Photograph: Zishan SheikhPhotograph: Zishan Sheikh

Name of Monument:

Sousse Ribat


Sousse, Tunisia

Date of Monument:

Hegira 256 / AD 821

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

The name of the architect is unknown, but a commemorative plaque confirms that the works were carried out by Masrur, freed slave of Prince Ziyadat Allah I.

Period / Dynasty:



Prince Ziyadat Allah I.


The ribat certainly existed in the 2nd /8th century, and served as a place of refuge for the Sussians during the incursions of the Byzantine fleet, but it was completely renovated by the Aghlabid prince Ziyadat Allah I. The monument has kept its original appearance up to this day and has only undergone very minor face-lifts, except that the north- and east-wing galleries were restored in 1135 (1722).


Built of stone, the ribat rises from a square plan with 38 m-long sides. Its external facades, surmounted with merlons, are flanked with round towers at the corners, semi-circular towers half-way along the walls and a cylindrical lookout tower on a square base on the southeast side. The design of the lookout tower was inspired by the Abbasid minarets which spread through the Maghreb from the end of the AH 2nd century (AD 8th).
A rectangular entrance porch in the middle of the south façade gives access to the monument. Very similar to the entrances of Abbasid palaces, the military role of this porch is obvious from its machicolations with slits for defence against invaders.
Above the porch is a square room surmounted by a dome, supported on squinches with an octagonal tambour, which is thought to be the oldest original oriental example in Tunisia.
The door opens onto a square entrance hall roofed with a stone groined vault with four ribs. From this hallway one comes into a patio surrounded by porticoes. Those on the north side were renovated in AH 1135 (AD 1722).
Two opposing staircases built onto the south gallery lead to the first floor, where student cells line four passageways. On the south side stands the prayer hall with its 11 naves covered with barrel vaults. Cruciform pillars, holding up semi-circular and basket-handle arches, delineate two bays parallel to the qibla wall. This wall is has six openings and a mihrab. The cul-de-four of the mihrab opens onto the hall though a semi-circular arch resting on two columns with antique capitals.
The parapet walk, a simple terrace, is reached by means of two staircases.
After the confrontation between the two Mediterranean shores had come to an end, and fighting techniques had evolved, the military role of the ribat ceased, and its essential spiritual purpose was retained. Several ribats were transformed into schools in which religious sciences were taught. In fact, the architectural plans of ribats directly inspired those of the Tunisian madrasa.

View Short Description

Situated opposite the Great Mosque of Sousse, this ribat is a sort of fortress. Founded in the late AH 2nd / AD 8th century, it was completely refitted by Prince Ziyadat Allah I. The building’s military and religious use is undoubtedly the reason for its austerity; its small bedrooms and layout. It has circular towers at each of its corners except the southeast one, which has a circular minaret, and has only been subject to a few modifications, allowing it to retain its original appearance. It is currently home to an archaeological museum with a beautiful collection of antique mosaics.

How Monument was dated:

Historical and biographical sources (the historian al-Nuwayri for example) inform us that Ziyadat Allah I erected the Qasr al-Kabir (grand palace) in 206 (821). This is confirmed by a commemorative plaque engraved with a kufic inscription which announces that the works occurred at the date indicated.

Selected bibliography:

Golvin, L., Essai sur l'architecture religieuse musulmane, t. 3, Paris, 1974, pp.208–10.
Lézine, A., Le Ribat de Sousse, suivi de Notes sur le Ribat de Monastir, Tunis, 1956.
Lézine, A., Sousse, Les monuments musulmans, Tunis, 1968.
Marçais G., L'art musulman, Paris, 1926, pp.47–50.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp. 193–5.

Citation of this web page:

Saloua Zangar "Sousse Ribat" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021.;ISL;tn;Mon01;15;en

Prepared by: Saloua ZangarSaloua Zangar

Saloua Khaddar Zangar est née en 1953 à Nabeul, titulaire d'une maîtrise d'histoire de l'Université de Tunis, S. Zangar a obtenu son doctorat en histoire moderne et contemporaine à l'Université de Bordeaux III.
Spécialiste de l'histoire du mouvement national tunisien, elle a été directeur du Centre d'histoire du mouvement national de 1980 à 1982. Directeur de recherche, responsable des publications à l'Institut national du patrimoine depuis 1992, elle est nommée en mars 2006 directeur du département Coopération, programmation, formation et publications de l'INP.
Auteur de divers articles et contributions à des ouvrages sur l'histoire du monde arabo-musulman au lendemain de la Première Guerre mondiale et de la Tunisie à l'époque coloniale, elle a publié notamment La Presse française et le monde arabo-musulman en 1920 (1982), Le cap Bon passé et présent (1993), La femme tunisienne à travers les âges (1997), La femme tunisienne entre hier et aujourd'hui (2002). Elle participe également à un site Web et à un CD sur la femme tunisienne (2005).

MWNF Working Number: TN 15


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