Great Mosque Kairuan

Great Mosque Kairuan (or "Uchba Mosque") – The most ancient Maghriba Mosque and the first Islamic structure on the territory of Tunisia. Its value for the Islamic world is so large that the seven pilgrimages here are equated to Haju in Mecca. It is considered the fourth largest in the Islamic world after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

In this article, we will tell: in the course of what excursions you can see the Great Mosque of Kairhan, how to get there yourself, what to look inside. Prices and other information in this article are updated in March 2020.

Where they are allowed and not allowing non-mumulman

The milean room is open only for Muslims, the rest of the Great Mosque Kairhan can see all. The mileal hall can still be seen through open doors.

Muslims can go to the mosque through 9 of her gate, about which we will tell a little later in this article. For non-Musulman Entry through the central gate from Avenue Ubn Ibn Nafaa (Avenue Oqba IBN NAFAA).

Naturally, to enter the entrance clothing. If you are not suitable, women give scarves on their head, all visitors are easy capes. This is very by the way, considering that most tourists come here in excursions and do not think about dress code.


Visiting the mosque enters most of the programs "Excursion to Sahara" as the last point of the route. Naturally, we are uncomfortable to dress on the dress code on this two-day tour of the tourists, it is difficult to withstand two days on the Tunisian heat in closed clothes, you can take a second set of clothes with you, it will come in handy in the evenings when it can be cool in the desert. Read our review "Weather in Tunisia".

There are more convenient excursions, for example, the program "El Jemy – Kairuan", where in one day Look at the Amphitheater El Jam and the most interesting in Kairian. Price of such an excursion – 50-60 USD.

Hike to the Great Mosque in Cairoan combined with visiting carpet shop. And a visit to the store at the guides is required, and visiting the mosque is already optional – if there is time. If there is no time, you can look at it from the roof of the store. The store is also here – on Avenue Ukba Ibn Nafaa.

Even if tourists go to the courtyard on excursions, there is not enough time to inspect everything interesting. To see everything interesting, you need to go on your own.

How to get yourself

First option – by taxi, What is very convenient, but expensive. Tariffs See in our review "Taxi in Tunisia".

The closest resorts of Sousse and El Cantaui – 55 kilometers, pay 35-45 dinars for a taxi. Course of Tunisian Dinar Look in our review "Tunisian Dinar".

Monastir – 70 kilometers and about 60 dinars for a taxi. Mahdia – 100 kilometers and 80 dinars. Yasmin Hammamemet – 95 kilometers and 75 dinars for a taxi, Hammamet – 110 kilometers and 85 dinars, a raider – 125 kilometers and 100 dinars.

Consider that not every taxi driver agrees to go so far to another city. It is likely that he will need to go with him back. Then multipliate the price 2 times (for the road there and back) and add another 30-50 for waiting.

If you relax on Djerba or in a zarzission, you can only take theoretically, in practice it is very long, very tedious and very expensive. Easier to go as part of the excursion.

Second version – by public transport, what is cheaper, but there are many nuances. Trains to Kairuan do not go, from the resorts of Tunisia you can get only on buses and minibuses.

From Sousse and El Cantaui hotels, you need to get to the bus station Sousse, which is located in the north of the Medina Sousse, between the railway station and the Sousse Ribat. From here the buses go to Kairuan.

See schedule, and if the next bus is not soon, then sit on the minibus. The minibus will leave when completely filled. Finding the minibus is easy, ask drivers with the word "Kairuan", they will tell. Read our reviews "Buses in Tunisia" and "Minibuses in Tunisia".

From the hotels in Monastir and Mahdi, it is convenient to reach the Sousse on the local train, and then by bus or minibus according to the instructions above. About this train Read our review Metro Sachel.

Resting in Hammamete, Yasmin and raid lucky and unlucky at the same time. Lucky by bus schedule, they can watch in advance at http: // www.SRTGN.Com.TN, Look for Routes 101 (Hammamet-Kairuan) and 604 (Keblia-Kairuan). I am not lucky that there are few buses, and get to Kairuan for more than 2 hours.

To take a bus, you need to come to Medina Hammamet, the bus station is north of the medina. Or simply tell Taksist’s phrase "La Gar De Bus", he will understand.

Ticket price

Combined ticket immediately 6 attractions of Kairuana costs 10 dinars. Another 1 dinar must be paid for permission to photography.

Opening hours

Mosque acting, but used only for Juma Namaz – solemn Friday prayer. Theoretically, on Friday, you can get from 8-00 to 12-00, but we advise not to come on Friday at all, it is better to choose any other day of the week.

From Saturday to Thursday – from 8-00 to 14-00.

