The Aghlabid basins, a Tunisian historical monument nestled in Kairouan, unveil a remarkable chapter of engineering brilliance and historical significance. Dating back to the early 9th century, these basins stand as a testament to the prowess of hydraulic engineering in the Muslim world’s annals..

Ingenious Creation:

Constructed during the reign of Aghlabid sovereign Abu Ibrahim Ahmed Ibn Mohamed Ibn Al Aghlab (856-863) around 860-862, these basins were part of an array of extramural water reservoirs designed to cater to the city’s water needs. The magnitude and innovation of this achievement earned Kairouan the epithet of the “city of cisterns.”

Sourcing Water:

Initially, the basins relied on an ingenious drainage system that channeled rainwater and the tributaries of the Merguellil wadi via small dams. Subsequently, an aqueduct constructed by Fatimid sovereign Al-Muizz li-Dîn Allah (around 961) facilitated the supply of water from the Cherichira sources, situated 40 kilometers away.

Architectural Marvel:

Spanning an area of 11,000 m2, the basins consist of a small settling basin, a substantial water storage basin, and two water cisterns. Their combined capacity totals an astounding 68,800 m3. The small basin, with its 17-sided polygonal structure, serves as a settling area for water purification before it flows into the larger basin.

Monumental Design:

The larger basin, a polygon with 64 sides and measuring 129.67 meters in diameter and 4.8 meters in depth, showcases remarkable engineering. A total of 182 buttresses – 118 external and 64 internal – fortify the basin’s walls to withstand water pressure. Adjacent water cisterns, each with a capacity of 917 m3, stand perpendicular to the basins and are adorned with barrel vaults.

Beyond Utility:

Initially intended to supply water to Kairouan’s inhabitants, the basins occasionally served as a leisure destination for Aghlabid rulers, notably during the reign of Ziadet Allah III. In the heart of the larger basin, a multi-lobed pillar once crowned with a kiosk adds an element of architectural splendor.

Aesthetic Allure:

The Aghlabid basins captivate not only with their utility but also their aesthetic appeal. Marrying sobriety with grandeur, this hydraulic wonder remains a symbol of engineering excellence and historical fascination.