"Kairouan: the 4th Holiest Muslim City" Kairouan by aliante1981

Kairouan Travel Guide: 140 reviews and 493 photos


Kairouan: town, north-central Tunisia. The town, one of the holy cities of Islam, lies on the Low Steppes, a semiarid alluvial plain southeast of the Central Tell. Founded in 670 on the site of the Byzantine fortress of Kamouinia, it served as the camp from which the offensive was launched that resulted in the Islamic political and religious subjugation of the Maghrib (northwest Africa). Kairouan was chosen as the capital of the Maghrib by the first Aghlabid ruler in about 800. Subsequently, it served (with Al-Mahidyah) as the political centre through the Fatimid and Zirid dynasties into the 11th century, becoming one of the great administrative, commercial, religious, and intellectual centres of Islam. As a result of Bedouin incursions in the 11th century, the decline of steppe cultivation in favour of nomadic life, and the rise of Tunis as capital, Kairouan declined into an isolated market town for nomads.

Kairouan now trades in grain and livestock that are raised in the surrounding region, and it is an important carpet and handicrafts centre. A road and railway link it with Sousse, 38 miles (61 km) to the east. Kairouan’s rampart-enclosed medina (75 acres [30 hectares]) contains the Great Mosque, with a 115-foot- (35-metre-) high minaret. Originally built by Sidi Okba in the 7th century, the present mosque is the fifth mosque built on the site and dates from Aghlabid times. Outside the town is the zawiyah (seat of a religious fraternity) of Sidi Sahab, containing the tomb of one of the companions of Muhammad, and an Aghlabid reservoir, an open circular pool 420 feet in diameter dating from the 9th century. Pop. (1984) 72,254. This description comes from Britannica 2003

  • Last visit to Kairouan: Jul 2001
  • Intro Updated Sep 14, 2003
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