Travel to Kairouan – Tunisians’ Spiritual Home
Thanks to its austere beauty that dominates the whole town, its imposing walls and monumental gates that enclose its 50 mosques, Kairouan, the spiritual home of Tunisians, entertains people from all over the globe. The city rises like a dream of ocher and tawny beige, offering its visitors 13 centuries of Islamic culture and an exquisite elegance through its architecture. Kairouan has contributed to the inspiration of artists and poets from its creation until the present day.
The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located 160 kilometres south of Tunis and 67 kilometres south of Sousse, Kairouan is a Muslim holy city which ranks after Mecca and Medina as a place of pilgrimage. The city was founded in 670 by the Muslim conqueror Uqba bin Nafi Al-Fihri in the middle of a dense forest as the capital over the Umayyad territories in Ifriqiyya. The position was ideal as it gave the Arab Muslims protection from both the sea powers and possibilities to control the mountain Berbers. Kairouan served as a military centre for advances into the rest of northwest Africa. In 757, Kairouan was conquered by extremist Khariji Berbers who massacred their opponents and defiled the Great Mosque, but was soon recaptured by forces loyal to the Caliph. Around 800, Kairouan was chosen as the capital for the Maghreb by the Aghlabid rulers and became a site for Islamic pilgrimage.
About the middle of the 11th century, the Ismaili Shiite Fatimites of Egypt instigated the Egyptian Bedouins to invade this part of Africa. These invaders so utterly destroyed the city in 1057 that it never regained its former importance. Mahdia became the capital under the Fatimites. Under the Ottomans, who called it Kairuan and included mention of the city in the full style of the Great Sultan, Tunis became the capital and remains so in modern Tunisia. In 1881, Kairouan was taken by the French, after which non-Muslims were allowed access to the city.
For attractions, travellers have plenty of monuments to visit while in Kairouan. Among them, there is the city’s main mosque Sidi Oqba Mosque, or the Great Mosque that has what is believed to be the oldest standing minaret in the world; the zawiyya (shrine) of Sidi Sahab, also called the Mosque of the Barber, that is claimed to house the tomb of one of the prophet’s companions. The Zawiyya contains a number of courtyards, a madrasa, a mosque, a funduq (dormitory) and a 9th century Aghlabid reservoir; the zawiyya of Sidi el Ghariani with its 14th century woodcarving and stuccowork; the Bi’r Barouta well,an important Islamic site that is believed to be the site of an ancient miracle where water sprung onto the desert. It is the historical focal point of Kairouan; the Artisan Centre that provides an excellent exhibit on carpets and carpet weaving; and the town old Medina and its souk where leather and copper goods are sold.
- Enjoy shopping in the oldest and most renowned carpet center in Tunisia.
- Touch and discover the source of inspiration of artists and poets.
- Visit the third holiest city in Islam after Mecca and Tunisians’ spiritual home.