Essential Architecture-  Tunisia

Great Mosque, Mihrab




Qayrawan (Tunisia)








  Great Mosque, Mihrab,
The Islamic capital of Ifriqiya, founded by Uqba ibn Nafi' in 664. He built in it a dar al-imara (palace of the governor) and the congregational mosque which carries his name (the Mosque of Sidi Uqba).
The Great Mosque of Qayrawan

Founded in 670 and rebuilt several times, 773-4, 836, 863, 1294, it is the prototype for many later North African mosques. It has a unique mihrab with lustre tiles set in the spandrels, and carved marble panels inside the niche.

The Mosque of Muhammad ibn Khairun at Qayrawan (866)

One of the earliest surviving examples of a small neighborhood mosque, it is distinguished by its nine-bay plan (which will have a major role in the development of funerary and royal architecture) and its stucco decoration.

Kairouan  (variations include Kairwan, Kayrawan, Al Qayrawan) is a city in Tunisia, about 160 kilometres south of Tunis. In 2003 the city had about 150,000 inhabitants. Founded in about the year 670, the original name was derived from Arabic kairuwân, from Persian Kâravân, meaning "camp", "caravan", or "resting place" (see caravanserai). It is the capital of the Kairouan Governorate.

Kairouan was founded in about the year 670 when the Muslim general Uqba ibn Nafi selected a site in the middle of a dense forest, then infested with wild beasts and reptiles, as the location of a military post. It was to keep in check the Berber hordes and was located far from the sea where it was safe from attack. A city soon developed, with luxuriant gardens and olive groves. Ibn Nafi was killed in battle by the Berbers about fifteen years after the military post was established.

The city was soon recaptured and remained for four centuries a major holy city, the "Mecca of North Africa". In the tenth century, the city was embellished by the Aghlabites who ruled Ifriqiya from there between 800 and 909. It was the capital in the eleventh century, and was famous for its wealth and prosperity.

About the middle of the eleventh 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. Then Mahdia became the capital under the Fatimites. Under the Ottomans, who called it Kairuan in Turkish (as in modern German), and included mention of the city in the full style of the Great Sultan (alongside broader Barbary and the new vilayet), Tunis became the capital (as seat of the Dey, next the soon ever more autonomous (Basha) Bey), and remains so in modern Tunisia. In 1881, Kairouan was taken by the French, after which non-Muslims were allowed access to the city.

Does the word "southern" comes from "Sirt" (Minor) and Kairuan? Kairuan is one of the few Mosques with a North-South alignment. oops this is all copyrighted

Kairouan is a holy city for many Muslims, and many Sunni Muslims consider it the fourth holiest city of Islam, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, and the holiest city of the Maghreb. There are very many mosques in the city, among which the great mosque. For a long time, non-muslims were not allowed to enter the city, in more recent times this is allowed. Pilgrimages are made to this holy city. Judaism, no longer prevalent in the city, has an illustrious history in Kairouan, particularly in the early Middle Ages. Rabbeinu Hananel was from Kairouan and many other important and famous rabbis, including the RIF, (Rabbi Isaac Alfasi) studied there with him.


The souk (market place) of Kairouan is very famous, it is in the medina, which is surrounded by walls, and of which the entrance gates can be seen from far. Products that are sold here are carpets, vases and goods made of leather. As with merchants in most major Tunisian cities, Kairouan merchants rely on tourism for much of their income. The city's other main site is the Great Mosque, which is said to largely consist of its original building materials. In fact most of the column stems and capitals were taken from ruins of earlier-period buildings, while others were produced locally.

Amongst Tunisians, Kairouan is famous for its pastries (e.g., zlebia and makroudh).

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the street scenes in "Cairo" were filmed in Kairouan.