The underground mosque of Sedouikech
The Underground Mosque of Sedouikech is one of the curiosities of the island of Djerba that attracts attention. Between Guellala and the Roman road, not far from the village of Sedouikech is a mysterious mosque under the ground. If you are not careful it goes almost unnoticed, surrounded by olive trees. Only two domes are visible at ground level. Moreover, his name explains his situation well: “Jemaâ Louta”. Restored by the Heritage Institute in 1990, this mysterious mosque dates from the 12th or 13th century, when the Ibadites took refuge to practice their worship.
You have to leave Sedouikech in the direction of El Kantara and there, a few kilometers away, on the right, provided you are attentive, you can make out a white dome in a field of olive trees. It goes almost unnoticed. Restored in 1990, it dates from the 12th or 13th century and it is said that it served as a refuge for the Ibadis to practice their worship.
Underground mosques, dug into the ground, are rare. These are the mosques below called “louta”. They could be secret places of prayer to escape persecution, but in Djerba the Ibadis resisted attacks thanks to the many fortified mosques. So perhaps it is only a question of the continuity of the ancient Berber cults of the caves – residence of the deities – or quite simply the obvious search for a little freshness like the oil mills or the weaving workshops. Historians are divided on the subject.
From the outside, a small low stone wall surrounds the mosque and only the cupolas and the doorless entrance emerge. Also to enter it it is essential to bend down – watch your head – and go down a steep and narrow staircase which leads to the only room which has two domes and two mihrabs, simple projections in an arc. The presence of several mihrabs is common among the Ibadis. A mosque without water is unthinkable, so right next to it a huge fesguia to collect rainwater can supply a well.
The history of this place of worship used by the Ibadites is much more distant. What attracts attention apart from being underground is the fact that once arriving inside through a very narrow staircase we find two mihrabs. The explanation lies in the fact that before being a mosque, this building was a Christian church. The fact of seeing two mihrabs is explained by the fact that before baptism was done only once a year, on the occasion of Easter, so the space inside was shared between baptized and unbaptized, with a mihrab for each category.
Today the place is no longer used as a place of worship, it can be visited and deserves to be better preserved given its uniqueness.