The Great Mosque of Kairouan, also known as the Mosque of Uqba is one of the most important mosques in Tunisia, situated in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Kairouan
Established by the Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafy (R.z) in 670 AD
The mosque is spread over a surface area of 9,000 square meters
It is one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world, as well as a model for all later mosques in the West as well as it’s one of the most impressive and largest Islamic monuments in North Africa.
The view of the Mosque that we experience today is a result of renovation and work under the Aghlabids, an Arab dynasty.
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Around 690, shortly after its construction, the mosque was destroyed during the occupation of Kairouan by the Berbers, originally conducted by Kuala, a 7th-century leader of the Awraba tribe of the Berber people and Christian head of the Sanhadja confederation.
The Great Mosque of Kairouan’s enclosure is pierced by 9 gates (six opening on the courtyard, two opening on the prayer hall and the ninth allows access to the Maqsura, an enclosure in a Mosque, situated near the Mihrab and Minbar
The minaret, which occupies the center of the northern facade of the complex’s enclosure, is 31.5m tall and is seated on a square base of 10.7m on each side. The interior of the minaret includes a staircase of 129 steps. It’s one of the world’s oldest surviving minarets, dating back to 8th-9th century.
The Mosque has several domes, the largest being over the Mihrab and the entrance to the prayer hall from the courtyard and it is one of the oldest and most remarkable domes in the western Islamic world
The prayer hall is located on the southern side of the courtyard; and is accessed by 17 carved wooden doors.
In the prayer there are 414 columns (among more than 500 columns in the whole mosque)
It indicates the Qibla (direction of Mecca), is formed by an oven-shaped niche framed by 2 marble columns and topped by a painted wooden half-cupola. The niche dates in its present state to 862–863 AD.
The exterior of the Great Mosque of Kairouan has buttressed walls which are the typically Aghlabid design
Muslims can enter the mosque through 9 different gates; non-Muslim visitors use the main gate and must be appropriately dressed; robes are available at the entrance for those who are not.
On the north side of the courtyard is a massive, 3 story minaret that rises 115ft high.
The lowest level of the minaret dates from 728 and includes two reused Roman slabs with Latin inscriptions (one upside down).
Non-Muslims are not allowed inside, but the doors are left open to allow glimpses of the interior