Mosque of Seven Sleepers (Chenini)

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A masjid in Chenini, Southern Tunisia, is called "masjid of the Seven Sleepers" (Masjid al-Ruqood al-Sebaa) where the sleepers are allegedly buried: in the surroundings of the masjid some uncommonly large tombs (about 4 meters long) are visible.

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In the brown, barren landscapes close to Tataouine, the brilliant white of mosques can be seen on hillsides for miles around.

The origin of the seven dormants serves to designate word for word “the people of the cave”, alluding to the sura of the same name (Quran, chapter 17, verses 9-27). It is known throughout the Muslim world. Its origin goes back to the Christian legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesian adolescents who, during the persecution of Decius, were walled alive in a cavern; They were miraculously liberated under the reign of Emperor Theodos.



Some traditions refer to the following version: The legend explains the unusual aspect of gigantic tombs located near the old troglodytic mosque: persecuted by a pagan emperor, Christians had taken refuge in Caves, so numerous in the vicinity of Chenini, the soldiers who had discovered them enclosed them. These “dormants”, who had remained alive and whose body had never ceased to grow, woke up and saw the light of day four centuries later, But the world they found was no longer the one they had known, and they converted to Islam and these giant faithful were buried in the vicinity of the mosque in these astonishing tombs whose length corresponded Toponymy, allows a curious connection with the legend of the Seven Sleepers: according to A. Louis, neighboring Roman ruins would be called “Takyanos” in which one could find that of Decius (Decianus) Emperor persecutor quoted in the legend.

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