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Arabic: 'al-qayrawān

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Kairouan, Tunisia
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Right in from the main gate, Kairouan at night takes many colours.

Kairouan, Tunisia
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The first minaret in the world, its base (larger stones) date from ca. 730.

Kairouan, Tunisia
Kairouan, Tunisia

Travel information from
LookLex / Tunisia
The holy city
World's oldest minaret
Zaouia Sidi el Ghariani
Bi'r Barouta
Zaouia of Sidi Sahab
Aghlabid pools

City in Tunisia with 160,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), situated inland in the north-central part of Tunisia, on the Low Steppes, a semiarid alluvial plain southeast of the Tell Mountains. It is the capital of Kairouan governorate with 590,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate) and an area of 6,712 km².
Kairouan's economy is more traditional than the other large cities of Tunisia. The city trades in grain and livestock raised in the surrounding region, as well as cereals, olives, sheep, wool, skins, leather goods, copperware and ceramics. Kairouan has a large carpet and handicrafts production. In earlier times was Kairouan famous for carpets and rose oil.
Kairouan has good road and railway connections with other urban centres in Tunisia. The closest important city is Sousse 60 km to the east.
Kairouan is counted as the most holy city of North Africa. The Great Mosque has what is believed to be the oldest standing minaret in the world, from 730. Kairouan was through much of its history a city that only allowed non-Muslim visitors with a special permit — much similar to the most holy cities and sites of Islam.
The old town is enclosed by a rampart city wall. The old town has many mosques, and Kairouan is often called the City of 100 Mosques. Out of town centre, is the zawiyya of Sidi Sahab, with a tomb of one of the companions of Muhammad. There is also a 9th century Aghlabid reservoir, with an open circular pool 140 metre in diametre.

670: Founded by the Muslim conqueror Uqba ibn Nafi as the capital of the Umayyad territories in Afriqiya. The location was identical with the Byzantine fortress Kamouinia. The position was ideal, as it gave the Arab Muslims protection from both the sea powers and possibilities to control the mountain Berbers. Kairouan would serve as military centre for advances into the rest of northwest Africa.
730: Kairouan has the first minaret in history built.
757: Kairouan is conquered by extremist Khariji Berbers, who massacre their opponents and defile the Great Mosque.
761: Reconquered by forces loyal to the Caliph.
Around 800: Chosen as capital for Maghreb by the Aghlabid rulers.
Mid 9th century: Kairouan becomes a site for Islamic pilgrimage, oriented towards the Mosque of the Three Doors.
894: Kairouan loses its position as capital of Tunisia to Tunis.
Early 11th century: The Zirid governor of Kairouan declares Tunisia independent from the Fatimids of Cairo, turning Kairouan into the country's capital.
1057: Kairouan is sacked by the Banu Hillal, who had been sent by the Fatimids to punish the Zirids.
11th century: Kairouan declines into a small market town for nomads.
15th century: The Almorads turn Kairouan into an administrative centre.
1881: Despite strong opposition to the Christians, Kairouan surrenders without a gunshot to the French invasion force.

By Tore Kjeilen