The pools are large expanses of water to the north of Kairouan, outside the medina wall in front of the Tunis Gate. They were built in the 9thC by the Aghlabid Dynasty who made Kairouan their capital. Unlike other major towns of the time that lay on or near rivers, or near abundant sources of water, the supply of drinking water in Kairouan was a source of constant concern. Thanks to the ingeniousness of the hydraulic engineers of the time, the problems were partially solved by the construction of several installations, the most significant of which are the pools.
Water was brought by an aqueduct from Djebel Cherichera, 36km away. 16 pools were built to store water which entered a smaller settling basin before flowing into the larger pools. In the centre of the large pool is the base of a pavilion in which the Aghlabid rulers used to relax.
They ensured that even during times of drought, fields around Kairouan could supply enough grain and water for the town. Unfortunately the pools were also a major health risk as breeding grounds for mosquitos.
There is free access to the pools through the western gate next to the children’s play area/funfair with a small train, dodgem cars, cafes etc.
The best view of the pools is from the top of the tower at the APPC centre. There is a small ticket office where a joint ticket can be bought for all the Kairouan attractions. There is a small gift shop by entrance and Tunisian cafe on first floor with staff outside exhorting everyone to go inside. It is a steep climb up the stairs to the top of the building for views over the pools. The stairs are fairly narrow and not pleasant if going the opposite way to a bus load of people so try and time your visit first thing in the morning before the coaches arrive, or afternoon when they have all moved on. From the top there are views down onto four of the Pools. There is no access to the pools from here.
Interesting to see, especially as they are included in the ticket price for all the Kairouan attractions.