The Mediterranean is more than a water body. Its shores and inhabitants are interlinked by centuries of exchange.

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The Mediterranean has always been more than a water body. Forever interlinked by trade, migration and cultural exchange, its shores and the people living along them form a region with a deep shared social and cultural history.

In an attempt to go beyond familiar tales of its brilliant civilisations, olive oil and much-celebrated diet, this series aims to look at some of the lesser-known aspects of Mediterranean life of yesterday and today. While we hear talk of a unified and bonded region, the sea is marked by unequal relationships between former imperial powers and other nations. Old ways of governing seem to linger, and mark countries’ responses to different economic, political and ecological challenges.

Still, there is a sense of proximity, attachment and understanding that links cities like Tangiers and Beirut or Venice and Benghazi. This is how each of the five stories in this series ended up connecting different parts of the Mediterranean to each other.

In the first story, Jenny Gustafsson traces the history of epidemic-time quarantine, which is an entirely Mediterranean invention. Clément Girardot, in the second piece, describes how the Canary Island palm came to be a Mediterranean icon, now facing a deadly threat. For the third feature, Myriam Amri meets coral fishers off the coast of Tunisia, where informal coral trade networks have taken root. Kaya Genç, in the fourth story, follows a boat traversing the Mediterranean from Turkey to Lebanon. Finally, Amro Ali travels from Egypt to the western shores of the Maghreb, and returns to explore times-old Moroccan influence in Alexandria.  

This series is part of the cross-regional project Our Mediterranean, aiming to link different parts of the Mediterranean and show the diversity and riches of the region: its common roots, shared future and connections between its people. It is funded by the European Union within the framework of the regional Med Dialogue for Rights and Equality program.


This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union within the framework of the EU-funded regional Programme Med Dialogue for Rights and Equality. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Mashallah News and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. The #ourmediterranean project is carried by a consortium of four NGOs: Mashallah News, Maydan, Civitas Institute and Réseau Euromed France.


Quarantining whom? 22.10.21 — Jenny Gustafsson Society Beirut Mashallah region

The word quarantine made an unexpected comeback in 2020, after having been out of mind for as long as most of us can remember. But only as far back as the early 20th century, crossing the Mediterranean often meant spending weeks in isolation. Then and now, something remains true. Not all travellers are equal.

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Phoenix canariensis 26.10.21 — Clément Girardot Mashallah region

A native of the Canary Islands, the Phoenix canariensis was planted en masse on the Riviera in the 19th century. For vacationers and locals alike, this palm has come to embody the Mediterranean ideal of leisure and rest. But 150 years later, it is facing a deadly threat.

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Neo-Ottoman cruise 30.10.21 — Kaya Genç Tripoli LB

In 2010, with great fanfare, Turkey inaugurated a ferry route between Mersin and Lebanon’s Tripoli, a first between the two countries. It was hailed as an important milestone in Turkey’s strategy of renewed engagement with former Ottoman territories. The latter failed but the ferry line managed to survive.

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The red gold of Tabarka 02.11.21 — Myriam Amri Tunis

In northern Tunisia, seaside Tabarka has played a central role in coral fishing and cross-Mediterranean trade since at least the 15th century. Today, red coral continues to be traded across the sea, despite reef degradation and the informal workings of coral trade networks.

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Where couscous ends 12.11.21 — Amro Ali SocietyUrban change Alexandria Casablanca

Alexandria’s connection to the Maghreb is often overlooked. But the cosmopolitan port city developed through centuries of migration and influence from the western side of the Mediterranean, up until the colonial era and the building of self-centered nation states.

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