Kairouan (Arabic: القيروان Qeirwān, also known as
al-Qayrawan), is the capital of the
Kairouan Governorate in Tunisia.
It is a
UNESCO World Heritage site. The city was founded by the
Umayyads around 670. In the period of
Caliph Mu'awiya (reigned
661–680), it became an important centre for
scholarship and Quranic learning, and thus attracting a large
number of Muslims from various parts of the world, next only to Mecca
and Medina. The holy
Mosque of Uqba
Mosque of Uqba is situated in the city.
In 2014, the city had about 186,653 inhabitants.
3.1 History of the Jews in Kairouan
6 Main sights
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba
Mosque of the Three Gates
Mosque of the Barber
6.4 Other buildings
8 In popular culture
9 Twin towns
11 External links
The name (Arabic: القيروان Al-Qairuwân is an Arabic
deformation, of the Persian word کاروان kârvân, meaning
"military/civilian camp" (kâr [war/military] (akin to Latin guer, +
vân [outpost]), "caravan", or "resting place" (see
Kairouan, the capital of
Kairouan Governorate, lies south of Sousse,
50 km (31 mi) from the east coast, 75 km (47 mi)
from Monastir and 184 km (114 mi) from Tunis.
Mosque of Oqba
A photochrome print of
Kairouan taken from the Great
Mosque in 1899.
The foundation of
Kairouan dates to about the year 670 when the Arab
Uqba ibn Nafi
Uqba ibn Nafi of Amir Muauia selected a site in the middle of
a dense forest, then infested with wild beasts and reptiles, as the
location of a military post for the conquest of the West. Formerly,
the city of Kamounia was located where
Kairouan now stands. It had
housed a Byzantine garrison before the
Arab conquest, and stood far
from the sea – safe from the continued attacks of the Berbers who
had fiercely resisted the
Arab invasion. Berber resistance continued,
led first by Kusaila, whose troops killed Uqba at
Biskra about fifteen
years after the establishment of the military post, and then by a
Berber woman called
Al-Kahina who was killed and her army defeated in
702. Subsequently, there occurred a mass conversion of the Berbers to
Islamic "outsiders" who formed an egalitarian and
puritanical sect appeared and are still present on the island of
Djerba. In 745,
Kharijite Berbers captured Kairouan, which was already
at that time a developed city with luxuriant gardens and olive groves.
Power struggles continued until
Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab
Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab recaptured
Kairouan at the end of the 8th century. In 800
Caliph Harun ar-Rashid
Baghdad confirmed Ibrahim as
Emir and hereditary ruler of Ifriqiya.
Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab
Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab founded the
Aghlabid dynasty which ruled
Ifriqiya between 800 and 909. The new Emirs embellished
made it their capital. It soon became famous for its wealth and
prosperity, reaching the levels of
Kufa and giving Tunisia
one of its golden ages long sought[by whom?] after the glorious days
The Aghlabites built the great mosque and established in it a
university that was a centre of education both in
Islamic thought and
in the secular sciences. Its role can be compared to that of the
University of Paris
University of Paris in the Middle Ages. In the 9th century, the city
became a brilliant focus of
Islamic cultures attracting
scholars from all over the
Islamic World. In that period
Asad ibn al-Furat
Asad ibn al-Furat made of
Kairouan a temple of knowledge and a
magnificent centre of diffusion of
Islamic sciences. The Aghlabids
also built palaces, fortifications and fine waterworks of which only
the pools remain. From
Kairouan envoys from
Charlemagne and the Holy
Roman Empire returned with glowing reports of the Aghlabites palaces,
libraries and gardens – and from the crippling taxation imposed to
pay for their drunkenness and sundry debaucheries. The
pacified the country and conquered Sicily in 827.
