Kairouan Great Mosque - Islamic Architecture
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Kairouan

Kairouan's Great Mosque

The Great Mosque at Kairouan was built in the 800s AD, in the time of the Abbasid Empire. This was the same time as the reign of Charlemagne. But the mosque at Kairouan was much grander than anything being built in Europe at this time. It was more on the same scale as the Chola temples in South India.

columns

These are some more pictures of the mosque at Kairouan. Here you can see the columns of the peristyle that goes around the big courtyard. A lot of the columns were taken from old Roman buildings, to show that the Islamic rulers had defeated the Romans. Can you see that the arches come in again at the bottom a little like a keyhole? The Visigoths in Spain invented this kind of arch, and then when the Umayyads conquered Spain, the use of this keyhole arch spread all around the Mediterranean Sea.

Kairouan minaret

The minaret of the Kairouan mosque, built in the late 700s AD, is the oldest one in the world that is still standing.

Kairouan prayer hall

This is the entrance to the prayer hall of the Kairouan mosque. All the men go inside this hall to pray kneeling on prayer rugs on the floor, and to hear sermons given by the imam. When men are not praying, sometimes this room is used for a school. Women, and men who are not Muslims, are not allowed inside the prayer hall.

Bibliography and further reading about Kairouan:

Abbasid architecture
Islamic architecture
African architecture
More about the Islamic Empire
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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