As the fourth most important Islamic cities in the world, Kairouan is a must-see if you’re touring all over Tunisia.
SEE ALSO: 17 Must-See’s In Tunisia
Founded by Arabs in 670 AD, Kairouan boomed as the spiritual center for Quranic and Islamic teachings. The massive mosques we see today are not only magnificent in every sense of the word, they’ve also been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Due to its religious significance, many worshippers arrive in Kairouan for pilgrimage. In the Islamic world, a pilgrimage to Kairouan is equivalent to a seventh of a pilgrimage to Mecca.
As a holy city, your Tunisia itinerary will most likely include Kairouan. When you find yourself planning a trip, here’s the ultimate guide:
- WARDROBE: Ladies, make sure to put a scarf over your head when entering mosques in Kairouan. Similar to most Islamic countries, if you’re entering their holy grounds, you need to respect their cultural customs.
- SAFETY: Because of terrorist attacks occurring in Tunisia in recent years does not mean the country is not worth visiting. But while you’re in Kairouan, steer away from outdoor markets at night, wandering aimlessly especially past evening hours is not recommended neither by your guide nor by us.
- TRANSPORTATION: Since there are no train stations or airports in Kairouan, your best way to reach here is by bus or louage which is a long distance taxi.
SEE: The Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba
Or more commonly known as “The Great Mosque,” is a divine destination in the Islamic world and a travel photographer’s dream. Every angle captured is Instagrammable. In 670 CE, The Great Mosque was founded by Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafi. It is considered as one of the most representative of Islamic architecture in North Africa. The numerous columns were taken from Carthage or ruins of earlier-period buildings.
If you’re not Muslim, you won’t be able to enter the prayer hall. But look inside as the doors will be open, and observe the intricate designs inside the beautiful space.
SEE: Mosque of the Barber
Also known as the Mausoleum of Sidi Sahab, is, in fact, a zaouia which is a monastery and a Islamic school. Inside its walls, there are elaborate mosaics, colorful stuccoes and ceramics.
SEE: The Mosque of the Three Doors
Founded in 866, the Mosque of the Three Gates is also representative of typical Islamic architecture with three arched doorways adorned by three Kufic inscriptions which is the oldest calligraphic form of the Arabic scripts.
SEE: Bi’r Barouta
It might be strange to put a “well” on a guide, but it’s a sight most tourists see in Kairouan, because the well of Bi’r Barouta is where the city was founded. It’s reportedly connected to Mecca’s ZamZam well, thus it’s considered as one of the most holy places for Muslims.
SHOP: Local medina
Medinas or local markets, is a must-see in Tunisia. The one in Kairouan is particularly larger than ones in other cities. It was also featured in the 1981 film: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
SHOP: Carpets & rugs
When you’re shopping and browsing through markets in Kairouan, you’ll come across many rug shops (as seen in my video above.) This city is known for rugs and carpets which are graded by their fineness. A normal weave is approximately 10,000 to 40,000 – according to the number or knots in a square meter. If you’re looking for silk rugs, they should be 500,000 knot/square meter.
Makrouhd are basically honey-dipped, sticky type of pastry that is a specialty in Kairouan, but you can find it all over Tunisia. In the video below at 9:50, you can see me trying a piece at a local market in Sousse.
STAY: Hotel La Kasbah
La Kasbah hotel is one of the best in Kairouan. Although it advertises as a 5-star hotel, do not expect a Four Seasons type of lodging, but a boutique and authentic experience. The hotel is right in the heart of city center and offers cozy room and suites. The bathroom is adorned with gorgeous Tunisian tiles, and the hotel also welcomes guests with two restaurants.
Photo: Hotel La Kasbah
Have you ever been to Kairouan? Let us know in the comments.