History and cultural meaning of the mosque

The mosque was built during the second Arabic campaign in Tunisia. Recall that during the first campaign in 647, Arabs only attacked, pilored and returned back to Egypt with rich trophies.

In 670, the Arab Army included in Tunisia under the command of General Ukba Ibn Nafi. This time the Arabs came seriously and for a long time. They built in the depths of the mainland fortified base, which very quickly became the city of Kairuan. The name "Kairuan" is translated as a "military camp". Read the details in our article "History of Tunisia".

The city was located in a dangerous place, between the Greek coast in the East and hostile Berbers in the south and west. Even now, the architecture of the city resembles the fortress, it is very brightly visible on the example of the Great Mosque with its massive walls and a minaret, more reminiscent of the fortress tower.

The Great Mosque became the first building of the city, she ordered it to build a personally General Uchba Ibn Nafi in 50 on the Islamic calendar (670 in Gregorian). The Great Mosque of Kairuan has become the first Arab building in Tunisia and the first mosque in Maghreb. All other mosques in Maghreb are built in the image and likeness. In the Great Mosque, for the first time in Islamic architecture, arches appeared.

In many sources, you can read the phrase "the architecture of the Great Mosque has developed under the influence of Roman and Byzantine Styles". It’s not exactly correct expression. The fact is that the Great Mosque is actually built of material exported from Roman and Greek cities.

Arabs themselves did not mined a stone, did not make columns, capitals or arches from it, they took ready-made elements from neighboring Tydra (now El Jam), Hudroseta (now Sousse) and from Carthage. Columns, capitals, arches and other elements were transported to Kairuan and built of them a great mosque. Therefore, it is difficult to use the term "influence", and it is difficult to say that the Great Mosque has some kind of architecture style.

The first version of the Great Mosque was much less than the current one and was partially built of raw bricks, the status of "Great" she could hardly claim. In 836, the Emir of Zhains-Allah I from the Aglabid dynasty disassembled all the old buildings and built a new great mosque as the sizes that we see it now. It was in 836 that a milean hall appeared with columns and colonnades around the perimeter of the yard (in the photo nearby, click on the photo to enlarge).

The following Ifrikia emiers built a dome over the Mirhab, majestic entrances, completed minaret. As we said, for all this, the architectural elements of the Roman and Byzantine cities that have already stood up to that moment.

Soon the Great Mosque of Kairuan became the main thing in North Africa scientific, religious and cultural center. In 1057, the tribes of Banu Hilal and Banu Suleyim migrated to North Africa, captured and destroyed Kairuan. The Great Mosque suffered greatly, wound many values.

The famous Blue Quran was partially lost, and the remaining pages were in different cities. Most of these pages, you can now look at the Bardo Museum in the capital, the rest are scattered in different museums of the world. The famous red gates were demolished, now several pieces can be viewed in the Monastir Ribat and the Bardo Museum.

The former greatness of Kairhan was restored only in 200 years, and the country’s cultural and religious center moved to the city of Tunisia and the University of Ez Zeytun. However, the Great Mosque of Kairuan until today remains the biggest in Tunisia.

How the Great Mosque looks now

Now the mosque is located in the Medina Kairuana in the Humat Al-Piece area (translated as "District of the Great Mosque"). It is in the north of the medina. An interesting fact that the Great Mosque was planned to be the center of the city, but the soil north from her was little suitable for construction, and the city expanded to the south. As a result, the Great Mosque was not in the center of the Medina, but on the northern outskirts.

Even now the size of the facilities seem impressive. The Great Mosque is almost a rectangle with dimensions 127 and 125 by 78 and 73 meters, the total area is 9,000 square meters.

Walls and gates

Surrounding the building wall thickness 1.9 meters, the length of the perimeter is 403 meters. The Great Mosque has always been not only a place for prayers, but also the last stronghold of the defense of the city of Kairuan.

Pay attention to the counterphorts (protrusions) outside the wall. At first glance it seems that this is part of the defensive system. But in reality, they are needed to strengthen the walls, soil under construction unstable. The counterphorts began to put in the 13th century, when the walls began to be worn due to a weak foundation.

Inside lead nine gates, six to the courtyard, two in the milean hall, one in Maxour. Maxura is a part of the chamber’s fenced for chosen, it is not in every mosque. It is a pity that Nemusulman’s tourists are not allowed inside, it would be interesting to look at it.

Maksuur built Emir Al-Muiz Ibn Badis from the Dynasty of the Serids, this emir rules from 1016 to 1062. Building Maxura explicitly shows us how risk was the power of the zerids in Tunisia, once Emir decided to protect himself in such a way.

