Things To Do In Kairouan: Discover Tunisia With 9 Great Attractions

things to do in Kairouan

After Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, Kairouan in northern Tunisia’s inland desert, is the fourth holiest city of Islam and an important religious pilgrimage site (for Muslims, seven trips here are said to equal one hajj to Mecca). From grand mosques, gorgeous minarets and tombs, its Medina back alleys lined with candy-colored houses, its well-known carpets stores, and craftsmen, the bustling city is jam-packed with some of the country’s best examples of Islamic architecture which will please everyone regardless of their culture. With the Great Mosque with its antique columns and imposing minaret, the mausoleum of Sidi Sahab (or Mosque of the Barber), the Mosque of the Three Doors, and the 18th-century Maisons, Kairouan has many interesting sites and attractions, and in this article, we’ll look at a selection of 9 for a mesmerizing experience in this unmissable place.

Map location

1. Medina

Porte, médina de Kairouan
Source: Photo by user Neil Rickards used under CC BY 2.0

For an atmospheric walk with a taste of traditional Arabic world, Kairouan’s Medina is the best place to go as it’s the best preserved in Tunisia. You’ll like strolling along the tightly packed alleyways of the old town surrounded by a 3.5 kilometer (2.2 mile) long circuit of brick walls reinforced by numerous beautiful towers from the early 18th-century. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of lanes wandering across the colorful, paint-peeling houses and others attractions. A top destination for those looking to dive into the traditional Arabic daily life.

Kairouan's Medina

Address: Medina, Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia

Website: Kairouan’s Medina (in French)

2. Great Mosque (Sidi Oqba Mosque)

Vue aérienne de la Grande Mosquée de Kairouan, Tunisie
Source: Photo by user Momin Bannani used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Standing in the northeast corner of the Medina, the Great Mosque of Kairouan and its massive minaret are incorporated into the old town walls. The oldest and most important Islamic building in North Africa, this impressive building (covering a giant area of 135 meters (442 feet) long by 80 meters (262 feet) wide) has been the source of inspiration of many Tunisia’s other major mosques. Even thought Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the prayer hall, you’ll still be able to have a peek inside and to walk through the vast inner courtyard of the building, surrounded on three sides by double-aisled colonnades of antique columns. A great place for a spiritual walk!

Great Mosque of Kairouan

Address: Rue Sidi Abdelkader, Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia

Website: Great Mosque of Kairouan (in French)

3. Mosque of the Barber

Source: Photo by user China Crisis used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the main sites to visit in Kairouan is surely The Barber’s Mosque (also called the Zaouia of Sidi Sahab), a complex including a mausoleum, mosque and madrassa (Islamic school of learning) built between 1629 and 1692. Notable for its magnificent tile decoration from the 19th-century, you’ll enter through a forecourt, from where you’ll have access to the Imam’s lodgings, guest-rooms and ablution fountains, the minaret and the madrassa. There you’ll discover another part of the Arab world and its religion in a peaceful and spiritual atmosphere.

Zaouia of Sidi Sahab

Address: P12, Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia

4. Mosque of Three Doors

Minaret de la mosquée des Trois portes à Kairouan
Source: Photo by user Mohamed Amine ABASSI used under CC BY 2.0

The Mosque of the Three Doors (Mosquée des Trois Portes or Djemaa Tleta Bibane) was founded in AD 866 and is one of the oldest mosques of Kairouan. Featuring a very notable facade with three doorways, from which it takes its name, you’ll enjoy strolling around the beautiful building and gazing at its beautiful architecture.

Mosque of Three Doors جامع ثلاث ابواب

Address: Avineda De Kortoba, Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia

Website: Mosque of Three Doors جامع ثلاث ابواب

5. Aghlabid Basins

Jeblia, Kairouan - panoramio
Source: Photo by user patano used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Aghlabid Basins are located to the north of the Medina and formerly supplied water for the Aghlabid palace (at the place of the present-day cemetery of the city). The complex system of water distribution used an aqueduct from Djebel Cherichera, 36 kilometers (22 miles) away from where the water was coming. There, you’ll walk around the two main basins (smaller basin and the larger pool) and be impressed by its gigantesque dimensions. It’s one of those places where you encounter history face to face and realize how great the men’s skills of this time were.

Aghlabid Basins

Address: Kairouan, Tunisia

Website: Aghlabid Basins

6. Zaouia of Sidi Abed el Ghariani

Zaouia of Sidi Abid El-Ghariani
Source: Photo by user Alexandre Moreau used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This site is an ornate tomb, dedicated to a holy man who lived in Kairouan during the 14th-century. You’ll enjoy its architecture composed of fine wood, stucco ceiling and sumptuously decorated inner courtyard where you’ll gaze at the beautiful and well-preserved tile work decorating the walls here. A great location for anyone interested in traditional Arabic decoration and artistry.

Zaouia of Sidi Abed el Ghariani

Address: Kairouan, Tunisia

Website: Zaouia of Sidi Abed el Ghariani (in French)

7. Lalla Rihana Gate and cemetery

Kairouan,cimitiere avec rempart et minaret
Source: Photo by user Gigi sorrentino used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located nearby the east side of Kairouan’s Great Mosque, a large cemetery with some interesting tombs features beautiful architecture and the renowned Lalla Rihana Gate (built in 1294). This square Hispano-Mauresque style structure is a beautiful and atmospheric place to have a walk.

Lalla Rihana Gate and cemetery

Address: Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia

Website: Lalla Rihana Gate and cemetery

8. Zaouia Sidi Amor Abbada (Mosque of the Sabres)

Zaouia Sidi Amor Abbada domes
Source: Photo by user damian entwistle used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Built in 1860 and one of the principal pilgrim sights in the city, the Mosque of the Sabres (Zaouia Sidi Amor Abbada) will please you with its five ribbed domes, its many examples of the craftsman’s skill; sabers, stirrups, anchors, and chests. A beautiful place to spend some time contemplating the beauty of Arabic arts.

Zaouia Sidi Amor Abbada

Address: Kairouan, Tunisia

Website: Zaouia Sidi Amor Abbada

9. Islamic Museum

Bifolium Mushal al-Hadina Quran Met 2007.191
Source: Photo by user [Unknown] used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The interesting Museum of Islamic Art in Reqqada is set in a beautiful park and exhibit finds from Kairouan, the Aghlabid residences at Reqqada and Al Abbasiya, and other towns in the region. You’ll discover excavations, old prints with views of local towns, coins of the various dynasties (Aghlabids, Fatimids, Zirids), old Koranic inscriptions, a variety of pottery, funerary stelae, etc. This is a worth-visiting place to get to know the Arabic culture and local history.

Museum of Islamic Art

Address: Reqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia

Website: Museum of Islamic Art

Discover the wonders of Kairouan!

These 9 top things to do in Kairouan will make you discover this great old city and you’ll enjoy a different point of view of the rich and beautiful history of Tunisia!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Felix Brassier is a French digital filmmaker / visual storyteller for the web and digital nomad traveling all over the place. Crazy about videography, photography, he's also writing for the web and...Read more

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