Founded during the 9th century by Kairoun al6Maafri, a holy man of Cordoba, this little mosque is noted for its three doors. I cannot say nothing else as the mosque is off limits for non Muslims. Really I have always seen it closed so maybe they only open it for special events. But the façade is also interesting for its inscriptions and decoration (picture 2)
This is without any doubt the most important spot in Kairouan! The construction of this Mosque dates back from the 670. It was destroyed a couple of times but the main structure is still from that period so we can consider this mosque as the oldest mosque in North Africa and an important centre of pilgrimage.
There is a small room on the left of the entrance with some informative displays that can be a good introduction to your visit. Some interesting things inside are the minaret, which is considered the oldest minaret in the world, built (its lowest level) by the year 730
(picture 2) some koranic inscriptions (picture 4) in the courtyard and of course the prayer hall (following tip)
Very important: the mosque is only opened until 12,00 am and it would be a pity to miss it during your visit to the city like it happened to me the first time!
The prayer hall can only be visited by muslims but you can see it more or less from one of its 14 doors. The legend says that anyone trying to count its columns will become blind. There are columns of different sizes, periods and styles, basically from roman and byzantine times that were transported until there from places like Chartàge or Sousse. The mihrab , at the background of the picture is from the IXth century and it's the oldest mihrab in the world.
Oh by the way. . . the number of columns is 414 ;-)))
We found this “monument” by chance. Its an ancient and a very venerated site, built during the XVIIth century and protected by a small building with a cupola. Nothing attires your attention from outside, you find it if you know the address (ave Belhouane, or better ask to the local people) but if you go upstairs you will find a well that tradition says its connected to the well of Zem Zem in Mecca. This place is continuously surveyed by a camel that turns the wheel of an ancient “noria” to draw water from the well to the surface. We saw some people lined up to taste this “Mecca water”, maybe it was a kind of blessing or purification…. who knows……
The scene of the camel, annoied, making the wheel turn worths a picture…
There are several gates to enter the Medinah, but the main one is the Bob El Khoukha gate, built in 1706 with a big arch suported by colums. The entrance leads to the main street of the Medinah, the 7th of November avenue, the main commercial street.
Kairouan Medinah is not that big or commercial as other Medinahs in Tunisia, most of the commerce is located on the 7th of November avenue, so there are a lot of small streets to discover. Even the vendors are less annoying.
This Hafsid style Mausoleum contains the remains of Sultan Moulay Hassan who reigned from 1525 to 1543. The entrance is banned to non muslims but from one Dinar you can give your camera to a guardian to take the pictures and then you will be sprayed with Holy Water.
This Mausoleum was built in the XIV siecle, and is also known as the Mausoleum of the Barber. Inside the courtyard are surrounded by colonnades and the walls are covered with beautiful mosaics. There is a tomb of and ancient saint and the Mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Hassan.
Kairouan Mosque has a rectangle form, that includes a prayer hall, a courtyard and a soaring minaret. This Minaret is three stories tall, built from 724 to 728 ad is the oldest standing minaret in the world.
This was our next stop in the city and is really and impressive place. The first mosque was built in 670 ad by the founder of Kairouan Sidi Okba, but nothing remains of the original building, the current mosque dates from 863 ad. The exterior of it was built in the Aghlabie style and resemble more a fort than a holy place. The Mosque has nine entrance gates, with a huge courtyard used to perform the ablutions surrounded by a big colonnade of more than 400 pillars.
These Cisterns built in the 9th C.Ad was our first stop in the city. The two basins (there were more) are a miracle of engineering, the water was brought from an aqueduct located in the hills (36 km) west of the city. The smaller cistern was a settling tank and then the water flowed into the big one wich meassures 5 metres depth and 128 metres in diameter. There is a small pavillion in the middle of the big cistern were the Aghlabid royalty relaxed. An entrance fee that includes the entrance to the Mosque, the Sidi Sahab Zaouia (mausoleum), and the right to take pictures has to be paid before entering the viewpoint tower.
The Zaouia of Sidi Abid el-Ghariani dates from the 14th century and is a complex surrounding a tomb of a holy man who lived in Kairouan. Notable features are the fine wood and stucco ceiling, the sumptuously decorated dome of the tomb and the inner courtyard with its beautiful arcades. This is due to become the headquarters of the Association de Sauvegarde de la Médina, which is concerned with the preservation and restoration of the old town.
Admission: Included in the TD7 multi-site ticket.
The Maison du Gouverneur is a lavishly restored 18th century Medina house that has sumptuous interiors of cedar and teak balconies, marble latticework, plaster mouldings and elegant tiled arches. It can visited as it is open as a museum and you are shown around by a guide who explains the architecture and decor. Be warned though, that the house doubles as a carpet showroom and there are literally carpets stacked from floor to ceiling so you will be expected to at least view some of them.
Open: 8am-5pm. Admission is free.
Just to the north of Bir Barouta is this small mosque which is one of the oldest buildings in Kairouan, founded by a Andalusian, Mohammed bin Kairoun el-Maafri in 866 AD. Its most notable feature is the facade, with the three doorways from which it takes its name and two friezes of Kufic inscriptions, the lower of which is dated to 1440. The minaret also dates from 1440. The mosque isn't open to non-muslims.
The Bir Barouta was built by the Ottoman ruler Mohammed Bey in 1676 to surround a well that, according to legend, is connected by an underground channel with the Zemzem spring in Mecca. On the first floor is draw-well where a blindfolded camel is marched around in circles which then hoists water up from the well via water-wheels. Originally the water was collected here and distributed in conduits to houses in the town but nowadays the whole business is purely a show put on for tourists.
Admission: Included in the TD7 multi-site ticket.