Great Mosque Kairuan


Internal courtyard (inside colonnade) with dimensions of about 67 x 52 meters. Around the perimeter is surrounded by double near columns and arches. Here they are in the flesh – architectural masterpieces of the ancient Roman and the Byzantine cities of Tunisia. The courtyard space including portico and colonnades – 90 x 72 meters.

Paul yard paved in small marble plates. And this is just the most interesting, because the surface of the floor is slightly tilted relative to the surface of the earth. All rainwater rolled along the floor in the gutter and special tanks. This system was built on the rule of Moradid Bay (1686-1696).

In the center of the yard you can look at the big horizontal sundial. The inscription on them says that they were created in 1258 (1843 in Gregorian). Tourists surprise why there are so many shooters and incomprehensible designations, and how to determine time at all?

The fact is that on these o’clock they define not the time, and the beginning and completion of the magazine – the time of prayers for Muslims. Namazy is counted at the position of the Sun. For example, the dining Namaz "Zuhr" begins at the time of the Zenith of the Sun, and ending at the moment when the shadow of the subject becomes equal in length to him. Sunclocks determine the lengths of the shadows and, accordingly, the time of namaz.


Minaret of the Great Mosque Kairuana is the most ancient minaret in the world. Many tourists are surprised: if this is not the most ancient mosque, where is the most ancient minarery here? Everything is very simple, the first mosques did not have minarets in general, and Muzzins called believers on prayer from the roof.

Height – 31.5 meters, length and width of square base – 10.7 meters. There is an assumption (without specific evidence) that it was one of the Roman lighthouses, which Arabs disassembled, transported to Kairuan and collected already as a watchtower and minaret. Stone blocks at the bottom of the minaret carry Latin inscriptions.

Minaret consists of three levels, the top level is crowned with a dome. The height of the first section is 19 meters, the second – 5 meters, the third – 7.5 meters, including the dome. Upstairs lead 129 steps.

Still note that minaret is not on the central axis of the complex, but shifted to the right to 8 meters. In the Great Kairuan Mosque, everything is "wrong" – there is not a single straight angle.

If very well climbed (or stitch binoculars), you will see on the top of the minaret spire with three stristed bronze balls. In Maghreb, such a symbol means that the mosque is the main thing for Juma-Namaz – Friday prayer.

On this for non-Musulman examination of the Great Kairuan Mosque ends.

What is inside

17 doors in the milean hall are located behind colonnade. Some of these doors are opened for ventilation, and all visitors can at least "look at the interior". The size of the chamber – 70.6 x 37.5 meters.

Hall arches support 414 columns. In antiquity, there was a legend that the requested everything would definitely be blind. Another interesting thing is that all columns are of different shapes and size. This is not surprising, because columns are collected from various Byzantine and Roman buildings.

Very interesting painted ceiling hall. Wooden beams and brackets were added gradually from 9 to 20th century. This ceiling is a visual allowance on painting history in Tunisia.

Mirhab (a special deepening, where IMAM prays) – this is the oldest concave Mirhab in the world. Height – 4.5 meters, depth – 1.6 meters, width – 2 meters. Its building dates back to 862. From above Mirhab framed by a strip of 139 tiles with a shiny metal coating and a floral pattern. The origin of this tile is the subject of historical disputes, or it is Baghdad, or Kairuan.

Next to the most ancient Mirchab is the most ancient Minbar – this is the department where they are preached during Friday prayer. This minbar is made of teak wood from India. Height – 3.3 meters, upstairs lead 11 steps. Minbar is superbly decorated with more than 300 wooden floors with vegetable patterns. Of these, only 9 were replaced, the remaining 291 original. For more than 1100 years!

Tips for tourists

– Pay attention to the opening hours, the mosque is open for tourists only in the morning and before lunch;

– From the bus station Kairuan to the Great Mosque about 2 kilometers. In order not to spend strength and time, we recommend to get to the taxi;

– There will have a lot of walk, do not forget about comfortable shoes and clothes on the weather. Read our page "What to take in Tunisia";

– If you arrived in Kairouan yourself, then around the Great Mosque can find a lot of cafes and restaurants. If you docile Tunisian cuisine, do not forget to try the main Kairuan dishes – Cookies Macrol and Zergia, we wrote about them in a review "Sweets in Tunisia";

– The city of Kairuan is more conservative than the resort cities of the coast. On a trip to Kairuan, try to dress as modest as possible, and read our review "What tourists can not be in Tunisia".

A good visit to the Great Mosque of Kairuan, and read our interesting holiday pages in Tunisia (Links below).

Great Mosque Kairuan

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