muslims who have come from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia in recent years, and continues to be a strong reference point for migrants who pass through Sicily towards the mainland. Its younger generations are children from both sides of the divide, who are nostalgic for the Tunisia they see only a few days a year. The generations that preceded them were full of sailors and fishermen who are now tired of sea life and imagine a future in Northern Europe for their children. 

Mazara has opened the doors of its Casbah, which were closed and feared until 10 years ago, and hopes that beyond the peaceful coexistence of communities which resonates in the mu’addhin’s call to prayer in the mosque, there may be some real opportunities for its children’s future who at this point are leaving the island just like the Sicilians. And perhaps even a bit of contamination. To avoid feeling like Fatiha, a cook in a Tunisian restaurant in the Casbah that provides meals to many tourists, “Ni ‘cca ni ‘dda. Neither here nor there”, after so many years in Mazara. But she says “hamdulilla – thank God, I am well”.

( 2017 )