Website Category: Fortified Cities of the Maghreb
Area: 0.7 km2
Criteria: (i) a creative masterpiece (ii) interchange of values (iii) cultural tradition (v) interaction with the environment (vi) association with belief system
Location and Values: Kairouan is located in central Tunisia, about 150 km south of Tunis and 50 km west of Sousse. Established as an Arab garrison town in 670AD, just 50 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed, it assumed prime importance in the Islamic conversion of North Africa and is one of the seven holy cities of Islam, the principal one in the Maghreb. Its mosque is the oldest in North Africa, established in the first few decades of Islam.
By the early 9th century Kairouan became the capital of the Aghlabid dynasty, and the town entered a golden age when, amongst other things, the Great Mosque was rebuilt (in more-or-less its present form), the Mosque of the Three Doors was established, and a 36km aqueduct was constructed to bring water into the city, where it was kept in the so-called Aghlabid Basins, the largest being a circular cistern 5m deep and 128m in diameter. These are the most outstanding surviving elements of the town, much of which (including the medina walls) is relatively recent, dating from the last three centuries. As a place to visit, Kairouan offers a rich tapestry of historical sights and a delightful medina, with enchanting whitewashed facades offset by pale blue shutters and balconies, arched alleyways, souks and an endless variety of classical Arab-style decorative doors.
Slideshow of Kairouan: The photos in this slideshow were provided by Bridget Goldsmith and David Trump, and start with the Grand Mosque, Kairouan’s most impressive building. The interior has 414 marble pillars, each one different because they were salvaged from Roman or Byzantine buildings at Carthage and Sousse. The enormous courtyard with its arched colonnades and marble paving was designed to catch water, which is funnelled into 9th-century cisterns underground. The slideshow continues with some street scenes, local markets (souks), and the intricate Kufic script carvings above the doors of the ancient Mosque of the Three Doors. The final series of photos features some of the striking blue-an-white facades to be seen in the Medina.
Slideshow of Kairouan:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of Kairouan on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details