Holy Kairouan - a wonderfully different world
Kairouan Travel Blog› entry 2 of 11 › view all entries
In the heart of the medina, we found a little café with a table outside for a breakfast bite. The guy helping us spoke English well and his brother is working as a chef in
We spent the morning wandering the different souks of the medina. We stopped to watch a man who was working a design into a copper plate. He had a shop filled with his work and that of his father’s. He had designs with Arabic inscriptions, Islamic geometric designs, etched and painted designs, and hammered, raised designs. He had designs in silver or copper with some using mixed metal combinations or painted.
Next we walked to the food souk, outside the Bab Tunis (gate). There was lively music loudly playing as we surveyed the area. We decided to buy the CD to add to our world music collection. While in this area, we spotted an interesting sight, a man with his cart up on end and parked behind cars. He was resting, sitting underneath on its axle.
We entered the souk again and stopped at the rug stop shown in a picture in our travel guide. He had many different types and styles. Our favorites were locally made Kairouan rugs and the Berber and Bedouin nomad styles. We bought a rug that had been made by a tribesman and used as his roof.
Next, we visited a Kairouan oddity, the Bir Barouta is a well that was to have been dug in the 8th century but the building surrounding it is 17th century. The water is drawn by a blindfolded an muzzled camel that operates the wheels of the mechanism that draws water from the deep well into jugs attached to the wheel. Some believe that the well was found by Oqba ibn Nafi and is connected to
As we were walking in a different area of the medina, Rob noticed a sign on a door that was something to do with being a state certified artisan outlet.
We continued on our way towards the Grand Mosque. Along the way a guy on a scoter stopped and said hello, mentioned he had seen us the evening before leaving the Hotel Splendid, and asked where we were going.
The Great Mosque of Kairouan dates back to 670 CE and was built by the command of Arab Muslim general Oqba bin Nafi. Although it has been destroyed a couple of times, then rebuilt, today' structure rests much upon the original mosque.
The most extensive destruction came few years after the original construction, in 688 when it was destroyed in a rebellion. The present layout was created in the 9th century, but it is hard to establish which parts date back to this date. The base of the minaretis though to be some 100 years older than this.
Still, the columns of the prayer hall are even older, having been taken from Roman and Byzantine structures in Carthage and Hadrumetum (Sousse).
Standing inside the mosque' courtyard you will probably not be able to see that everything tilts, none of the corners are 90 degrees and the minaret does not stand on the axis running from the mihrab through the entrance to the prayer hall, rather about 8 metres to the right.
But it is believed that with the expansion of Islam, the many churches with their towers paved the ground for adding towers to minarets as well. Most seem to agree that the lowest storey of the minaret in Kairouan are the remains of the first real minaret in the world, dating back to 730, more than 100 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
After this we found the
Form here we headed to the Kasbah, which is now a five star hotel. Moving on from there we made our way to the Zitouna Mosque. It was a unique structure with buttresses. At this point we were getting pretty hungry so we headed off for the pizza place from the night before. The pizza was like eating a frozen $0.99 pizza, but it satisfied our need.
Next on the list was the Mosque of the three doors.
At this point we were tired and headed back to the room.