"Kairouan" Kairouan by miman

Kairouan Travel Guide: 140 reviews and 493 photos


Kairouan 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 Kârawân, meaning "camp", "caravan", or "resting place" .
It is the capital of the Kairouan Governorate, and regarded by Muslims as a holy city.


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.


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.

  • Last visit to Kairouan: Sep 2003
  • Intro Written Jul 20, 2006
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