Ribat in the city of Monastir is the most ancient Islamic fortress-monastery not only in Tunisia, but throughout the Maghreb. In addition, this is the largest rebate in North Africa, which has passed several additions and rebuilds.
On his example, it is interesting to see how evolved fortification art over the past 1200 years. In this important difference between Monastir's rebound from Sous's rib , which quickly lost its military functions, was not completed and remained the same as 1000 years ago.
And even without going into the details of the defense plan of the structure, ordinary tourists are interested in wandering around the fortress walls, climbing the watch tower and looking at the museum.
What is a rebate, and what is it remarkable about in Monastir
Ribat is an Islamic fortress-monastery where soldiers-monks lived and carried out military service, they were called "murabituns". They were engaged only in prayer, spiritual practice and war. It was believed that a life-long mourabiton was guaranteed to enter Paradise.
It is the ribate that gave the name to the city of Monastir, because from Greek "monastir" is translated as "monastery". The name was given to Byzantine (Greeks) sailors, who often appeared on the coast of Tunisia. The Greeks sailed with completely non-peaceful goals, they knew about the ribat on their sad experience.
At the end of the 8th century, the fifth caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, Harun Al-Rashid, planned to build a chain of fortresses along the coast of Ifrikia (North Africa) to protect young Arab cities and pilgrims from Byzantine raids. He ordered a whole chain of rebates to be built all along the coast, and in part his plan was implemented by local governors.
About the conquest of Tunisia by the Arabs and those troubled times, read in detail in our article " The History of Tunisia ".
The word "ribat" translates as "a place where you can hide." The ribads were not only the places of service of the monks of the Mirabituns, but also a place where the pilgrims who sheltered and rested the following to Mecca. They were also the centers for spreading Islam, educational institutions.
Already in the 9-10th centuries, the ribbons lost their military functions and remained cultural centers. But not Monastir's rebound, which served coastal defense up until the 20th century. As a result of several rearrangements and additions, it has grown so much that now it can get lost.
In each rybat there was a mosque, where mirabituns and pilgrims could pray. In Monastir's Rebate, two mosques are unique in the Maghrib.
How to get there
Ribat is located in the central part of the city of Monastir. The resort area Skanes , where the beach hotels are located, is far away, have to go by taxi. The distance from the hotels is from 4 to 15 kilometers, the price of the trip by the meter is from 4 to 9 dinars.
For the current exchange rate for Tunisia, see the article " Tunisian Dinar ", and look for taxi fares in the article " Taxi in Tunisia ".
Vacationers at the resorts of El Kantaoui , Sousse and Mahdia can come to Monastir by train. It's fast and inexpensive, read our article " Metro Sahel ".
Holidaymakers in other resorts in Tunisia, we do not advise going to Monastir on their own - expensive and tedious. It is more convenient to go on a sightseeing tour of Monastir.
How to get to the Ribata from the railway station
See the map next to the map and the route on it, click on the map to zoom in on the whole screen.
From the building of the station, go forward and to the left, you will come to the walls of the medina of the city of Monastir and the gate to the medina (the gate of Bab al-Kouka). Enter the gates and follow straight on Rue de l'independence (Independence Street).
Take into account that the street is narrow and it is transported by motor vehicles. Be extremely vigilant, because with the observance of SDA in Tunisia, there are big problems, as we discussed in detail in the article " Dangers in Tunisia ".
Follow the street 500 meters and go to a large square, ahead you will see the fortress and to the right of the Great Mosque building. The entrance is from the side of the Great Mosque.
Entrance ticket - 7 Tunisian dinars. Children under 6 years - free of charge.
Permission for photo shooting is 1 dinar.
Photo tickets are on the left, click on the photo to enlarge.
In the winter season (from 16.09 to 30.04) - from 8:30 to 17-00.
In the summer season (from 1.05 to 15.09) - from 8:30 to 18:00.
Ribat is not a religious institution, there is no dress code here.
A bit of history
Ribat in Monastir was built in 796-797. The year 181 for the Islamic calendar (796 for the Gregorian) is called a few chronicles, referring to a certain stone tablet with the inscription. Presumably, now this plate has worn off.
Ribat was built by the order of Harfam ibn-Ayyan - governor of Tunisia in the Abbasid caliphate. The architect is unknown. At first it was a classic square-shaped rebate with bastions and one Watchtower in the corners.
Even then Monastir's rebound was greater than other similar structures. In the early 10th century, the geographer, chronicler and traveler Ibn-Khavkal described it as the largest in Efricia.
The large completion took place in the Fatimid era in 966. It was made by Abu Al-Qasim ibn-Tammam, as evidenced by the stone tablet, which is now kept in the Louvre in Paris. From the south and west, buildings and walls were built. There was a "women's ribate" and a new entrance from the side of the Great Mosque, the main gate was rebuilt.
