The Barber's Mosque

Sidi Sahbi

The Barber’s Mosque, known as the Mausoleum of Sidi Sahbi, is a Tunisian zaouia located in Kairouan, outside the walls of the medina.

The monument houses the famous tomb of Abu Zamaa el-Balaoui, a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who died in battle in the year 34 of the Hegira (654 AD). Nicknamed Sidi Sahbi, he is considered the boss of the city of Kairouan.

The building, erected very probably in the 13th and 14th centuries, was entirely renovated in the 17th century by the beys of the Mouradite dynasty. It was Hammouda Pasha Bey who rebuilt the zaouïa, built the medersa and the minaret around 1662, his grandson, Mohamed Bey El Mouradi, completely redid the dome of the mausoleum, and probably the courtyard and the galleries that surround it. around 1681-1685.

At the end of the 19th century, the French writer Guy de Maupassant, who visited the building during his stay in Kairouan, described his impressions on discovering the courtyard which preceded the funerary chamber: “The large square courtyard where one arrives then it is also entirely discolored. The light shines, streams, and varnishes with fire this immense palace of enamel, where all the designs and all the colorings of oriental ceramics are illuminated under the blaze of the Saharan sky. inexpressibly delicate arabesque fantasies. It is in this fairy tale courtyard that the door of the sanctuary opens which contains the tomb of Sidi-Sahab, companion and barber of the Prophet.”

The Barber’s Mosque is a vast complex that includes several courtyards, the mausoleum itself, a medersa, a warehouse, as well as several rooms intended for the accommodation of visitors.

Access to the building is through an entrance leading to a large brick-paved porticoed courtyard. At the north-west corner of the latter stands a Hispano-Moorish type minaret, on the floor occupied by two twin bays, framed by ceramic coverings. Its top is raised with stepped merlons, unlike the Kairouan minarets with rounded merlons.

From this courtyard, one arrives at another entrance whose door is framed by white and red marble lintels in the Italianate style. Access to the mausoleum is through an angled vestibule leading to an elongated patio bordered by two porticoes with horseshoe arches resting on neo-Corinthian capitals adorned with the Ottoman crescent. This passage leads to a beautiful space covered with a dome on squinches. This is part of the tradition of Kairouan domes.

The room is remarkable for the richness of its decoration, made up of stucco panels with plant and geometric motifs in the Hispano-Moorish style (hexagons, stars, rosettes, etc.) and Turquoise (bouquets of flowers and cypresses). This domed room opens onto another courtyard surrounded by porticoes with broken horseshoe arches whose walls, covered with polychrome enamel tiles, are surmounted by sculpted stucco panels of rare finesse. This courtyard precedes the funerary chamber covered with a cupola on squinches topped on the outside by a lantern.

The Barber's Mosque in pictures

La mosquée des Trois Portes de Kairouan
La mosquée des Trois Portes de Kairouan

The Zaouia in video

The Mosque on the map

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