Museum of Islamic Art

Kairouan, Tunisia

The Museum of Islamic Art is housed in a former presidential palace which was later converted into a cultural and educational venue on November 14, 1986. It contains four rooms, distributed on the ground and upper floors. The first floor contains;

- The ceramics room which houses objects dating to the Aghlabid (800-909CE), Fatimid (909-1171CE) and Hafsid periods (1229-1574CE). The Aghlabid era ceramics are characterised by their use of metallic glazes, archaic Kufic calligraphy and stylised zoomorphic and anthropomorphic scenes. The space is also enriched with a collection of blue and white Iznik ceramic tiles.

- The hall of the Great Mosque which houses architectural elements belonging to the central religious monument of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (49AH/ 670CE). The room contains friezes decorated with floral and epigraphic motifs that would have formed part of the Mosque’s roof. The space also contains a reconstruction of the mosque’s mihrab, the door of its maqsura and a model of the mosque.

- The lapidary registration room houses varying funerary steles from the Kairouan cemetery. Additionally, it hosts the inscription of the foundation of the tenth century city and early capital of the Fatimid Caliphate, the nearby site of Sabra al-Mansuriya (946-972CE). This inscription is characterised by its unique writing style and imposing dimensions.

- The Sabra al-Mansuriya Hall, which contains exhumed objects of the excavation of Sabra. Among these include a casting furnace which was one of the earliest objects found on the site.

The upper floor showcases important collections of coins and jewellery, covering the economic history of Ifriqiya through more than six centuries of Islamic rule. These include coins found throughout the Aghlabid, Fatimid, Hafsid and Ottoman periods. The glass room contains a cupola and showcases important glass objects from the archaeological site of Sabra, most notably the lantern of the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu’izz (953-975 CE). The manuscript room contains a rich collection of parchment Qur’an sheets belonging to the library of the Grand Mosque of Kairouan, including the famous 10th century ‘blue parchment’ The collection is especially important in showcasing the evolution of Arabic writing and calligraphy from the 9th to the 19th centuries CE.

Such a permanent exhibition helps to read the history of the city of Kairouan — a story that the Sabra al-Mansuriya Hall, the lapidary registration room and the room of the Great Mosque of Kairouan will help to better understand.

Musée des arts islamiques
T +216 77 228126
F +216 77 228469

Lotfi Abd Eljaoued

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