One of the oldest mosques of Arab world is the Mosque of Uqba bin Nafe, situated in the ancient town of Kairouan in Tunisia. This remarkable monument is considered as the largest worship place for Muslims in North Africa. It covers an area of 9,000 square meters and UNESCO has also enlisted it as a monument of World Heritage. The Mosque of Uqba was constructed in 670 AD by Uqba Bin Nafe who was one of the companions of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and he was also involved in the Muslim victories in this region. He was a military General and founder of Kairouan city as a military base.
The mosque was also known as the famous institute not only for the Quranic learning but also for the secular studies and attracted a large number of pupils. The Mosque of Uqba is a massive structure of a big prayer hall, large courtyard and a huge minaret. This is surely a perfect example of Islamic architecture of that time.
The circumferential walls of the whole area of the mosque are made of bricks. Though exterior view of the mosque does not carry the aesthetic attraction as it consists of a series of rough brick braces fixed for strengthening the outer walls firmly. The reason could be the cattle keep on the all sides of the outer walls. However the inner portions of the mosques are decorated with simple but impressive Islamic art. The big minaret of the mosque is square shaped and consisting of big walls and a staircase. Historians believe that the idea for its erection was derived from the Roman lighthouse of Salakta.
The prayer hall of The Mosque of Uqba is an Arabic-type hypostyle hall in which all the installed columns were brought from Roman buildings. It is covered with a wide and high ceiling. The courtyard of the mosque is having six entrances, facing northeast and southwest. The entry to the prayer hall is also from the courtyard, along with two sheltered doorways from the side. The arch is located right in the center of the Qibla wall and it was built by Abu Ibrahim Ahmed. Its unique marble work is worth seen as most of the tiles were brought from Mesopotamia.
The Uqba Mosque is deemed to be the key architecture in the North African region as it set a new trend for construction in this area. It provided the base for evolving the orthodox style of building in Africa.