Kairouan (al-Qairawan, القيروان) was founded in 670/50 AH by 'Uqba ibn Nafi, the Arab general in command of the Muslim conquest of North Africa. The principal monument in the city is the Great Mosque, also known as the mosque of Sidi 'Uqba after the general who founded it. The first mosque on the site was begun immediately after the Arab conquest and consisted of a square enclosure containing a courtyard and prayer hall or sanctuary. This first building was made of mud brick and had to be restored in 695. There was another major reconstruction in 724-43 when a minaret was added. The present minaret was added by the Aghlabids in 836. It is a giant three-tier structure built of baked bricks on a base of reused ashlar blocks. At present, the minaret stands on the north wall of the courtyard but in the ninth century, it would have been outside the mosque courtyard in a manner similar to the contemporary Abbasid mosques of Samarra.
The mosque took its present form from the major rebuilding which took place under the Aghlabids which was completed in 862. The present mosque enclosure forms a large rectangle measuring 125 by 85 m. The prayer hall is one-third of the mosque area and comprises seventeen aisles perpendicular to the qibla wall with another aisle parallel to the wall. Aghlabid modifications included the present mihrab, the dome in front of the mihrab and the minbar. The mihrab niche is lined with perforated marble panels decorated with vegetal designs. Surrounding the mihrab are a series of polychrome lustre tiles which are believed to have been imported from Baghdad. The dome covering the area in front of the mihrab is built of stone and rests on a drum supported by large shell-shaped squinches. The dome has a gadrooned form which internally takes the form of thin radiating ribs. The inside of the drum is circular and decorated with a series of sixteen blind niches and eight arched windows. The minbar is the oldest in existence and consists of a high staircase with a series of intricately carved panels on the side decorated with geometric and stylized vegetal designs. The present maqsura (screen) was added in restorations of the eleventh century. Further restorations were carried out in 1294 when the arches of the arcades were remodeled and the projecting portal of Bab Lalla Rayhana was added. Other Aghlabid monuments at Qairawan include the Mosque of the Three Gates, and the famous polygonal cisterns or artificial lakes. Outside Qairawan three satellite cities were established known as al-Abbasiya, Raqqada and Sabra al-Mansuriyya. Nothing remains of Abasiyya, although at Raqqada there are huge reservoirs and the remains of a large palace built of baked brick. Other cities with Aghlabid monuments include Tunis, Susa, Sfax and Monastir. In 1052 the city was enclosed with a crenellated brick wall which was extensively restored in the eighteenth century.
When Mohamed al-Jedidi, a prominent Kairouanese jurist, died in Mecca (1384/786 AH), his disciple, Abou Samir Abid el Ghariani, continued to teach there until his death in 1402/805 AH. He was entombed in the complex, which now bears his name. While sources confirm its construction in the 14th c./8th c. AH, it was substantially altered and expanded in the 17th c./11th c. AH, which may account for its irregular layout consisting of 3 courtyards, each surrounded by porticoes. There is also a second story that contained student lodgings.
The entry to the complex is through an L-shaped vestibule that opens onto a courtyard paved with black and white marble arranged in geometric patterns. It is surrounded by three porticoes each consisting of three horseshoe arches crowned with ablaq brick. The prayer hall is on the southwest side. It consists of three naves running parallel to the qibla wall. The mihrab at the center is marble, topped with an elaborately decorated arch supported by two contrasting marble columns. The elaborate vegetal and geometric stucco decoration of the arch is topped with alternating black and white voussoirs.
The tomb chamber is accessed through the northeast gallery. Plaster panels sit atop the tiled ceramic walls, and the ceiling is painted wood. The room contains the tombs of Sidi Abid and the Hafsid Sultan Mulay Hassan.
Two smaller courtyards can be accessed from the main courtyard. The contain ablution facilities and student lodging.
Sidi Abid al-Ghariani Zawiya (Transliterated)
زاوية سيدي عبيد الغرياني (Original)
Sidi Abid al-Ghariani Mausoleum (Translated)
Zaouia de Sidi Abid el-Ghariyani (Alternate transliteration)
Mausolée Sidi Abid el Ghariani (Translated)
Madrasa y zawiya de Sidi Abid al-Garyani (Translated)
Madrasa et Zaouïa de Sidi Abid al-Ghariani (Translated)
مدرسة وزاوية سيدي عابد الغرياني (Original)
14th c./second half of the 8th c. AH, 17th c./11th c. AH, restored and modified