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Monastir (Tunisia): the sights of the ancient religious center

The presidential city of Monastir and the sights of Tunisia

Tunisia is a wonderful country with a rich history. Here stood Carthage, located the city of Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs. In many medieval cities, the medina is preserved — the old city center, behind the fortress walls of which there was a bazaar and a mosque.

One of the most beautiful cities in Tunisia is Monastir, famous for its historical sights and wonderful beaches.

City `s history

The ancient religious center of Tunisia and the modern international recreation center Monastir is located 162 km south of the capital of Tunisia, on the rocky peninsula of the Mediterranean Sea.

Founded the city in the V century BC. Phoenicians, and it was called then Ruspenna. Monastir owes its fame to two great personalities: Guy Julius Caesar and Tunisia’s first president Habib Bourguiba. The Roman commander turned Ruspennu into his base camp during the African campaign against Pompey (mid-I century BC) and surrounded it with three rows of fortress walls, the remains of which can be seen today. The Romans slightly changed the name of the city to Ruspina.

At the end of the 8th century, the Abbasid Arab dynasty chose Monastir to build the first Tunisian Ribat — a monastery from which the city obviously got its name. Murabitins lived here — monk warriors, who divided their time between prayer and struggle with the enemy. When in the 9th century the rulers of the Fatimid caliphate moved the capital to Mahdia, Monastir became the largest religious center and was recognized as the “holy city”.

After the independence of Tunisia, Monastir experienced a real flourishing. Since the 1970s, Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, a native of Monastir, began to allocate large funds for the development of the city (more than 10% of the national budget). Bourguiba met the last days in his hometown and was buried here in the majestic mausoleum.

Modern Monastir is an important tourist center with an international airport, seaport, hotels, parks and beaches.

Sights of Monastir

It’s pretty easy to build a tourist route to see all the sights of the city. It will surely be the old part of the city (medina), the fortress (Ribat), mosques and the mausoleum of Bourguiba.

The main sights of the medina: the Great Mosque (IX century) and Ribat (VIII — XI century). The Great Mosque originally served as a fortress. Built under the emir of El-Mosiz Ibn Badis, the mosque was expanded several times, in particular during the Zirids in the XI century. The minaret was built in the era of the Khavsids.

Ribat and Monastir Museum. The huge Ribat was built in 769 and was intended to protect against the attacks of Christians. It was regularly expanded by various conquerors of Monastir in the 9th, 11th, 16th, and 19th centuries. Ribat was completely rebuilt under Habib Bourguibe. From the high watch tower of the fortress you can look at the magnificent panorama of the city and its environs.

In the southern wing of the ribat is a small museum of Islamic art. The most beautiful exhibit of the museum is the astrolabe, designed by the Arabs and made by the Spaniards in 927 in Cordoba.

Follow the other sights of Monastir can be called:

  • Bourguiba Mosque. The main mosque of the city, the construction of which was completed in 1963. The building of the mosque is an interesting attempt to update the religious art of Tunisia: a rectangular prayer hall, capitals in the Havsidian style, columns of pink marble and onyx, gilded mosaics, glass chandeliers. The mosaics of the niche inside the mosque resemble the art of Byzantium, Damascus and Cordoba. The mosque includes three courtyards, which are paved with white marble. For non-Muslims, the entrance to the mosque is closed;
  • Bourguiba Mausoleum. To the west of the burial mosque of Zawiya Said is the cemetery of Sidi el-Mezri, the patron saint of the city. His tomb is an object of worship. This seaside cemetery leads to the grandiose Mausoleum of the Bourguiba family. Since April 2000, the remains of former President Habib Bourguiba are buried here. On the sides of the main building, topped with a large gilded dome, there are two smaller green domes with minarets 25 m high, under which are placed the tombs of the parents of the president and his first wife;
  • Palace of Congresses. Another large-scale building of the era of Bourguiba. You can put a thousand people in this building. The halls are equipped with air conditioning, booths for simultaneous translation and are distinguished by flawless acoustics;
  • The museum of folk art and traditions will be of interest to lovers of traditional costumes.

Not far from Monastir are the ruins of the ancient Ruspina, the marble of buildings and temples of which was used in the construction of mosques.

Entertainment Monastir

In search of active forms of leisure, you can contact the recreation centers, most often located in hotels in the city. Among the possible entertainment include:

From Monastir you can independently go on an excursion:

  • in Sousse — an old, large resort city, located just 24 km from Monastir;
  • in El Jem and look at the magnificent Roman Coliseum there — the third largest in the world and the first in preservation;
  • in Mahdia — a resort town with one of the best centers of thalassotherapy.

Between Monastir and Mahdia there is Tebulba — an exotic coastal village with a small fishing port. Under the octagonal minaret is always lively and noisy, there is a brisk trade.

Nearby is a large suburb of Moknin. This place is famous for its jewelry, as well as Berber costumes and ceramics. Next is a crowded Ksar Hellal, known to all Tunisia for its fabrics. In Lamte, you can visit the Archaeological Museum, which houses exhibits of Phoenician and Roman times.

Getting to Monastir on your own is quite simple: Habiba Bourguiba International Airport operates near the city, accepting direct charts from Russia.

Monastir is a modern resort city with a rich historical past, which attracts many tourists, including Russian ones.

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