Kairouan’s Great Mosque, also called the Mosque of Sidi Oqba after the founder of the city, is situated in the centre of the Medina. Originally built in 670AD, when Muslim Arabs first arrived in North Africa, it was then completely destroyed and most of what can be seen today dates from the 9th century, although many changes have taken place since then.
This is the oldest and biggest Mosque in Tunisia, and is regarded as the fourth holiest site after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. For a long time, it has been an alternative pilgrimage destination for those who are unable to go to Mecca. It is said that seven visits to Kairouan equal one visit to Mecca. The courtyard is surrounded by ancient pillars, the capitals of most of these having been taken from other buildings.
Included in the UNESCO World heritage site since 1988, it measures 9000 square meters. Whilst all visitors can enter the courtyard, the prayer hall is only accessible to Muslims. Women’s shoulders must be covered to be allowed within the mosque.
The Mosque can be visited every day between 8am and 2pm, except on Fridays when visits finish at noon. The entrance fee also covers other monuments in Kairouan.
The Ribat of Monastir, a fortress, was the first of its kind that has been built on the North-African coastline. Buildingworks started at the end of the 8th century and lasted until the 10th, but afterwards the Ribat suffered several times due to warfare and had to be restored and extended The Ribat in Monastir has been erected on top of the foundations of a byzantine monastery, which is said to have given its name to the town.
It features a nador (watchtower), which is not only the oldest part of the fortress, but also accessible and offers views over the whole town.
The fortress has been used as a background setting for the movies "Monthy Pythons -The life of Brian" and "Jesus of Nazareth". It also incorporates the kasbah and an Islamic Museum. The museum showcases exhibits such as a collection of coins, Koranic inscriptions, jewelry, bronze and glass ware and an astrolabe from the 9th century.
The Ribat is located at the seafront, close to the marina and the mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba.
Opening times :
Tuesday - Sunday 8.30 - 17.30
Mausolee de Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba (1903 - 2000), the first president of Tunisia, had this mausoleum built for himself and his family, while he was still in good health and very much alive.The works on the domed building, which is flanked by two minarets and reminds very much of a mosque, started in 1963. Bourguibas' wife and parents have been buried here and after his death in 2000 the former president has been laid to rest here too.
The mausoleum is located next to the cemetery, which dates back to the 12th century, not far from the Ribat and the marina of Monastir.