September 23, 2014

1240 TUNISIA (Kairouan) - Kairouan (UNESCO WHS)

Located in the centre of Tunisia, in a plain at an almost equal distance from the sea and the mountain, Kairouan (Al Qairawān) was founded around 670, as an Arab military post for the conquest of the West. The site had housed a Byzantine garrison before the Arab conquest, far from the sea - safe from the continued attacks of the Berbers, who had fiercely resisted the Arab invasion. In the period of Caliph Mu'awiya (r. 661-680), it became an important centre for Islamic and Quranic learning, and thus attracting a large number of Muslims, next only to Mecca and Medina.

In 745, Kharijite Berbers captured it, but Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab recaptured it at the end of the 8th century. In 800 Caliph Harun ar-Rashid confirmed Ibrahim as Emir and hereditary  ruler of Ifriqiya. He founded the Aghlabid dynasty, who built the great mosque and established in it a university, whose role can be compared to that of the University of Paris in the Middle Ages. The year 909 saw the establishment of the Shiite Fatimid dynasty, which neglected the city.

When the Zirids declared their independence from Cairo and their conversion to Sunni Islam in 1045, the Fatimid Caliph Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah sent punishment hordes, which destroyed Kairouan in 1057. Despite the transfer of the political capital to Tunis in the 12th century, Kairouan remained the Maghreb's principal holy city. The Great Mosque, rebuilt in the 9th century, isn't only one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world and one of the major monuments of Islam, but also a universal architectural masterpiece.

The many but small changes in it have not altered the layout of this place of prayer, which forms a quadrilateral of 135 m by 80 m. At its southern end is a hypostyle prayer room with 17 naves supported by a « forest » of columns in marble and porphyry. On the north is a vast flagstone courtyard bordered with porticoes, interrupted in the middle of the smaller northern end by the massive square-shaped three-storey minaret.

It served as a model for several Maghreban mosques, particularly for its decorative motifs, which are unique. The considerable weight of history is still palpable in the medina, which is surrounded by more than 3 km of walls with its gates (Bab el Tounes, Bab el Khoukha, Bab ech Chouhada): its skyline is punctuated by the minarets and the cupolas of its mosques and zawiyas, and it has preserved its network of winding streets and courtyard houses.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Architecture of the City of Tozeur, issued on April 26, 2013:
• the railway station in Tozeur (250 TND)
• the Medina in Tozeur (600 TND) - It's on the postcard 1240
Kairouan - Wikipedia
Kairouan - UNESCO official website
Great Mosque of Kairouan - Wikipedia

Sender: Eunika Gos (direct swap)
Sent from Monastir (Monastir / Tunisia), on 03.09.2014

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