Kairouan is the only great Tunisian city whose history is more recent than antiquity. In 671 A.D. a camp known as a "Kairouan" settled on what is the city's urban area of today and despite the heat and scarcity of water this location had great strategic value. Kairouan is one of the four most important cities in Islam and since it was first established during the 7th century, the city's life has been continuously determined by religious faith.
Great 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 (Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba) is considered as one of the most important monuments of Islamic civilization as well as a worldwide architectural masterpiece.
Mosque of the Three Gates
The 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 Kufic script, 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.
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 Muradid 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 "Aghlabid basins"
- Mosque of Ansar (traditionally dating to 667, but totally renewed in 1650)
- 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.