Gold coin of the
Caliph al-Mahdi, minted in
Kairouan in 912
Bab Chouhada Street in 1899
In 893, through the mission of Abdullah al Mahdi, the
from the west of the country started the movement of the Shiite
Fatimids. The year 909 saw the overthrow of the
Sunni Aghlabites who
Ifriqiya and the establishment of the
During the rule of the Fatimids,
Kairouan was neglected and lost its
importance: the new rulers resided first in Raqqada but soon moved
their capital to the newly built
Al Mahdiyah on the coast of modern
Tunisia. After succeeding in extending their rule over all of central
Maghreb, an area consisting of the modern countries of Morocco,
Tunisia and Libya, they eventually moved east to
Cairo making it the capital of their vast
Caliphate and leaving
Zirids as their vassals in Ifriqiya. Governing again from
Zirids led the country through another artistic,
commercial and agricultural heyday. Schools and universities
flourished, overseas trade in local manufactures and farm produce ran
high and the courts of the
Zirids rulers were centres of refinement
that eclipsed those of their European contemporaries.
Zirids declared their independence from
Cairo and their
Islam in 1045 by giving allegiance to Baghdad, the
Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah
Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah sent as punishment hordes of
Arab tribes (
Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym) to invade
Ifriqiya. These invaders so utterly destroyed
Kairouan in 1057 that it
never regained its former importance and their influx was a major
factor in the spread of nomadism in areas where agriculture had
previously been dominant. Some 1,700 years of intermittent but
continual progress was undone within a decade as in most part of the
country the land was laid to waste for nearly two centuries. In the
13th century under the prosperous
Hafsids dynasty that ruled Ifriqiya,
the city started to emerge from its ruins. It is only under the
Husainid Dynasty that
Kairouan started to find an honorable place in
the country and throughout the
Islamic world. In 1881,
taken by the French, after which non-Muslims were allowed access to
History of the Jews in Kairouan
Main article: History of the Jews in Kairouan
Jews were among the original settlers of Kairouan, and the community
played an important role in Jewish history, having been a world center
Halakhic scholarship for at least three
generations. The community disbanded in 1270 CE when
Hafsids forbade non-Muslims from living in the city; the remaining
Jews were forced to convert to
Islam or to leave.
Climate data for
Record high °C (°F)
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Mean daily sunshine hours
Source #1: NOAA
Deutscher Wetterdienst (extremes, 1901–1990)
Kairouan also known as the
Mosque of Uqba
Mosque of Uqba (Great
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba)
The most important mosque in the city is the Great
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba
(Uqba ibn nafée) also known as the Great
Mosque of Kairouan. It has
been said that seven pilgrimages to this mosque is considered the
equivalent of one pilgrimage to Mecca. After its establishment,
Kairouan became an
Islamic and Qur'anic learning centre in North
Africa. An article by Professor Kwesi Prah describes how during
the medieval period,
Kairouan was considered the fourth holiest city
Islam after Mecca,
Medina and Jerusalem. Today, many consider
the city as the fourth holiest in Islam.
In memory of
Sufi festivals are held in the city.
"A street scene of Kairouan", a 1915 painting by Kazimierz Stabrowski
At the time of its greatest splendor, between the ninth and eleventh
Kairouan was one of the greatest centers of Islamic
civilization and its reputation as a hotbed of scholarship covered the
entire Maghreb. During this period, the Great
both a place of prayer and a center for teaching
under the Maliki current. One may conceivably compare its role to that
University of Paris
University of Paris during the Middle Ages.
In addition to studies on the deepening of religious thought and
Maliki jurisprudence, the mosque also hosted various courses in
secular subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine and botany.
The transmission of knowledge was assured by prominent scholars and
theologians which included
Sahnun ibn Sa'id and Asad ibn al-Furat,
eminent jurists who contributed greatly to the dissemination of the
Maliki thought, Ishaq ibn Imran and Ibn al-Jazzar in medicine, Abu
Sahl al-Kairouani and Abd al-Monim al-Kindi in mathematics. Thus the
mosque, headquarters of a prestigious university with a large library
containing a large number of scientific and theological works, was the
most remarkable intellectual and cultural center in North Africa
during the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries.
A unique religious tradition in
Kairouan was the use of
Islamic law to
enforce monogamy by stipulating it in the marriage contract, a
practice common among both elites and commoners. This stipulation gave
a woman legal recourse in the case that her husband sought to take a
second wife. Although the introduction of the 1956 Code of Personal
Status rendered the tradition obsolete by outlawing polygamy
nationwide, some scholars have identified it as a "positive tradition
for women within the large framework of
Islamic law." 
