Kairouan (Arabic: القيروان) and sometimes spelled Kairwan, Kayrawan or Al Qayrawan is a city in Tunisia. It's a holy city in Islam, ranking fourth after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage. Reputedly seven visits here are the equivalent of one to Mecca. With it's large mosques and rich cultural history it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Buses run to Kairouan from the major cities, Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax. Note that touts from the carpets shops have been known to board the bus a few kilometres outside the city and befriend tourists to lure them into their shops, it is good to be aware of this fact.
- Louages run from many destinations into Kairouan; these are probably the best and most frequent way to get into the city.
- Kairouan is not located on a train line.
The stations for both busses and Louages are to the North West of the Medina. Though they may well drop you off at a Medina Gate if requested.
The Medina is best explored on foot, partially to absorb the atmosphere and partially because some areas are inaccessible to anything bigger. Many of the shops near the main mosque will tempt you in with views over the complex, expect to have a look around the shop on the way out, if you don't buy anything a small donation would be polite.
The old Medina with it's narrow passageways and streets is in general a nice place to just wander around aimlessly. If it looks familiar it may well be as it was used in Raiders of the Lost Ark to double as Cairo. For those interested in Islamic teachings there are several madrasas, or Islamic schools, in the centre of town that are open for visitors.
- Great Mosque of Kairouan (جامع القيروان الأكبر). One of the finest Islamic buildings in North Africa and rewards closer inspection. Non Muslims are not permitted into the prayer hall, but the doors are open to allow you to view inside. Access to the main courtyard is available to all. The columns throughout the complex were taken from Carthage.
- Mosque of the Three Doors (مسجد ابن خيرون). With one of the finest façades in Tunisia, though the interior is not open.
- Bi'r Barouta. This Well is the place where the city was founded, it is reputedly linked to the ZamZam well in Mecca, it is one of the holiest sites in the city for Muslims.
- Sit and enjoy a tea in a traditional tea house if the heat gets a little too much.
Kairouan is particularly famous for its carpets and visiting a shop is an integral and sometimes unexpected part of experiencing the city. Carpets are graded by their fineness, the number of knots in a square metre, with a normal weave from 10,000 to 40,000, fine weave from 65,000-90,000 and extra fine from 160,000 - 500,000. Silk carpets may be over 500,000 knots per square metre.
- A speciality of Kairouan is the sticky pastry makrouhd, it can be found all through Tunisia.
There are a few nice Tea Houses on the road from the Main Gate into the centre of the city
- Hotel Tunisia, Av. de la Republique, ☎ +216 77 231 855.
- Hôtel Amina, Route de Tunis GP 2, ☎ +216 77 226 555.
- Hotel Continental, ☎ +216 77 231 135.
- Hotel Splendid, Rue 9 Avril, ☎ +216 77 230 041.