Name of Monument:

Sidi Sahib Zawiya and Madrasa


Kairouan (Qayrawan), Tunisia

Date of Monument:

Hegira 11th century / AD 17th century

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

Ahmed and Mustafa al-Andalusi.

Period / Dynasty:

Muradid (Ottoman)


The Bey Hammuda Pasha rebuilt the zawiya and erected the madrasa and its minaret. His grandson, the Bey Muhammad ibn Murad, completely renewed the dome of the mausoleum and probably the courtyard and its surrounding galleries.


The original mausoleum was a simple dome surrounded by a wall. On this site, the bey Hammud Pasha (1040–75 / 1631–65) built the zawiya and erected a madrasa, (1072 / 1662). Between 1092 and 1096 (1681–1685), the bey Muhammad ibn Murad renovated the dome of the mausoleum.


This cultural centre was built in memory of a companion of the Prophet, Abu Zama'a al-Balawi, who died in combat in the year AH 34 (AD 654). It comprises the following sections:
– A main door opening onto a large courtyard paved in local bricks and surrounded with porticoes used for the shelter of horses.
– A depot located to the left of the entrance which served to store provisions coming from holy habus legacies and gifts.
– Above the depot, apartments reserved for the Pasha. They were once used to accommodate the chief tax collector of the region and, later on, distinguished guests of the mausoleum.
– Built next to the depot, the madrasa is the prototype of Tunisian madrasas with its paved courtyard surrounded by porticoes with Moorish arches. On its east and west sides are the students' cells. On the south side stands the long prayer hall with only two naves. The mihrab is surmounted by a dome with fluted squinches. At the northeast corner rises an elegant minaret which is reminiscent of that of the Great Mosque at Tlemcen and the Kasbah Mosque in Tunis.
The door of the mausoleum, opposite the main entrance, is framed with red and white marble lintels in the Italian manner. The hallway has an angled entrance leading to a wide courtyard of the type commonly seen in al-Andalus. This is flanked by two porticoes whose Moorish arches, typically Kairouanese, rest on neo-Corinthian capitals with crescent moons, the emblem of the Ottomans, carved in relief. This patio leads to a hall surmounted with a dome mounted on squinches decorated with stucco panels representing the Hispano-Moorish repertoire, as well as the Turkish repertoire, (bouquets of flowers, pine trees). Finally one comes to the mausoleum and the courtyard reserved for devotions, which is surrounded by porticoes. The walls are covered with enamel polychrome tiles and the upper parts have very finely carved stucco panels. The tomb of the companion of the Prophet is furnished with a dome set on pendentives of recent decoration. Abu Zama'a, known affectionately as Sidi Sahbi and considered to be the patron of the town, enjoyed great veneration. His mausoleum is the one most visited by the Tunisians, who flock there during the Festival of Mulud to commemorate the birth of the Prophet.
Formerly, the mausoleum was the assembly point for the pilgrimage procession before the departure of the caravan to Mecca. This important event was accompanied by religious festivals and liturgical chants.

View Short Description

This cultural complex was built in memory of a companion of the Prophet, Abu Zama al-Balawi, who was buried at the site before the town was founded. This venerable individual carried some of the Prophet’s hair with him, which explains why Europeans called it the Barber’s Mosque. Abu Zama, also known as Sidi Sahib, has since been considered to be the patron of the town and is particularly venerated. His mausoleum is the most commonly visited by Tunisians, who flock there, particularly during the official Mulud celebrations marking the birth of the Prophet.

How Monument was dated:

A commemorative plaque set into the entrance porch of the madrasa mentions the date of the foundation of the zawiya, in 1072 (1662). Furthermore, a few verses of poetry on the base of the mausoleum dome in maghrebin naskhi script attribute the construction to the bey Muhammad ibn Murad.

Selected bibliography:

Maoudoud, K., Kairouan, Tunis, 2000, pp.32–6.
Marçais, G., Tunis et Kairouan, Paris, 1937, pp.68–9.
Roy, B., et Poinssot, P., Inscriptions arabes de Kairouan, vol. II, fasc. I, Paris, 1950, pp.65–76.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp. 163–5.

Citation of this web page:

Saloua Zangar "Sidi Sahib Zawiya and Madrasa" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018.;ISL;tn;Mon01;10;en

Prepared by: Saloua ZangarSaloua Zangar

Saloua Khaddar Zangar est née en 1953 à Nabeul, titulaire d'une maîtrise d'histoire de l'Université de Tunis, S. Zangar a obtenu son doctorat en histoire moderne et contemporaine à l'Université de Bordeaux III.
Spécialiste de l'histoire du mouvement national tunisien, elle a été directeur du Centre d'histoire du mouvement national de 1980 à 1982. Directeur de recherche, responsable des publications à l'Institut national du patrimoine depuis 1992, elle est nommée en mars 2006 directeur du département Coopération, programmation, formation et publications de l'INP.
Auteur de divers articles et contributions à des ouvrages sur l'histoire du monde arabo-musulman au lendemain de la Première Guerre mondiale et de la Tunisie à l'époque coloniale, elle a publié notamment La Presse française et le monde arabo-musulman en 1920 (1982), Le cap Bon passé et présent (1993), La femme tunisienne à travers les âges (1997), La femme tunisienne entre hier et aujourd'hui (2002). Elle participe également à un site Web et à un CD sur la femme tunisienne (2005).

MWNF Working Number: TN 10


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