Kairouan prayer hall
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba
The city's main attraction is the Great
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba, 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. There
are 414 marble, granite and porphyry columns in the mosque. Almost all
were taken from the ruins of Carthage. Previously, it was forbidden to
count them, on pain of blinding. The Great
Mosque of Kairouan
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba) is considered as one of the most important
Islamic civilization as well as a worldwide architectural
masterpiece. Founded by
Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafi in 670 CE, the
present aspect of the mosque dates from the 9th century. The Great
Mosque of Sidi-Uqba has a great historical importance as the ancestor
of all the mosques in the western
Façade of the
Mosque of the Three Gates with its minaret.
Mosque of the Three Gates
Mosque of the Three Gates was founded in 866. Its façade is a
notable example of
Islamic architecture. It has three arched
doorways surmounted by three inscriptions in
interspersed with floral and geometrical reliefs and topped by a
carved frieze; the first inscription includes the verses 70–71 in
the sura 33 of Quran. The small minaret was added during the
restoration works held under the
Hafsid dynasty. The prayer hall has a
nave and two aisles, divided by arched columns, parallel to the qibla
Mosque of the Barber
Mosque of the Barber
The Mausoleum of Sidi Sahab, generally known as the
Mosque of the
Barber, is actually a zaouia located inside the city walls. It was
built by the
Hammuda Pasha Bey
Hammuda Pasha Bey (mausoleum, dome and court) and
Murad II Bey (minaret and madrasa). In its present state, the monument
dates from the 17th century.
The mosque is a veneration place for Abu Zama' al-Balaui, a companion
of the prophet Muhammad, who, according to a legend, had saved for
himself three hairs of Muhammad's beard, hence the edifice's name.
The sepulchre place is accessed from a cloister-like court with richly
decorated ceramics and stuccoes.
Kairouan is also home to:
two large water reservoirs called "
Mosque of Ansar (traditionally dating to 667, but totally renewed in
Mosque Al Bey (late 17th century)
The souk (market place), in the
Medina quarter, which is surrounded by
walls, from which the entrance gates can be seen in the distance.
Products that are sold in the souk include carpets, vases and goods
made of leather.
Kairouan is known for its pastries (e.g. zlebia and makroudh).
In popular culture
Kairouan was used as a filming location for the 1981 film Raiders of
the Lost Ark, standing in for Cairo. As the film is
set in 1936, television antennas throughout the city were taken down
for the duration of filming.
Fès, Morocco, since 22 October 1965
Tlemcen, Algeria, since 28 May 1969
Córdoba, Spain, since 10 June 1969
Cairo, Egypt, since 14 March 1976
Samarkand, Uzbekistan, since 5 October 1977
Timbuktu, Mali, since 2 June 1986
Bursa, Turkey, since 26 December 1987
Nishapur, Iran, since 26 December 1987
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kairouan.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kairouan.
Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia
Kairouan World heritage Site, whc.unesco.org
KAIROUAN, The Capital of
Panoramic virtual tour of
World Heritage Sites in Tunisia
Amphitheatre of El Jem
Ichkeul National Park
Medina of Sousse
Medina of Tunis
Punic Town of Kerkuane and its Necropolis
Site of Carthage
List of World Heritage Sites in Tunisia
Coordinates: 35°40′N 10°06′E / 35.667°N 10.100°E /
Communes of Tunisia
Ben Arous Governorate
Ben Arous (seat)
Bou Mhel el-Bassatine
Ghar El Melh
Hajeb El Ayoun
Magel Bel Abbes
Le Kef (seat)
Sakiet Sidi Youssef
La Manouba (seat)
Borj El Amri
Amiret El Fhoul
Amiret El Hojjaj
Bir Ali Ben Khélifa
Sidi Bouzid Governorate
Sidi Bouzid (seat)
Bir El Hafey
Sidi Ali Ben Aoun
Sidi Bou Rouis
Sidi Bou Ali
Sidi El Hani
El Hamma du Jérid
Sidi Bou Said