Great Mosque of Kairouan, Kairouan, Tunisia
As you wander the grounds of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia you are treading across over a millennia of history. The magnificent structure — the oldest Muslim place of worship in Africa, founded in the year 670 — illustrates the mixed influences of pre-Islamic, Roman, and Byzantine architecture.
The city of Kairouan, Tunisia, has long been the Maghreb’s most ancient and holy city, a key gathering place for Arabo-Muslim civilization. The Great Mosque, also known as the Uqba Mosque, is at the heart of the city’s heritage. Standing at the nexus of 15 different thoroughfares, in the center of the country between the mountains and the sea, it is considered the fourth holiest site in Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
The structure is part of an expansive complex, the mosque itself covering 10,800 square meters. Within, there is a prayer room with 17 naves supported by carved columns, as well as the finely decorated mihrab, a special niche indicating the direction of mecca, outfitted in marble panels and luster tiles covered in floral patterns. There is also a pool, known as the Old Cistern, and what is said to be the oldest surviving minbar—a finely carved wooden pulpit of Asian teak.
Epic Tunisia Culture & Adventure Route © Monika Newbound