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Sometime between the second half of the 7th century and the early part of the 8th century, Arab Muslim conquest occurred in the region. They founded the first Islamic city in Northwest Africa, Kairouan. It was there in 670 AD that the Mosque of Uqba, or the Great Mosque of Kairouan, was constructed. This mosque is the oldest and most prestigious sanctuary in the Muslim West with the oldest standing minaret in the world; it is also considered a masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture.

Tunis was taken in 695, re-taken by the Byzantine Eastern Romans in 697, but lost permanently in 698. The transition from a Latin-speaking Christian Berber society to a Muslim and mostly Arabic-speaking society took over 400 years (the equivalent process in Egypt and the Fertile Crescent took 600 years) and resulted in the final disappearance of Christianity and Latin in the 12th or 13th centuries. The majority of the population were not Muslim until quite late in the 9th century; a vast majority were during the 10th. Also, some Tunisian Christians emigrated; some richer members of society did so after the conquest in 698 and others were welcomed by Norman rulers to Sicily or Italy in the 11th and 12th centuries – the logical destination because of the 1200 year close connection between the two regions.

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Uqba ibn Nafi led the Umayyad conquest of Tunisia in the late 7th century

The Arab governors of Tunis founded the Aghlabid dynasty, which ruled Tunisia, Tripolitania and eastern Algeria from 800 to 909. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule when extensive systems were constructed to supply towns with water for household use and irrigation that promoted agriculture (especially olive production). This prosperity permitted luxurious court life and was marked by the construction of new palace cities such as al-Abassiya (809) and Raqadda (877).

After conquering Cairo, the Fatimids abandoned Tunisia and parts of Eastern Algeria to the local Zirids (972–1148). Zirid Tunisia flourished in many areas: agriculture, industry, trade, and religious and secular learning. Management by the later Zirid emirs was neglectful though, and political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and agriculture.

The depredation of the Tunisian campaigns by the Banu Hilal, a warlike Arab Bedouin tribe encouraged by the Fatimids of Egypt to seize Northwest Africa, sent the region’s rural and urban economic life into further decline. Consequently, the region underwent rapid urbanization as famines depopulated the countryside and industry shifted from agriculture to manufactures. The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.

The main Tunisian cities were conquered by the Normans of Sicily under the Kingdom of Africa in the 12th century, but following the conquest of Tunisia in 1159–1160 by the Almohads the Normans were evacuated to Sicily. Communities of Tunisian Christians would still exist in Nefzaoua up to the 14th century. The Almohads initially ruled over Tunisia through a governor, usually a near relative of the Caliph. Despite the prestige of the new masters, the country was still unruly, with continuous rioting and fighting between the townsfolk and wandering Arabs and Turks, the latter being subjects of the Muslim Armenian adventurer Karakush. Also, Tunisia was occupied by Ayyubids between 1182 and 1183 and again between 1184 and 1187.

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