It is arguably the oldest Islamic religious edifice erected in the Muslim West.
This was in 670, during the first campaign for the annexation of Ifriqiya to the nascent Muslim empire. After having chosen, on the edge of the mountainous foothills of the north of the country, the location of the “cantonment” – al qayrawân – in which he installed his troops in the wake of a first victorious offensive, General Okba Ibn Nafaa hastened to to erect there a seat for the government of the Ifriqiya province and an oratory in mud bricks which, in the 9th century, after several redevelopments and with a few details, will appear under the appearance that we know today at the Great Mosque .
A singular monument, this Great Mosque of Kairouan whose perfect harmony perfectly hides an architectural “synchretism” unique in its kind.
The materials used in its construction all come from ancient sites belonging to various periods prior to the Islamic conquest, while the general appearance of the building, in particular the minaret, reflects a distant Eastern influence. The whole forms an original whole, with sober features but not without elegance.
Regarding the interior decoration, we must speak of exuberance: a real explosion of geometric and floral motifs carved in the fine marble which decorates the facade of the mihrâb, the niche which indicates the direction of Mecca, or engraved in the panels. of precious wood that make up the minbar, pulpit for preaching.