Tunisia is, of course, a Muslim country today. Many cities in Tunisia, however, seemed to have been built on the foundation of earlier civilizations, such as Rome and Carthage. Kairouan is clearly one which was founded by the Muslims. In fact, it was founded by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi as a military outpost for the conquest of the Magreb, including present day Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
The most notable landmark is the medina (old city) around the Great Mosque. We stayed in a hotel converted from the old fort protecting the medina.
I went out running in the afternoon after arrival and tumbled upon the Great Mosque. When I came out of the hotel I wasn’t sure where I was going. The map given by the hotel showed that I wasn’t too far away from the hotel. When I found that the neighbourhood looked friendly enough, I decided to make a loop and tried to reach the Great Mosque before turning back.
In the end, I did stumbled upon the Great Mosque before I realised that I had arrived.
When I passed one of the gates to the medina, I realised that it was actually a World Heritage site.
There are plenty of people around, but few looked like they are tourists. A couple of kids seemed quite friendly, even though they couldn’t really speak English.
It was late, and the Mosques was closed. I knew I would return in the morning anyway, so I wasn’t disappointed. I did get to see the impressive mineral and the outer walls. Just beyond the minaret was a cemetery without markings. It turned out to be people buried there in the early days, when Islam was struggling to establish itself in the area. The identity of the dead were lost. The dead are buried in another cemetery nowadays. I was also told that the dead are laid by their sides, with their feet towards Mecca, so that when they rise up at the end of the world, they would see Mecca.
The following morning, I came again with my wife and the rest of the group. We got to see the distinctive keyhole arches and the beautiful but austere courtyard.
We were not allowed into the sanctuary but allowed to peek inside. Some people were praying.
There was a water filtration system which seems to kind of still works.
There was also a kind of a sundial that I did not recognise and did not know how it worked.
There was also a friendly family from Algeria.
Kairouan had left me with good impressions.