Buoyed by our early morning visit to the Medina, we were excited to see what the day held out for us. As would be the norm, our driver/guide Ben was perfectly on time. This morning's agenda included a visit to The Mosque of Uqba, otherwise known as the Great Mosque. Considered to be the holiest Islamic site in North Africa and the fourth most holy in Islam, it is both impressive, yet quite understated at the same time. The walls and buttresses are quite imposing.
While we waited for someone to open the mosque up for us, I noticed that some of the buttresses were strangely bent and none of them really matched. Ben told us that many of these were brought from other sites....roman ruins and places like El Djem.
There's an understated grandness to the place. The courtyard look huge in the early morning sun and the minaret soaring over a hundred feet over the mosque.
On the South end, the dome of the portico catches your eye.
The mosque styles here are totally different from what we had got used to seeing in Turkey. But they are no less beautiful.
Since we're not muslim, we aren't allowed into the prayer room. But we were able to view it from the doorway.
Notice the wood topping the pillars. That's because they are of different sizes. These were brought here from places like Carthage and the soon to be seen in an upcoming post, Sbeitla.
As we left the mosque, Ben introduced us to a nice young man who would be our guide through the Medina. We really enjoyed this.....unlike the very touristy.....or to say it like Ben does, "touristic", the medina in Kairouan seemed to be a very functional medina. The winding roads, some of which were fairly wide, housed a number of homes and mosques. There seemed to be quite a few families living here.
We passed many fruit and vegetable stands along the way.
Along the way little details were pointed out to us. Like the "Hand of Fatima" on the doors. You can tell how many families lived in back of these doors by the number of "hands" on the door.
We were also pointed to the different door knockers on each door. Each was indicated for different family members. You could tell who was at the front door based on the knock.
We got to sample some Berber bread.....
During our breakfast in the hotel and earlier the previous day the Missus sampled the semolina based confection called Makroud. Stuffed with a date mixture and drenched in honey, this eggless confection can keep for months. The Missus and I decided that makroud just might make it through our trip, so we decided to get some. Instead of taking us to one of the bakeries along the front of the medina, we were lead to a tiny little shop down one of the alleyways of the medina. In it, a gentleman made makroud by hand, the old fashioned way....probably for decades.
We watched him roll out and fold the confection with an economy of motion.
We didn't realize that once formed the makroud is actually deep fried then drenched in honey.
While our makroud was being made we were taken Dar Hassine Allani an example of a 18th century house in the medina. This was actually quite interesting and fun.
I really enjoyed ducking down the tiny "rabbit hole" of the stairway to the food cellar. The temperature here remains very stable, which helps with the storage of the olive oil and honey.
We were treated to mint tea and makroud on the roof of the museum.
The view wasn't too shabby either.....
There was one last stop before picking our makroudup. We were led up a wide stairway to this contraption.
This is a camel driven "Noria" a water wheel. we were told that if we came back a few hours later, they would be a camel up here working the water wheelof the Bir Barrouta, a holy water well.
A few minutes later we wound our way back to pick up our makroud....which the folks at work actually enjoyed.....almost a month later!