2014年3月3日 星期一

Tunisian Tour 10 - Kairouan (突尼西亞之旅.10--開羅安)


After our buffet breakfast of bread, croissant, fruit juice, hams, sausages, yogarts, cheeses and tea or coffee, we were off again to another historic city, Kairouan  (irwan or al-Qayrawan), capital of the Kairouan Governorate and its cultural capital, It's a city founded by the Arabs around 670 CE during the reign of Caliph Mu'awiya (who was caliph 661-680 CE ). It's a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's famous because of its great mosque Sidi-Uqba which became an important centre for Islamic and Quranic learning and ranks only next to Mecca and Medina in Islamic culture. 

But first we had to drive through lots of other little towns and villages

and countryside

with rows and rows of olive trees. 

The restaurant where we stopped by for our lunch

There was very little we could do whilst waiting for our dishes to arrive because like many Islamic and Mediterranean culture, time is not a terribly important concern to them, unlike in the huge metropolis of capitalist Western Europe and North America. To the Muslims, the most important thing on earth doesn't happen here but in the next world, their union with the Abrahamic God whom they call Allah.

So I continued to play with my camera.

My entrée: fried omelette with seafood stuffing. Delicious!

My main course: chicken and potatoes done two ways: boiled and fried.

The outside of the restaurant from the inside

The real outside outside

The Arabs are great artists in exploiting the effect of light

A sculpture in the courtyard of the restaurant: a sword wielding Berber fighter on horseback

A Roman soldier?

How could there be soldiers without women?

The pedestal for her sculpture: it seems that Arabs abhor straight lines

We are approaching Kairouan

Paintings on the wall of a school (?) we passed

a colorful restaurant called simply "Resto"

My first glimpse of the hotel where we would be staying: Hôtel La Kasbah, a former fortress.

our hotel walls

there were only plants in huge terra cotta pots at the foot of the walls but no flowers

Entrance to our hotel

The main lobby

The lobby lounge

One of the restaurants

Another restaurant

The courtyard outside the hotel lobby

The hotel swimming pool

reflections on the the swimming pool

potted plant partition

 I got a room with a view

and a painting

Kairouan is not a really big city. It has only about 150,000 people living there. Its Arabic name "قيروان " (kairuwân) is derived from the Persian کاروان"" ( kârvân) which means "military/civilian camp" or "caravan", or "resting place". It's about 114 miles from Tunis and about 30 miles from the next city we were going to visit, Sousse. It was already a garrison town of the Byzantine empire before the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi of Amir Muauia conquered it in 670. Since it was some distance from the sea, it was relatively safe from fierce Berber resistance. But the Berbers didn't give up so easily. Led first by Kusaila, whose troops killed Uqba at Biskra about 15 years after the military post was established and then by a Berber woman called Al-Kahina but defeated in 702.  Following that, there was a mass conversion of the Berbers to Islam. Then such Kharijites (Islamic "outsiders" ) founded an egalitarian and puritanical sect which is still there on the island of Djerba. In 745, the Kharijite Berbers captured Kairouan, which was already at that time a developed city with luxuriant gardens and olive groves. But at the end of the 8th century, Kairouan was recaptured by Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab and in 800, Ibrahim was confirmed Emir and hereditary ruler of Ifriqiya by Caliph Harun ar-Rashid in Baghdad and he founded the Aghlabid dynasty ruling Ifriqiya for more than a century. The Aghlabids built palaces, fortifications and fine waterworks of which only the pools remain. They also built the famous Mosque of Oqba and established a great university there, the equal of the University of Paris in the Middle Ages so that it attracted scholars from everywhere. Kairouan was made the capital of the dynasty and became one of the wealthiest cities in North Africa, rivaling Carthage at the height of its former glory. However, at the end of the 9th century, Abdullah al Mahdi, the Kutama Berbers from the west of the country started first a religious and then a political movement of the Shiite Fatimids which overthrew the Sunni Aghlabid rule in 909 and established the Shiite Fatimid dynasty based first at Raqqada then to the newly built Al Mahdiyah on the coast of modern Tunisia and eventually moved to eastern Egypt and founded Cairo which they made its capital, leaving only the Zirids as their vassals in Ifriqiya but the Zirids, governing from Kairouan, led the city to another period of great artistic, commercial and agricultural development. In 1045, the Zirids declared independence from Cairo and converted to Sunni Islam in 1045, giving allegiance to Baghdad instead of to Cairo. Therefore to punish them, the Fatimid Caliph Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah sent as  hordes of troublesome Arab tribes (Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym) to invade Ifriqiya and in 1057, they utterly destroyed Kairouan. Since then it never regained its former importance and nomadism spread in former agricultural areas. Some 1,700 years of intermittent but continual progress was undone within those 10 years. It wasn't until 13th century that the city began to grow prosperous again under Hafsids dynasty that ruled Ifriqiya, It is only under the Husainid Dynasty that Kairouan started to regain its honor throughout the Islamic world. In 1881, Kairouan was taken by the French, after which non-Muslims were allowed access to the city. Kairouan remained the Capital of Ifriqiya for five centuries.

As everywhere in southern Tunisia, you find horse drawn carts even on some roads in town.

 The immediate vicinity of our hotel

Not 5 minutes away was the old town of Kairouan surrounded by remparts, built in the 7th century. This is a plumber shop quite close to the entry into the old city.

