a small village (populated by around 1000 people) on the east coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. an amazing place - physically gorgeous tropical reef/beach/rainforest, strong and vibrant traditional culture still the mainstay of social life, and one of the best educated and most harmonious villages in the country. my home, among other places.

Medina, preferably spelled Madinah by Muslims, is a city in Saudi Arabia. Its original name was Yathrib and its current full name is: 'al-madinatul-munawwara. Medina is the arabic word for "city", so the literal meaning is the "glowing city". It is so called because Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, moved there in 622AD in an incident called the Hijra; his presence brought peace (after a massive feud between two tribes: the 'Aws and Khazraj), stability and justice to the city, hence it became glowing. It is in Medina that Muhammad established an Islamic state where he was not only the religious leader, but also the political and social leader.

Its original name was Yathrib. Currently, there are about 500,000 residents, but this fluctuates wildly as Muslims visit the city at different times of the year. It is the second holiest place for Muslims after Mecca. Muhammad is buried in Madinah, as are several of his closest friends and early leaders of the Muslim community after Muhammad's death. The city has wonderful weather and is nice and flat, which is very different to Mecca, which is extremely hilly and also very hot.

Currently, only Muslims are allowed in the city. However, this is not part of divine injunction (as compared to Mecca, where non-Muslims are not allowed by divine order).

In the game Medina three or four players together build an Arab city (hence the name) by placing nicely shaped wooden game tokens on a central game board. Consequently each game ends with a wonderful three-dimensional cityscape.

Constructing a city
The board shows a rectangular construction area, consisting of 11 by 16 squares. Around the area there is room to build parts of a city wall, with a watchtower on each of the four corners. At the start, all players possess exactly the same tokens, such as buildings (in four neutral colours), walls, extensions and ‘customers’. The player keeps them invisible to the others behind a panel. Visible to everyone are each player’s four roof tiles in his own colour.

Simple rules
In its essence, the game revolves around constructing palaces with the building tokens. Each turn consists of placing two game pieces on the board, according to a limited set of simple rules. For instance: a city wall element can only be build if it’s connected to a palace.

Strategy
The strategic importance of when placing which tile is high. Players can claim a palace at any time by placing a roof tile of their own colour on top. But since a palace cannot be expanded anymore (save with the extensions) after the roof has been placed, a player theoretically should wait as long as possible so the palaces can gain more points. Of course there you have the risk of another player taking the building before you. Only after a palace (each in one of the four neutral colours) is finished, the construction of a new palace in its colour can be started.

Score calculations
The score is calculated at the end, which is after all players have claimed four palaces each. The points are determined by the size of the palaces, their extensions and customers, the city walls and the towers. Bonus points are available to the largest palace in each neutral colour and the last palace connected to a tower. An interesting rule is that each colour has another system of score calculation.

Made in Germany
The German creator of the game is named Stefan Dorra, a man with considerable reputation in this industry. Publisher Hans im Glück issued Medina in 2001. The rules are simple, so the game is playable from the age of 10 or so. A long session of Medina can last up to two hours. It was awarded the second place in the Deutscher Spiele Preis in 2001, one of the many German game industry honours.

The word Medina can refer to the 'old' city. In Tunisia for example, most of the new parts of the city were built by the French following their occupation in WW II. The older parts of the city referred to as the 'Medina' were fortified sections which would include a watchtower (used now as a calling tower for prayer), the town centre (market stalls) and Mosque. They were designed in such a way that you could live, fight, pray and die all in the same area. Smaller prayer rooms would also be used as people defending the city could not abondon their post on the walls or tower, to go to temple for prayer.

My personal experiences in these Medinas was definitely a good one, it really is like it looks like in Monty Pythons - The Life of Brian (apart from the clothes); incidentally the film was actually shot in Tunisia.

The market sellers are very, very keen to sell and are all over you like a rash, especially tourists (you just can’t help looking like one). One particular encounter started with "let me ask you one question, just one question". Before we knew it we were in his small shop talking about the price of a Ganja bong. All because I thought rouge meant red (in French it does; maybe he had a different meaning which meant "bong"), anyway two tanned leather camels latter we escaped.

People in Tunisia are in your face, but that is their way of life and how their culture is set up, once you get past the initial shock you can see it for what it is (friendly salesmanship) and start to enjoy the haggle.

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