MAGHREB'S HOLY CITY - DECEMBER 2007
Kairouan was founded in 670 (the year 50 according to the Islamic calendar) when the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi selected a site about 160 kilometres south of Tunis as the location of a military post for the conquest of the West. It flourished under the Aghlabid dynasty in the 9th century, and though the political capital was transferred to Tunis in the 12th century, Kairouan remained the Maghreb's principal holy city, ranking after Mecca and Medina as a place of pilgrimage. Also known as The City of the Fifty Mosques, including the rich Great Mosque and the 9th-century Mosque of the Three Gates, Kairouan is the oldest Muslim place of prayer in North Africa, and was included in the UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1988.
"GREAT MOSQUE - The wall and Minaret of the Mosque of Uqba seen from the outside, close to the Handicraft Centre. The mosque is spread over an area of 900 square metres and takes the form of an irregular quadrilateral, which is wider on the side of the main entrance (138 metres) than on the opposite side (128 metres) and thinner on the side of the minaret (71 metres) than on the opposite side (77 metres)!"
"GREAT MOSQUE - Though originally built in 670 AD, nothing remains of the original mosque, the current Mosque dating from 863 AD. Actually, the original mosque was torn down and rebuilt in 703, again in 774, and then significantly enlarged in 836 and 863. For many centuries, it has been a pilgrimage destination for those North Africans who couldn't make the trip to Mecca (since, according to popular belief, seven trips to Kairouan were worth one hajj to Mecca). Here we can see the three stories tall Minaret, 31m high by 10m wide, with its lower stories composed of stone blocks taken from classical Roman buildings. This minaret, built from 724 to 728 AD, is the oldest standing minaret in the world"
"THE GREAT MOSQUE - The Great Mosque is approached through a large marble-paved courtyard. The pavement slopes towards a central draining hole, which delivers rainwater into a 9th-century cistern. Its decorations (on the right hand side of the last picture also serve to filter dust from the water"
"THE COLONNADE - The courtyard is surrounded by a wonderful colonnade supported by 400 pillars plundered from many sources"
"DOOR - The massive wooden doors leading into the prayer hall date from 1829 and are beautifully carved"
"INTERIOR - The main aisle leading to the 9th-century tiled mihrab can be seen here. The tiles of the mihrab and the wood for the nearby minbar were imported from Baghdad. The 414 pillars that support the mosque were Roman or Byzantine pieces salvaged from Carthage and Sousse, and are all different from one another"
"WOODEN BALCONIES - One of the most striking features of old town Kairouan are the wooden enclosed balconies of its buildings. Here we may see some of the most beautiful to be found there"
"WINDOWS - Ironwork windows may be found throughout town"
"ROOFS OF KAIROUAN"
"LA KASBAH HOTEL"
Rakesh Vanamali was so kind to pass me the well deserved Free Spirit and Independent Award he got. He used the kindest words one could think of. I'm honoured and delighted!
Thank you Rakesh!