Kairouan Travel Blog› entry 6 of 22 › view all entries
This morning we visit the Great Mosque in Kairouan,the 4th holiest Islamic centre after Mecca,Medina and Jerusalem. Seven pilgrimages here is said to count as one to Mecca. The mosque 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.
We continue our visit taking in the Aghlabid Pools and the Mosque of the Barber, richly decorated with exquisite patterns and carvings. The imposing archway through the walled ramparts leads us into the labyrinth of the medina and covered market.
Leaving Tunisia’s spiritual centre, we then head for Sfax, her economic centre. En route we visit the magnificent amphitheatre in El Djem. Second only to the Colosseum in Rome, it looms out of plains rich in olive groves. The olives were the wealth of the region and commercialisation of olive oil led to 'Thysdrus' becoming an important and prosperous trading centre for agricultural products. The huge amphitheatre was constructed with stone from quarries over 30 kilometres away. We also visit the small museum,home to some lovely mosaics and statues found in the area.
Later we travel on to Tunisia's second city of Sfax, the wealthiest and most sophisticated city in the country. The great medina, with its impressive gateway and towering solid walls topped by jagged ramparts, hide a multitude of narrow alleyways leading to the mosque in the centre.