Outside the city walls, Kairouan, Tunisia
Hegira 248 / AD 862
Abu Ibrahim Ahmed.
The Aghlabid reservoirs, of which only two survive, were part of a group of about 15 reservoirs, located outside the city walls, which supplied the town with water. They are considered to be among the most important hydraulic works of the Muslim world. They provoked the admiration of travellers and led to the town being given the name 'city of the cisterns'. They were filled by draining rainwater as well as water from the tributaries of the wadi Merguelli, which flow in the surrounding lowlands. Its waters were harnessed by small dams and a conveyance canal which transported it to the small pool. In 350 (961), the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu'izz built an aqueduct that brought water from the Shreshira springs, located 40 km to the west of Kairouan.
These two reservoirs were built using the same method. They are constructed of rubble and surfaced with a waterproof coating. The walls are consolidated by internal and external buttresses which alternate, thus providing maximum resistance against the water pressure. These buttresses are semi-cylindrical in shaped and topped with semi-spheres, combining aesthetics with technical performance.
They are composed of three main sections:
– The small reservoir measures 17 m in diameter and is reinforced by 17 internal and 26 external buttresses. Its holding capacity is 4,000 cubic metres. It is a filtering basin which receives the untreated water and rids it of most of the debris that it carries before decanting it into the large reservoir.
– The large reservoir is circular in shape, measures 128 m in diameter and is 4.8 m deep. Its holding capacity is 57,000 cubic metres. No less than 182 buttresses were needed (118 external and 64 internal) to contain the pressure and guarantee the viability of the project, which was to store enough water for the needs of daily life in the town. A squat poly-foil pillar rises up from its centre. Formerly surmounted by a dome, it was used as a leisure pavilion.
The water travels from here into two parallel dispensing water-tanks set perpendicular to the reservoirs. They are covered with barrel vaults held up by arch-beams that rest on pillars. Six openings at the top of the vaults allow the water to be drawn.
These hydraulic structures are the most famous in the Muslim world. They were among 15 pools outside the city walls that provided water to Kairouan. The imposing majesty of these installations earned Kairouan the epithet ‘city of water tanks’ in the Middle Ages. There are two semi-cylindrical pools supplied by an ingenious system for draining rainwater and the water from a nearby depression filled by tributaries of the wadi Merguelli.
Historical sources: Ibn Khaldoun, Histoire des Berberes.
Lezine, A., Architecture de l'Ifriqiya, recherches sur les monuments Aghlabides, Paris, 1966.
Maoudoud, K., Kairouan, Tunis, 2000, pp.37–9.
Solignac,M.M., “Les installations hydrauliques de Kairouan et des steppes tunisiennes du VIIIe au XIe siecle”, t.X, Algiers, 1953, pp.187–92.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.162–3.
Jamila Binous "Aghlabid Reservoirs" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tn;Mon01;9;en
Prepared by: Jamila BinousJamila Binous
Née en 1939 à Tunis, a étudié l'histoire et la géographie à l'Université de Tunis et l'urbanisme à l'Université de Tours (France).
Mme Binous a exercé 30 ans durant autant que chercheur puis directeur à l'Association pour la Sauvegarde de la Médina de Tunis.
A été expert de l'Unesco (mission Sanaa « Ville Historique ») en 1982 ; expert national pour le projet UNDP de reconstruction des sites historiques méditerranéens ; membre du Comité International des Villes Historiques ; co-auteur de la Charte internationale des Villes Historiques (ICOMOS-UNESCO).
Consultante auprès de l'IMED pour l'étude sur le contexte législatif, la stratégie et la politique des musées en Tunisie 2002-2003.
Coordinatrice de l'exposition la femme et le seuil in Femme, culture et créativité en Tunisie – Credif - Tunis 2001.
Mme Binous a pris part à divers congrès internationaux, écrit plusieurs articles et ouvrages tels que :
- Tunis d'un monument à l'autre, Tunis, 1970
- Tunis, Tunis, 1985
- Les chefs d'œuvres de l'artisanat tunisien, Tunis 1982
- Les maisons de la Médina de Tunis, Dar Asraf édition Tunis 2002.
MWNF Working Number: TN 09
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
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