Situated half –way between the littoral and the mountainous areas , in a hot and dry weather, crossed now and then by important caravans, KAIROUAN was founded in the year 670 by UQBA IBN NAFI. For long, it has been an outstanding capital which prospered particularly under the Aghlabides ( Ixth century) who enriched it with splendid palaces , important edifices , and olive groves.
With the advent of the Fatimides , it shared with « Mahdia » the role of the capital, until both were abandoned in favor of Cairo.
Kairouan was then invaded by the Hilalians ( 1057) who significantly curbed its political and strategic importance . But it still preserved its prestige as the holy city of the Maghreb.
Afterwards, the city experienced a period of ups and downs, under the Hafsides ( XIVth century) and the Husseinites.
The predominant aspect which makes of Kairouan an important city within the Arab-Maghrebine civilization is its religious and spiritual character.
It is for that reason that it was in the past chosen to establish in it numerous koranic schools, in addition to a university.
Today, KAIROUAN is a city devoted to commerce and tourism. It is known primarily for carpet handicrafts , and its vendors enjoy the reputation of being the craftiest ones in Tunisia.
Its mosques , its brick ramparts, its animated souks , its alleys with immaculate walls having a slight bluish color, and its mausoleums make visitors discover an oriental city which has managed to preserve some aspects of its power and charm of long ago.
It is believed that muslims who come to it at least seven times on a pilgrimage are not required to go to Mecca.
The great mosque of Kairouan – Jemaa Uqba whose construction started in 675, symbolizes the Arab-muslim power established in Tunisia in the 7th century . Undoubtedly , this mosque constitutes – as was desired by its founder Oqba Ibn Nafi , when he chose the location of his future capital – a « rampart forever ». Kairouan assumes its spiritual role of the 4th holy city of Islam, after Mecca, Medina and El Qods ( Jerusalem ).