Kahena, the Berber queen

The Kahena, with her real name Dihya or Damya, is a zenet Berber warrior queen of the Aures who fought against the Umayyads during the Islamic expansion in North Africa in the 7th century.

She had a prophetic gift and was worshiped by her people. She was one of the first feminists and warrior queens in history. Westerners compare her to Joan of Arc and Ibn Khaldoun attributed her supernatural powers.

In Arabic, Kahena means a diviner or a witch, which can be pejorative. In Greek, Kahena is taken from Karina which means to be pure. In Hebrew the word is close to Cohen which has a meaning of priest.

She defeats twice the great army of the Umayyads thanks to the contribution of the horsemen of the Banou Ifren. She will be the only woman in history to fight the Umayyad Empire. She reigned over all of Ifriqiya for five years. 

Defeated in 693 by Hassan Ibn in N’uman in the last battle against the Umayyads, she took refuge in The Amphitheater of El Jem. She is finally taken as prisoner, then beheaded in a place called Bir El Kahina. The leaders of the Umayyad army sent her head as a trophy to Caliph Abd al-Malik in Syria. 

In Tunisia, the only place that testifies to the existence of the Kahena is the amphitheater of El Djem