Tripoli (Trablus), 85 kilometers north ofBeirut, has a special character. Thanks to its historical wealth, relaxed lifestyle and thriving business climate, this is a city where modern and medieval blend easily into a lively and hospitable metropolis. Known as the capital of the North, Tripoli is Lebanon's second largest city.
ModernTripoli is divided into two parts: El-Mina (the port area and site of the ancient city) and the town of Tripoli proper. The medieval city at the foot of the Crusader Castle is where most of the historical sites are located. Surrounding this is a modern metropolis which is occupied with commerce, banking and recreation.
At the southern part ofTripoli lies the International Fair Ground extending over an area of 1 million m2, with its unique architecture and huge possibilities, designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
TodayTripoli remains prosperous. It is still an important port. Agriculture and small industries play a big role in the economy ofTripoli. Its fertile soil was put to good work since the Mamluks. Presses extract oil from the olives harvested from the groves surrounding the city, and small factories make soap for export from the extracted oil. Sugar is extracted from the cane that Tripoli raised, sugar refining continued uninterrupted from the first Arab occupation through the Mamluks till today. Citrus, olive oil, and wool are the cities major exports.TRIPOLI IN HISTORY
Habitation of the site ofTripoli goes back to at least the 14th century BC, but it wasn't until about the 9th century BC that the Phoenicians established a small trading station there. Later, under the Persians, it was home to a confederation of the Phoenician city states of Sidon, Tyre and Arados Island. Built on the trade and invasion route near the Abu Ali river (Qadisha river), Tripoli's strategic position was enhanced by offshore islands, natural ports and access to the interior.
Under the successors of Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic period, Tripoli was used as a naval shipyard. There is also evidence that it enjoyed a period of autonomy at the end of Seleucid era.
Under Roman rule, starting with the take-over of the area by Pompey in 64-63 BC, the city flourished. During this period the Romans built several monuments in the city. The Byzantine city of Tripolis, which by then extended to the south, was destroyed, along with other Mediterranean coastal cities, by an earthquake and tidal wave in 551.
After 635 Tripoli became a commercial and shipbuilding center under the Omayyads. It achieved semi-independence under the Fatimid Dynasty when it developed into a center of learning.
At the beginning of the 12th century, the Crusaders lais siege to the city, finally entering it in 1109. The conquest caused extensive destruction, including the burning ofTripoli's famous library, the Dar Il-Ilm, with its thousands of volumes.
During the Crusader’s 180 years rule, the city was the capital of the County of Tripoli. But the Crusader Tripoli fell in 1289 to the victorious Mamluk Sultan Qalaoun, who ordered the old port city (today Al-Mina) destroyed and a new city built inland near the old Castle. It was this time that the numerous religious and secular buildings were erected, many of which still survive today.
During the long Turkish Ottoman rule 1516-1918, Tripoli retained its property and commercial importance and in these years more buildings were added to the city’s architectural wealth. The absence of fountains can be explained by the abundance of water flowing into the city from the mountains, an advantage that greatly impressed chroniclers and travelers to Tripoli in the 14th century. The absence of free-standing mausoleums can also be explained: Tripoli was neither a capital likeCairo, nor was it a holy city like Jerusalem. It was a provincial town, where members of the ruling elite or the middle class seem to have preferred to immortalize themselves by endowing religious buildings, and placing their tombs inside them.
Tripoli became a part ofLebanon in 1920.
SELECTED SITES OF TRIPOLI
Forty-five buildings in the city, many dating from the 14th century have been registered as historical sites. Twelve mosques from Mamluk and Ottoman times have survived along with an equal number of madrassas or theological schools. Secular buildings include the hammam or bathing-house, which followed the classical pattern of Roman-Byzantine baths, and the khan or caravansary. The souks, together with the an agglomeration of various trades where tailors, jewelers, perfumers, tanners and soap-makers work in surroundings that have changed very little over the last 500 years.
Overlooking the city is the imposing Citadel of Tripoli known as Qal’at Sinjil (Saint Gilles) which has been renovated and changed many times during its history. Today the castle’s main features are an octagonal Fatimid construction converted to a church by the Crusaders, some Crusader structures of the 12th -13thcenturies, a number of 14thcentury Mamluk additions, as well as additions made by the Ottomans in the 16th century. The present state of this huge fortress (140 meters long and 70 meters wide) is largely the result of extensive restoration work by Mustapha Barbar Agha, governor ofTripoli at the beginning of the 19thcentury. The present state of this huge fortress (140 meters long and 70 meters wide) is largely the result of extensive restoration work by Mustapha Barbar Agha, governor of Tripoli at the beginning of the 19thcentury.
Church of St. John of the Pilgrims Mount
Significant remains of this Crusader church were found in the Maronite Cemetery of Saint John about 200 meters south of the Castle on Abou Samra hill. There are two joined chapels, the larger of which has a semi-circular apse. The smaller one, with a rectangular apse, was reserved for funerary use. The church was surrounded by a larg e Crusader cemetery.
The Great Mosque
Begun in 1294 and completed in 1315, the Great Mosque was building in the ruined 12thcentury Crusader cathedral of St. Mary of the Tower. Its large courtyard is surrounded by porticos and a domed and vaulted prayer hall. Inside, one can still see elements of western architecture from the old church, including the northern entrance and theLombard style bell tower which was transformed into the minaret.Taynal Mosque
This important mosque was built in 1336 by Saif al adjoining domed mausoleum holds the tomb of the founder. Some elements of the original structure were re-used in the mosque, for example, the two Tows of granite columns with late Roman capitals which stand in the middle of the first prayer hall. The entrance of the second prayer hall is a unique example of the architectural decoration in Tripoli during the Mamluk era.
The beautiful Burtasiyat Madrassa-Mosque was built during the first quarter of the 14thcentury A.D. This domed structure has a square minaret erected above the entrance arch and is ornamented with double windows which have black and white stone arches. The dark stone portal is decorated with an ornate golden mosaic.
This unique building in Lebanon was constructed during the second half of the 15thcentury to house Muslim mystics or Sufis. It is designed with an open courtyard and pool. The courtyard is surrounded by small rooms and a raised platform, or iwan, behind an arch of alternating black and white stones. The arch is supported by granite columns.Khan Al-Khayyatin
The Khan Al- Khayyatin or Tailors' Khan is one of the oldest in Tripoli, dating to the first half of the 14th century. It was probably built on the remains of a Byzantine and Crusader monument in the center of the ancient commercial suburb which controlled passage over the Abu 'Ali River. Thus, this has a different plan than the others in the city. The restored structure consists of a long passageway with tall arches on each side and ten transverse arches. Just at its western entrance stands a granite column surmounted by a marble Corinthian capital.Lions' Tower
While most of the numerous coastal towers and fortifications which protected Tripoli during Mamluk times have disappeared or been encroached upon by modem buildings, the mid-15th century Tower of the Lions is still remarkably preserved. It was given this name in the 19th century because of the lions carved in relief that once stood above the entrance. The tower is actually a fortress two stories high with lofty vaulted ceilings. The west portal is in the typical Mamluk black and white stone pattern. From the outside you can see how the builders placed Roman columns horizontally in the wall as reinforcements.Hammam al-Jadid
Built around 1740, and called the "New Bath," this is by far the largesthammamin the city. Although it has not been in operation since the 1970's, its faded grandeur still stirs the imagination.Souk Al-Haraj
A unique sight, this covered 14th century bazaar has a high vaulted ceiling supported by granite columns which may have originally been part of Roman or Crusader structures. A total of 14 granite shafts can be seen along the north, south and east sides.
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