A fine example of Islamic military architecture, Monastir’s immaculately preserved ribat (coastal fort housing religious military volunteers called murabitun) overlooks the Mediterranean. Dating from AD 797, its seemingly chaotic design, with labyrinthine passageways and staircases, is a legacy of the many periods of construction and renovation it has undergone over its long history. The oldest remaining (though heavily restored) sections include the nador (watchtower) and the area around its base, all of which date from the 8th to 10th centuries.

The ribat's walls contained built-in accommodation for defenders and the small courtyard behind the museum is known as the women’s ribat, with its own prayer room and accommodation. The walls have been remodelled many times, notably in the 17th century when the octagonal corner towers were added.

There are excellent views of the town and the coastline from the ramparts and the top of the nador; those suffering from vertigo should tread carefully, and groups with children should be particularly careful as there are few safety barriers.

The ribat’s prayer room houses a tiny Museum of Islamic Art that has some early Arab coins and pottery and old photos of the town.

If the ribat looks familiar, that’s because the complex is a great favourite of film directors in search of accessible Islamic architecture. Many scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian were filmed here, including hundreds of Tunisian extras laughing at Biggus Dickus. Franco Zeffirelli also came here to shoot scenes for his Jesus of Nazareth.

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