This is a very strange place; or at least its owner was a strange character. This “sidi” was a kind of crazy inventor who created the strangest tools. All of them are basically made of wood, oversized and with lots of inscriptions explaining their purpose. Some examples that you can still see inside this zawiyya- museum are the sword that can protect you but it does not kill or the keys that only God can turn. I think that people, instead of venerating him, were scared of him . . . It is also ironic the fact that he spent his whole life creating these huge artifacts and at the end he is buried in a tiiiiiiiiiiiiiny tomb (picture 2). Nice the wooden inscriptions (picture 1) and the inscriptions made around the cupola (picture 3). Even if you find this zawiiya closed make a walk around it or ask the locals. It will be easy to find the caretaker and he will open it for you for some dinars.
I found these palaces by chance, wandering around the narrow streets of the medina. These are some examples of some good standing families’ houses. Nowadays they are used as cultural centers or carpet shops. You still can find the original furniture so it is easy to imagine how these families lived two centuries ago. Even if you don’t want to buy carpets you can take a look inside and admire especially the wooden ceilings with rich lamps.
On the pictures of the tourist brochures they look more beautiful (ah! the wonders of photoshop!) but they are just two-three pools that were used some centuries ago as water reservoirs. They were built during the IXth century by the Aghlabids and water was transported from the mountains until there through an aqueduct. You can see them from the roof of the tourist centre. Downstairs there are some paths and benches but I can imagine better places to have a pleasant walk. If you don’t have a lot of time to visit Kairouan, forget these pools.
If you walk away from the Ave 7 Novembre area and the area around the Grand Mosque, you'll find yourself pretty much by yourself walking down a maze of tight alleyways. Small houses are tightly packed in with some nice colourful doors and ornate doorways.
We drove around for a while trying to find either the Zaouia Sidi Sahab or the Aghlabid Pools. Kairouan is not an easy place to naviagate and as our map wasn't the greatest it took about 15 minutes of driving around in circles before we found the pools. A guide at the entrance to the reservoir offered to show is around. He spoke reasonable English, about the same as my French. He brought us upstairs to a terrace where we could lookout over the reservoirs and told us some of the history of the place. Like most Tunisian guides he spoke too fast and rushed us around. He did take a nice picture of us and told us about his family and his son who worked in IT in India I think. At the end, it was rather embarassing as we had less than a dinar in change to give him a tip. He didn't seem to mind too much - I wish there were more like him.
After leaving the medina we walked to another Zaouia on our global ticket, the Zaouia of Sidi Amor Abbada. This was very tricky to find and we walked around in circles for a time before going to the main road and following the signs from there.
The Zaouia was in a nice building but it was a little dull inside. Sidi Amor Abbada was a 19th century blacksmith and his tomb is given pride of place at one end of the building. There were also various exhibits of artefacts from his work. The guy in charge was was quite friendly and told us how to get to Zaouia Sidi Sahab from where we were.
In the back streets of the medina, on our way to the Great Mosque, we passed this beautiful mosque which dates from the 19th century. Named after the three doors at its entrance, the Mosque of the Three Doors is closed to non muslims.
Bab el-Khoukha has the form of what seemed to me like a perfect horseshoe arch supported by several columns, and it is the oldest gate of the medina of Kairouan. It was built by Hussein ben Ali as long back as year 1706. I guess getting there is a symbol of luck, because horseshoe has always been a symbol of luck, at least here in Russia:)) If that’s so, I certainly consider myself a lucky one!
You can get there by following Boulevard Brahim ben Lagheb from the focal point pf life in Kairouan - the Great Mosque. There’s also a pretty picturesque square nearby, just where the boulevard ends…
Ouled Farhane Cemetery is a good location for photographs of the mosque. The cemetery lies just beyond the walls of the mosque, outside the medina.