The streets of the 7-hectare Medina of Kairouan, is another UNESCO heritage site. 

trestles in the sun on a roadside work bench

Some houses have really nice doors and metal window grilles

Some shops and stalls in the old town whose grounds are mostly inlaid with granite slabs

A cooked food stall

These are probably fried fish with all kinds of sauces and lemon to suit different palates and pancake-like bread.

An old gentleman enjoying a cigarette in front of his grocery shop

Two men chatting in front of their general store

Tunisian sweets

All kinds of sieves and baskets, big and small,colorful or plain for sale

Colorful Sieves

The famous sponge for sale: these have already been bleached

All kinds of grains and spices in no nonsense plastic tubs

freshly baked bread for sale on metal trays

An arched entrance into another part of the old town

Horse shoe arch metallic door with studs popular in Tunisia

More beans and spices for sale

Tunisian samosas

The equivalent of the Chinese "butterfly pastry": probably both learned it from the Arabs. 

This is the makroud for which Kairouan is famous. It's very popular in Tunisia, Algeria and parts of Libya. Its dough is not made with flour but with semolina and it's usually stuffed with either dates or almonds and can be oil-fried, baked in a pan or an oven,

These are probably stuffed with dates.

Cones, rather like those we find in some Hong Kong cake shops

Cheaper cakes with black stuffings: dates?

more expensive cakes with lighter color stuffings": almonds"

Another candy store

All freshly made

A mobile cart selling simple bread

Another roadside store selling a stuffed bun

I got one and ate it on the roadside. Cheap but delicious. Whilst nibbling at it, some curious school girls in uniforms after class found it so amusing that they asked that I stand in the midst of their mobile phone photos. Heaven knows how many of her friends have since looked at them.

A mobile pan cake stall: cheese, sardines, sausages or cheese

roasted nuts

Another fast food bun stall


Another general household goods store

Cheap Tunisian ladies fashion for the ordinary folks

Another store selling ladies clothes

carpet and toy shop

A roadside stall for colorful pottery and tiles

This one specializes on all kinds of cheese

Two old men playing cards on a make-shift table with a young man watching

There's a palm tree right in the middle of the street

And believe it or not, even a camel!

a dark passage through one of the archways 

locals on mobylettes and bicycles in the streets of the old town

carpets for sale

Plastic chairs for sale. Made in China?

A Tunisian woman in the old town: they don't have to cover their faces as in some other
Muslim country

The gates on the other side of the Medina

Strings of big fat dates

Another fast food shop, plenty of customers

Miscellaneous toys and souvenirs for sale

The ubiquitous mobile phone

The sun is about to set

The mosque close to our hotel

Sidi Bousaid type windows

Party masks for sale

The other city gates

Buns for sale. No, I'm not one for photos! 

Another roadside food stall: Tunisians certain like to eat. 

One of the city gates: Tunisian girls are usually quite slim. They put on weight only after marriage.

bananas, my favourite!

And other fruits too

Outside the Arab museum

One of the quieter side streets: also paved with granite blocks

Entrance to a mosque


Entrances to the famous Mosque of the Three Doors which represents the most ancient existent sculpted facade of Muslim art, showing Andalucian influence.  The intricate friezes of Kufic script above the three doors is interspersed with floral pattern and crowned with a carved cornice.  It's a UNESCO heritage site. It was founded in 866 AD by Mohammad bin Kairoun el-Maafri, a holy man from Cordoba, and it became a center for one of the Muslim religious brotherhoods that have dominated Islam in Tunisia. Its interior is closed to non-Muslims. 

Some details of the sculpted façade (from the internet)

The same kind of trellised windows I found in Sidi Bou Said

Some houses are built over the arches with a terrace fenced in with beautiful metal grilles

with Andalucian type street lamps  on the walls 

blue wooden doors inside simple marble frame

The streets are quite narrow: barely 6 feet wide

The kids love photos: two kids being shown their picture by a German tourist

Another door I came across: combination of Greek, French and Turkish design

There are mosaic patterns on the ground

Houses in blue and white

Some streets are wider than others: again with ground mosaics

A Greek column at the street column

New houses built over older ones

I was brought by a friendly Tunisian to visit the shop owned by her young daughter doing handloom carpets. He offered to show me the old fountains in the old town but I hadn't have time. So I declined his offer.

Another side street

I passed another long archway, its wall being used for shoes display

A pyramid of ready-to-bake dessert 

A beautiful Tunisian boy: his hair soft as silk

Back into the main street

A young man enjoying a water-filtered smoke

Two men chatting over a glass of mint tea and a cup of coffee

Sausages sizzling over a charcoal fire grill

upon closer inspection, not just sausages, portion of an egg plant too

Smoke from the sweet smelling incense wood

The archway leading back to the exit on the city wall back to our hotel

A pottery stall just outside our hotel

Reflections upon a puddle

From puddle to pool: this is one of the two surviving open air reservoirs ordered to be built between 734 and 741 CE by the governor of Kairoun, the Aghablid under the orders of the Caliph of Damascus to supply the city with drinking water. Originally, there were 15 of the. They are magnificent examples of the the kind of hydraulic installations during the Middle ages. They cover an area of 11.000m2 and had a capacity of 53.000m3. In the middle of the large circular basin where the reservoirs were built, there was an octagonal tower where the Emir came to rest.Today, the complex, recently enriched with new installations excavated during terracing work, has been turned into a park with facilities for visitors. This is where we were taken to see the next morning.

To be cont'd