An hour drive from Sousse, discover Kairouan "the city of 50 mosques" . The spiritual home of all Tunisians, the city itself rises like a dream of ocher and tawny beige, serene in its 13 centuries of Islamic culture, authentic and proud of the wondrous beauty of its mosques, the symphony of its columns and arches, the exquisite delicacy of the stone work.
The towering and sober dignity of the Great Mosque seems to embody the spirituality that has inspired artists and poets from its creation until the present day. Dating from the 9th century its austere beauty dominates the entire city. Inside, visitors can wonder at the exquisite elegance of the wood carved doors and stucco arabesques, as well as the forest of columns (400) of the prayer room with their Phoenician, Roman and Arabic capitals.
The medina, with its imposing walls and monumental gates encloses lovely mosques, an ancient well and hundreds of shops where world famous Kairouan carpets of pure wool are woven and sold and where the visitor can admire the handicrafts of artisans in copper, leather, and in the traditional jebba and burnous, ornate and richly adorned or elegantly natural .
The artisanat Center provides an excellent exhibit on carpets and carpet weaving and visitors who may be thinking of buying a carpet are welcome to consult the Tunisian National Handicrafts Organization or Artisanat ,as it is familiarly called, for advice on quality, prices, styles, care and shipping their carpet home. As Kairouan is the oldest and most renowned carpet center in Tunisia, the selection is enormous .
Undoubtedly the hand knotted pile carpet reigns supreme with the typical design of Kairouan, Alloucha, being of natural wool colors with a large border of parallel stripes of geometric patterns and a central lozenge with a floral design. However, the creativity and artistry of the weavers embroiders this basic scheme with a infinite variety of patterns and colors creating a masterpiece of harmony and elegance. Carpets are graded by their fineness ,the number of knots in a square meter ,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 meter. Kairouan also produces a woven carpet the margoum, using mainly geometric Berber designs, lighter in weight and in a multitude of colors. Tunisian craftsmen have explored ,with outstanding success, a blending of traditional Tunisian patterns with modern designs creating a new line of knotted carpets to satisfy more modern tastes.
Justly proud of the excellence of its carpets Tunisia has established a strict quality control and only those that satisfy the high standards are given the coveted label with the seal of the Tunisian Republic and information on the date, size, fineness, of the carpet. It is your guarantee of excellence. Unless you are an experienced carpet buyer, or have purchased an antique carpet, best rely on this label of quality.
Kairouan is also noted for its brasswork, intricately designed trays, vases and bowels, embossed or engraved as well as leatherwork ranging from camel saddles to fine slippers.