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The Great Mosque of Kairouan

Listed under Mosques in Kairouan, Tunisia.

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Historical records relate that in 670 AD the Arab conqueror, Uqba ibn Nafi crossed the deserts of Egypt and began the first Muslim conquest of the Maghreb region of North Africa. Establishing military posts at regular intervals along his route; Uqba ibn Nafi came to the site of present day Kairouan and there decided to camp with his soldiers for some days. Legends tell of a warrior’s horse stumbling on a golden goblet buried in the sands, a goblet recognized to be one which had mysteriously disappeared from Mecca some years before. When the goblet was lifted from the sands, a spring miraculously appeared and its waters were believed to issue from the same source which supplies the sacred Zamzam well in Mecca.

By 698, the Arabs were masters of North Africa and Kairouan was the capital of this vast province. During the 9th to 11th centuries, the city became one of the most important cultural centers in the Arab world, witnessing a flowering of sciences, literature and the arts. From the 11th century onward, Kairouan ceased to be the capital as Tlemcen, Fez, Marrakech and other cities usurped its political prominence. Yet as a holy city, Kairouan grew in importance with the passing centuries and its splendid mosque became a magnet for pilgrims from Muslim territories throughout Northern and Saharan Africa. The Great Mosque, also known as the Sidi Oqba mosque, was begun in 670 AD during the time of Uqba ibn Nafi and frequently enlarged over time. The mosque contains a prayer hall, a courtyard filled with marble columns removed from more ancient Roman and Byzantine sites, and an early 8th century minaret, the oldest in the world. Kairouan is the greatest Muslim city in North Africa and the fourth holiest city of Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

More on the Great Mosque from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews


'Founded in 670, Kairouan flourished under the Aghlabid dynasty in the 9th century. Despite the transfer of the political capital to Tunis in the 12th century, Kairouan remained the Maghreb's principal holy city. Its rich architectural heritage includes… Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

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