The walled city of Kairouan is one of Islam’s most holy cities, where praising God and selling carpets are the most revered of occupations. If you haven’t been lost in any of Tunisia’s other medinas, the streets of Kairouan are sure to confound you. The crumbling, white-washed, blue- and green-edged houses, some hung with birdcages or marked by the hand of Fatima, are haunting and beautiful. It was here that Arabs established their first base when they arrived from the east in AD 670, and Kairouan became so important in the Islamic hierarchy that seven visits to this tiny place equal one visit to Mecca.
Watch out for tiresome carpet touts and people offering ‘professional guide services’, as well as those telling you of a one-day carpet festival ‘which will finish very soon’.