Just across the square from the mosque is the Ribat with it’s imposing watch-tower. Built in the 9th century AD, it started as a fortress for military volunteers of Islam before serving as a retreat for Sufi mystics and caravanserai for traders/travelers. 11 centuries later, the structure still stands tall. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As I stood atop the tower, I started musing over the significance of the Ribat. While it might be outdated for its purpose in the modern world, it would do well for us to have our own spiritual Ribat in our mindspace .The Ribat was not only meant to defend a faith, but also a place of introspection and reflection for the monks and mystics. It was also a place open to outside influences as traders and travellers from afar came and brought with them new thoughts, ideas and perspectives. I’d like to think that the Ribat enriched the faith it was meant to just defend.
So may it be with your own spiritual Ribat!
The entrance to the Ribat is right across the paved square from the mosque (Aug 2017)
Built in the 9th century AD, the Ribat was originally intended as a fortress-monastery to house military volunteers as Islam spread across North Africa. On two levels, small cells serving as living quarters for these soldier-monks surround the courtyard (Aug 2017)
The entire southern wing is taken up by this large prayer room. (Aug 2017)
The watch-tower doubled as a minaret for the nearby mosque (Aug 2017)
A spiral staircase leads one to the top of the tower where sweeping views of the sea and the town of Sousse await. (Aug 2017)
From the top of the tower, a view of the medina (old town) and the Kasbah now housing the Sousse Archaelogical Museum with the second largest collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. (Aug 2017)
From the other side, you can look down over the courtyard of the Ribat itself. Over time, as the religion established itself, the Ribat turned in to a retreat for Sufi mystics and later in to a caravanserai. (Aug 2017)
More than ever – the religion finds itself embattled from within. The Ribat might be an outdated structure in the physical world, but I think we all need our own spiritual Ribats in our mindspace to keep out enemies like hate, ignorance and discrimination. (Aug 2017)