The Sousse Ribat is one of a few similar buidings built along the coast to protect Moslem lands from Christian invasion.
It was built at the end of the 7th century, work started in AD 787 and was completed in AD 821. A watch tower was added by Emir Ziyadet Allah I of the Aghlabid dynasty in 821. The Ribat was built to stop christians from invading from Italy which is only about 80 KM away over the sea.
The Ribat is 30 metres square and was built to house 50 men. It was restored in 1722 and turned into a koranic school It was again restored in the 1950's
I liked the Ribat very much and found it remarkably atmospheric (perhaps because it was empty except for me).
You can buy tickets from the kiosk opposite the Great Mosque, or from the entrance to the Ribat itself. You'll need to pay extra to take photos (1 dinar in July 2010).
Dating from 821, the Ribat served as both a defensive post and lookout for a special group of what might be termed 'warrior religious'. When not at the military duties these men lived, studied and prayed within the ribat (the only communal room is the prayer hall). Small cells surround and open onto the central courtyard, one of which holds a well (still functioning, I think, judging by the modern rope).
The entrance to the ribat has several rather impressive Roman columns and capitals, and one of the cells also held random segments and chunks of inscribed stone (the latter not Roman).
Sousse ribat was part of a chain which allowed messages to travel from Egypt to Morocco overnight.......a pretty impressive feat.
There are excellent views across the medina and towards the sea from its upper floors. Well worth visiting.
The Ribat at Sousse is one of a series of fortified monasteries built along the North African coast as a defence against the threat of invading Christians. It is built over two levels opening onto a courtyard bordered with arcaded porticos and impressively thick outer walls which are over 13m high. Climbing to the top of the 27m high watchtower gives a great view over the town but you’ll need a head for heights. The construction dates back to AD 821 though there have been two periods of reconstruction work since.
Entrance to the Ribat is 4 dinars and a photography permit is 1 dinar.
The 27m/89ft high Nador (circular watch-tower) offers excellent views over the Medina and the harbour plus the newer city area to the north. The tower was added to the Ribat in 821 AD and features a 76-step spiral staircase inside.
Northwest of the Great Mosque in Sousse rises the tower of the Ribat, a conspicuous landmark in the town and one of the finest examples of Islamic religious architecture in Tunisia. This was one of a chain of fortified monasteries built by the Aghlabids along the coasts of Tunisia around the 8th century AD, only a few of which have been preserved. The ribats were occupied by warrior monks, fighters in the "holy war", who in times of peace devoted themselves to their religious duties and worked for the propagation of the faith in the interior of the country. In times of danger the ribats offered the population protection from enemy attack and served as bases for offensive and defensive action against the enemy. It has been suggested that these Muslim warrior monks provided a model which was followed in the later Christian knightly orders.
With the construction of the Kasbah at the southwest corner of the Medina the Ribat lost its military significance, and from the 11th century it gradually fell into a state of disrepair. Large-scale restoration work was carried out when it was converted into a medersa (Koranic school) in 1722. It was again thoroughly restored in the 1950s, and now ranks, with the Ribat of Monastir, as one of the best preserved in Tunisia.
The Ribat is believed to have been built about 787 on an almost exactly square ground-plan measuring 38m/125ft each way. Its 13.5m/44ft high outer walls are reinforced by four corner towers and three other towers along the sides. At the southeast corner of the Ribat stands the Nador, a 27m/89ft high circular watch-tower, slightly tapering towards the top, which was added in 821. From the top there are fine views of the Medina and the Harbour. The only entrance to the Ribat, a rectangular gatehouse, is on the south side. The arched gateway features two Roman columns with Byzantine imposts. More photo's can be found in one of my travelogues.
Admission: TD3 plus TD1 for camera.
After the mosque we went to the Ribat. This is probably the most famous and the most impressive sight in Sousse. Once again we had to pay to enter and we had to pay an extra Dinar to take pictures. It's a very beautiful building and it was nice sitting in the sun just soaking up its atmosphere.
The tower in the north east corner is the highlight. From the top there are great views over the medina. You don't realise just how big the medina is when you are walking around in it but from above you get a much better idea of its layout
The oldest monument in Sousse, the Ribat, was built in the last quarter of the 8th century by the Abbasid governor Yassid ibn Hatim al-Muhallabi and was a part of the coastal fortification system built by Muslims in 8th-9th centuries.
The Ribat had many functions:
1) to warn of any approaching Byzantine fleet
2) to propagate the Orthodox Islam
3) a ransom centre for captives of wars and privatisation
4) postal system
5) to welcome the traders and travellers when they come back from their journey
6) an important agricultural centre.
The Ribat was rebuilt several times during the centuries but the original idea was kept. It has an almost square shape with towers in the corners with one exception - there is a watch-tower in the south-west corner, added in 821. In 1722 it was turned into a madrasa (i.e. religious college) propagating the orthodox Islam.
Sousse's ribat (fortified Islamic monastery) is the oldest building in the medina.
Built in the 8th and 9th centuries, the ribat is an essentially Byzantine structure, but it is worth noting the Roman ruins that were used in the actual building of the place... especially the heterogenous columns at the entrance. The highlight for us was undoubtedly the watchtower (Nador), which we climbed to get excellent views of the courtyard and the rest of Sousse.
The ribat opens every day at 8 a.m. and closes 7 p.m. in summer and 5:30 p.m. in winter.
One of the touristic 'things' you can do in Sousse is a visit to the Ribat. When climbing the tower you get magnificent views over the city. The tower is quite small, so hopefully you do not find people going up when you are going down, make sure you do not have claustrophobia!
As always you have to pay for a photo ticket before you make pictures!!
The 8th century Ribat is a fortress which was part of a chain of similar coastal buildings whose purpose was to defend the country from foreign invaders. The word 'ribat' comes from the same root as 'marabout', the North African name for holy men. Ribats of these times were generally connected to a very conservative and often ascetic practice of Islam. It is generally considered to be the oldest mosque of North Africa. Around the inner courtyard, were cells for the soldiers on 3 sides and on the 4th side (closest to entrance), was the prayer hall. Our visit co incided with festivities for National day of Independance (50 years in 2006) so flags and art exhibitions were seen inside. From the top of the nador, the watch tower, you can enjoy great views over Sousse (as in page intro pic). Note, there are 75 steps to climb in an extremely narrow spiral stairway.
This ancient fortress was formerly one of the most important ribats in North Africa against the crusades.
The tower (viewpont) of the Ribat is called Nador.
It's in a good condition and the view is very nice from the top.
The view from the top of the ribat tower is amazing, and well worth the small charge for doing so.
Getting to the top of the tower involves climbing a steep, spiral staircase on the inside of the tower (in almost pitch darkness!), but it is worth the effort.
There is an unobstructed 360 degree view from the top, with great views to the coast and also across the rooftops of the city up to the kasbah.