In the 11th century, the historian and geographer Al-Bakri of Andalusia describes the structure as follows: "A very high and solid fortress. On the first floor, above the ground there is a mosque, where there are sheikhs, full of virtues and virtues that guide the local community. "
As can be seen from the record, in the 11th century Monastir's rebound did not lose any military, or religious, or cultural significance.
From 11 to 19 centuries the fortress is constantly being completed and reconstructed. There is a plaque, the inscription on which says that in 1424 the area of the building reached 4200 sq.m. The walls had to be modified so that artillery cannons could be placed on them. New bastions were added.
In 1534, the ribbon was never taken by the Spaniards, who captured the entire Tunisian coast. Thanks to good protection, the inhabitants of Monastir remained independent. However, in 1554 Monastir was captured by the Turks.
Bays Hussein II carried out large-scale works in 1824-1835. However, the strengthening of defense did not help the Bey, in 1881 the whole of Tunisia falls under the French protectorate. After that, the rebate was no longer used for military and religious purposes, and after independence it became an open-air museum.
What to watch
From the outside of the fortress you can see many interesting things. Near one of the walls you can see and touch the real cannon. It is interesting to see special rays from the sea - an obstacle to landing.
And of course, it is worth looking at the high and massive walls and towers of the ribat. From the northern and eastern sides, you can see bastions where artillery used to be.
See a small selection of photos below, click to enlarge.
Inside lead two entrances.
The first entrance from the Habib Bourguiba mosque . Above the entrance there is a sign with the inscription "Musee", once through it one could enter the museum without visiting the fortress itself. Now this entrance is closed.
The second entrance is from the side of the Great Mosque of Monastir. These gates are easily recognized by the antique arches on both sides ( see photo ). Come in here and buy tickets. If necessary, the toilet is next to the ticket office ( see photo ).
You will enter the courtyard of the main and oldest part of the ribat. This yard is easy to recognize by a tree trimmed in a rectangular shape. Look around and see the result of the latest rebuilding - a large ramp for lifting artillery guns ( see photo ). If you look closely, you will notice that the ribat consists of an inner old part and new outer walls - a fortress inside the fortress.
A few photos below, click on the photo to enlarge.
Cells and rooms
Attention! On 18 and 19 October 2013, in the area of Monastir, two small earthquakes occurred 4 and 3.6 on the Richter scale. These weak enough earth tremors could damage the walls. From this it can be concluded that the designs are now quite fragile.
Be careful, look under your feet and do not lean on the building elements. Especially watch carefully for the children, many stairs are shaky and completely without rails!
On the south side on the first floor there is a large hall, once there was a prayer hall, then it became a female part of the ribat. The southern extension and the female part date back to the year 966.
Inside you can find two prayer halls and a huge number of small rooms. They were used as cells for muratituns, warehouses and living quarters for pilgrims.
See several photos below, click on the photo to enlarge.
Perhaps, this is the most interesting for tourists. From the watch tower there are magnificent views, almost all of Monastir can be seen.
Upward there are 100 steps, the passage is very narrow, it is difficult for even the slender to disperse into two ( see photo ). At the top on the site is a low edge, be extremely careful, especially with children.
An interesting point is that the tower is inside the rebate. Once it came out with its wall outside, but then the fortress expanded, and the tower was inside.
Views from the tower, see the photo below, click to enlarge.
The museum is easy to find, it is on the second floor in the main yard. Above the door is a signboard with a black Arabic script ( see photo ).
The Monastir's Ribat Museum boasts very interesting exhibits. "Pearl" Museum are the remains of the legendary red gates of the Grand Mosque of Kairouan. You will recognize them without difficulty.
The longest tourists stay on the stand with a collection of silver and gold coins. The sundial and the astrolabe are also interesting. In the 8-10 centuries, Arabs were world leaders in science, and proof of this - the advanced tools of the time that are exhibited in the museum.
The most important exhibits of the museum are on the photo below, click to enlarge.
The museum has a rich collection of ceramics from the Roman and even the Punic period to the late Arabian. You can clearly see the evolution of the pottery business up to modern ceramics in Tunisia .
An extremely curious exhibit is the ancient glass nipples for babies. In those days, the nipples were made of glass.
Still very interesting exhibits are the ancient Qur'an sheets and a stand for reading. The most ancient exhibits are the funeral steles of the Roman period.
A few photos of interesting exhibits look at the photo below, click to enlarge.
The museum was created on August 5, 1958, that is, immediately after the declaration of independence of Tunisia.
The museum of tourists is a little embarrassed that the description of most of the exhibits is only in Arabic, and on the explanatory plates there is no dating of objects. However, the positive impression of the museum does not spoil it.
Have a nice tour of Monastir, and read our interesting articles about the holiday in Tunisia ( links below ).