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If you have already taken it upon yourself to venture to Monastir, there’s a very good chance that you will also be heading to the Ribat. In short, this is one of the most historical attractions in the whole of Tunisia, let alone in Monastir, and you really should be making it your aim to visit there if you find yourself in the area.

the ribat

Like a lot of historical elements of Tunisia, there is also an element of popular culture. After all, this is yet another attraction that has appeared in movies, with Jesus of Nazareth and Life of Brian being two of the most well-known examples.

Following on from the above, let’s now take a look at Monastir Ribat in-detail and show why you should be including it in your itinerary.


What is the history and architecture of Monastir Ribat?

architecture ribat monastir

Before we get into the true details of the Ribat, let’s take a look at what this term actually means. Put simply, a “Ribat” is an Islamic defensive structure. It is fort-like in its appearance, and is used to protect commercial routes. They were first seen in the 8th century.

In relation to the Monatir Ribat specifically, this is something that was built all the way back in 796. This in itself means that it’s the oldest ribat built by Arab conquerors, which is probably one of the reasons behind its popularity. This popularity is simply enhanced when one considers the fact that it is widely seen as the most preserved monument of its ilk as well.

The governor of Ifriqiya, Harthama ibn A’yan, was the person responsible for the monument all those years ago. He wanted the ribat to form as part of the coastal defense systems, to ultimately provide more protection to the Islamic empire from the North side.

The big difference with this ribat and similar ones is the fact that this one kept expanding. As anyone who might have researched Sousse will testify, this stayed very similar to its original form. The same certainly didn’t apply to Monastir Ribat, which was continuously added to.

For example, in the 11th century a Kasbah was added, while watchtowers were something that were regularly installed, with history suggesting that this occurred in the 11th, 13th, 17th and 19th centuries. The beauty about these towers isn’t merely the history and architecture that engulfs them, either. In addition, visitors are able to climb them and see terrific views over Monastir and its beach.

As well as the above, the site is very religious. There are a total of two mosques based there, with the largest of these holding historic worshiping materials that always capture the eyes of visitors. For those of you who are looking for a larger mosque, the Habib Bourguiba mosque falls into this category having been built in the 1960s.


Is The Ribat in Monastir preserved?

monastir ribat preservation

While history is something that most people appreciate, this is lost on some if most of said history is in ruins. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with Monastir Ribat.

This is something that has undergone an extensive refurbishment program, with most of this taking place in the 1960s. Ultimately, the aim of the authorties to make this the top historical attraction in Monastir – and this is something they have comfortably achieved.

In fact, not only is the site preserved, but it has also increased in size. It has almost doubled in size over the years, which has facilitated even more tourism.


Did the ribat ever come under siege?

spanish army

One of the reasons why the ribat needed to be preserved was because there were occasions where it came under siege. The 15th Century was one such occasion, with the Spanish navy attacking it to an extent which resulted in parts of it being destroyed. Of course, this wasn’t a site which could not look after itself. In its peak, over thirty cannons were based there and it was a true fortress to be reckoned with.


What do past visitors to Monastir Ribat recommend?

tips when visiting monastir

In general, the feedback from those who have visited Monastir Ribat in the past is astonishing. Many are amazed at the views which are on offer from this attraction, with most recommending that you climb one of the many towers and cast your eyes over the surrounding lands.

Many are also quick to point out that this works both ways. In other words, it’s possible to see the building from pretty much every point through Monastir, which again adds plenty of charm to it.

A lot of past visitors do come with a word of warning though; be prepared for plenty of exercise. The towers at the ribat are tall and steep to say the least, and for those who aren’t fully mobile it can be difficult to navigate around. Even for those of you who are completely happy with wandering around for hours on end, your feet will certainly feel it by the end of this excursion.


How much does it cost to get into Monastir Ribat?


Considering the expense that went into restoring the ribat, it won’t come as a surprise to read that it’s something which isn’t free to enter. At the same time, it’s hardly expensive, and you’ll be charged 7TD for the privilege of visiting. For those of you who want to take a camera (and trust us, it’s completely worthwhile) this fee increases by 1TD.

Of course, like a lot of attractions in Tunisia, if you happen to be a local this price decreases. On these occasions you will pay 5TD to enter the site.

It’s also worth pointing out that as part of this price, the attraction is very tourist-friendly. The money spent restoring this attraction has not only gone into preservation techniques, but also general tourist facilities. We’re talking about the likes of information boards to make your trip a little easier, and even toilets (which can sometimes be missing on visits to these historic monuments).

About Olivia Marsh

Olivia Marsh - Author - Professional chef and Travel enthusiast.
Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate. Chef Marsh has traveled the globe from France, Italy, Germany to China, Thailand, India, Tunisia and more.
Olivia lived in Tunisia for almost 10 years now.
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