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Kairouan mosque's courtyard

Kairouan mosque’s courtyard

The Islamic governors of Tunisia built the Great Mosque at Kairouan 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.

Kairouan (about 800 AD)

Kairouan (about 800 AD)

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. The builders took a lot of the columns from old Roman buildings. They wanted 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. Then when the Umayyads conquered Spain, people started to use this keyhole arch all around the Mediterranean Sea.

Kairouan's minaret - a tower with one small window in the center of each story

Kairouan’s minaret

The minaret of the Kairouan mosque was built in the late 700s AD. It is the oldest minaret in the world that is still standing. (This minaret was not the first minaret ever built though.)

This is the entrance to the prayer hall of the Kairouan mosque. All the men went inside this hall to pray kneeling on prayer rugs on the floor. They listened to the imam’s sermons there. Women, and men who are not Muslims, were not allowed inside the prayer hall.

Kairouan's prayer hall

Kairouan’s prayer hall

But when men were not praying, sometimes teachers also used this room as a school. Children came there to learn about Islam and to memorize verses from the Koran.

Bibliography and further reading about Kairouan:

Abbasid architecture
Islamic architecture
African architecture
More about the Islamic Empire home