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Introduction
Introduction

1. Beach holidays

2. Desert and oases

3. The empty mountains

4. Carthage and Romans

5. Islamic times

6. Berber sensations





















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INTRODUCTION
Islamic times



Kairouan




Le Kef




Jerba




Mahdia




Monastir




Tunis



Tunisia has been Muslim for more than 1300 years, Christianity was replaced within few decades through a mixture of external pressure and internal pragmatism. But even in modern times, marginal traces of Christianity exit: in the south you will often see stylized fish, symbolizing Jesus Christ, painted next to entrance doors of private homes.
The centre of Islam in Tunisian is Kairouan, which has the most impressive mosque of the country, as well as the only holy well. The Bir Barouta is said to be linked with the holy well of Mecca, the Zamzam. The Great Mosque of Kairouan has what is considered the first minaret ever built. If you take a look at the Great Mosque in Sousse, built a few generations later, you will that it has no minaret.
While the Great Mosque of Kairouan is clearly the most important Islamic sight of Tunisia, the mountain town of Le Kef has a structure which is favoured by many: the shrine of Sidi Bou Makhlouf. This small structure is very often used for posters and book jackets.
A car or a bike will allow you to explore Jerba's mosques. These are quite fascinating in their design, which differs from what you see in the rest of Tunisia: Minarets are often not towers. The background for this, is Jerba being the home to the remaining community of Ibadi Muslims, the third sect of Islam. Visitors to Jerba can within a day excursion, explore another type of Islamic architecture, which is found in in particular in the mountain villages of Chenini and Douiret. Organic villages climb mountain side, with a sparcling white mosque in their midst.
Tunisia started off as a Shi'i country. One of the central dynasties of Egypt emerged from Tunisia; the Fatimids. From Mahdia, they launched the campaign that made them the leading dynasty of the Muslim world, a dynasty often far stronger than the caliphate of Baghdad. The Fatimids emerged from a monastic form of Islam, with devoted, young and militant Muslims joining communities around fortresses, ribats, along the coast, where they followed ascetic lifestyles with a sword in one hand. Of their strongholds, the ones in Monastir and Sousse stand out and are impressive monuments that should not be missed. The ribat of Monastir, you might recognize: It was used as extensively for Monty Python's Life of Brian.
The Zitouna Mosque of Tunis is one the oldest mosques of Tunisia, and home of one of the world's oldest universities. For 1000 years it had no minaret, this was added first in the 19th century.
Popular Islam exists all across the nation, but it is losing ground in the modern world. Moderates lose interest in local cults, and conservatives are attracted by the simplicity of Islamist propaganda. Among the few centres where popular, local cults are still alive is Nefta, with its several domes linked to holy men that may or may not have lived. In some cases these cults are continuations of old religions. Haddej is another place where white cult centres are spread around the landscape.




By Tore Kjeilen