The people of Tunis turned to the Sanhajian kingdom [Algeria] of Banu Hammad in AH 445 / AD 1054 to counter the anarchy and insecurity that beset the town, disseminated by a chieftain named Abu al-Ghaith. A new page in the history of the town then began with the foundation of the first royal dynasty of Tunis, under the authority of the Hammadid emissary ‘Abd al-Haq ibn Khurasan.
The peaceful relationship that the Khurasanid leaders were able to foster with the Christian West made Tunis a prosperous city, in particular as a result of trade with the Normans. But faced with the ascendancy of the Normans following their reconquest of Sicily in 463 / 1071, and the internal risk posed by hordes of nomads who travelled the countryside and threatened the towns, the Khurasanids withdrew to their city and prepared new defences. They were unable to repel the Almohad attack that ended their reign in 553 / 1159.
Some of Tunis’ most beautiful buildings in its northern quarters are originally attributable to the Khurasanid princes, as it was in this upper part of Tunis, within the city walls, that they established their royal city. They are still remembered today in the form of a street that bears their name and evokes the past glory of the Khurasanid principality, linking the two most important buildings of the royal city, which appears to have extended to the south of the town.
The monuments that have survived to this day, bearing witness to prolific architectural activity, include:
• The mosque of the Qsar, built in the Fatimid tradition with a beautiful prayer room with groined vaults and a mihrab (prayer niche), typical of the style of that time.
• The Banu Khurasan Necropolis, which houses the tombs of the Khurasan dynasty and is noteworthy for its elegant domed pavilion decorated with a historical inscription.
The Khurasanids are also credited with a royal palace that probably stood on the site now occupied by the Dar Husayn, which rises just a short distance from their mosque.