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Tripoli   طرابلس الغرب  Tarabulus

Tripoli: The Bride of The Mediterranean

Tripoli, the capital of Libya: a view of Tripoli centre

Tripoli is the capital city of Libya, with an estimated population of just under two million people. It is located in the northwest side of the country on a rocky land projecting into the sea and forming a natural bay. The name Tripoli comes from Tri-Polis, which means 'three cities': the famous three cities that made up the region of Tripolitania in ancient times: Sabratha (Zwagha), Leptis Magna (Lubdah) and Oea (Tripoli).  The origin of polis goes back to archaic Greek where it meant "city-state", a city with its own legal body and ruled by its own citizens. Thus the name is found in many forms, like Pentapolis (the five cities of Cyrenaica in Eastern Libya), Acropolis (a citadel with a temple inside), cosmopolis (large cosmopolitan urban centre), Necropolis (city of the dead), and, of course, the current Arabic form of the Libyan capital: Tarabolous, Tharaboulus or T'arāboulus, which is written in Arabic as طرابلس, while internationally it was more specifically known as T'arābulus al-Gharb (Tripoli of the West), طرابلس الغرب, to distinguish it from another city in the Middle East by the same name, namely Lebanon's Tripoli.

 

Brief History of Tripoli

The city of Tripoli was used by the Phoenicians as a commercial city during the 1st millennium BC, when they first arrived in Tripolitania. Over the course of the centuries, the Carthaginians' influence grew to dominate the entire Mediterranean, and even threatened the existence of emerging Rome, when Hannibal imprisoned the Romans in their own home for 12 years. Apparently Hannibal refused to attack Rome because he objected to killing women and children in their own home, and instead waited for Roman men to come out and give him a decent fight. The Romans, fearing certain death, began their conspiracy to divert the war to Carthage and as a result Hannibal was ordered by his superiors to return home to defend the capital; where he was eventually betrayed and lost. The Romans grazed the North African capital to the ground. Following this disastrous defeat, Tripolitania first came under the influence of the Berber Kingdom of Massinissa's Numidia, before it was taken over by the Romans and eventually became a Roman protectorate, providing grains, air-like wine, wild animals, and slaves to Rome.

The city was badly devastated by the Vandals in the 5th century, and was almost paralysed during the Byzantine period where it remained so until the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century AD. Tripoli then became Tarabulus, and gradually recovered its commercial status, linking the Sahara and the rest of Africa with Europe and Asia. By the the 15th century Tripoli became an international trading post, and declared its independence in 1460, albeit for a short while; as the city once again was attacked by the Spaniards, then the Turks, then the Knights of St John of Malta in the 16th century.

a view of Tripoli showing roads withs cars, the sea and some buildings

A View of Tripoli.

During the Ottoman period Tripoli was renamed Tarabulus al-Gharb (West Tripoli) to distinguish it from Lebanon's Tripoli in the Middle East, in Asia. After the Italian invasions of 1911 Tripoli began to grow in size beyond the confines of the Old Medina, and after the Second War (WWII), many families left the Old Medina to live in the new and recently vacated Italian villas and houses. By 1950s the population of Tripoli grew to 100,000, and then to one million by 1980s. The population of Tripoli today is estimated at 1.8 million.

In short, Tripoli is one of the most exotic and alluring cities of the Mediterranean world. The vibrant atmosphere of the capital is rich in signposts of its long history and culture, from the Roman sites and the Old Medina, to the modern developments of booming Libya, where local Libyan traditions are mixed with Islamic, Byzantine and Turkish cultures to create a unique place, fast becoming a cosmopolitan city. With the recent lifting of the visa restriction and the opening of Libya to international investment and tourism, Tripoli once more is becoming an international business centre and fast emerging as the sun, sand and sea destination of the future.

Tripoli's shore

The Shores of Tripoli.

 

 

Places of Interest To Visit In Tripoli

 

map of tripoli centre

A map of the centre of Tripoli, showing the Old City (Medina) and Assaraya Museum (coloured blue).

 

  • The Martyrs Square
  • The Old City (Old Medina)
  • Assaraya Alhamra Museum
  • Janzur Museum
  • Tripoli's Shores
  • Italian Façades
  • The Red Castle
  • Arch of Marcus Aurelius
  • Janzur Beach & the Tourist Village
  • Darghut Mosque
  • Gurgi (Gurji) Mosque
  • Ahmed Pasha Karamanli Mosque
  • The Karamanli House

 

 

The Karamanli (Qaramanli) House

Tripoli Historical Exhibition

Qaramanli house in Tripoli

The House of Karamanli, or al-Qaramanli House, was built in the second half of the 18th century, during the reign of Ali Pasha Alqaramanli, and was used by Yousuf Pasha until his death. The house was restored during the early 1990s and became known as Tripoli Historical Exhibition. The house includes a fine fountain and mosaic-covered walls, with two floors: the ground floor comprises four rooms, including Assaddah Room, the Guest room, the Clothes room, the toilet, and the kitchen. The first floor contains Dar Alqabou, which houses the Karamanli costumes and furniture from that period; the Bedroom (with traditional bed and embroidered cushions); Historical & Traditional Weapons Room, containing models dressed in traditional costumes from all periods of Libyan history; and Dar Alarasah (models of instruments used by the Sufis). Please see our museums for more on this.

 

The Arch of Marcus Aurelius

marcus Aurelius arch in Tripoli

Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli.

The triumphal Arch of Marcus Aurelius is located at the junction of two roads: the Cardo Maximus and Decumanus, providing an impressive welcome to the city from the harbour. The good condition of the arch is actually due to the fact that the arch was relocated from Leptis Magna. The empty niches in the facades of the pillars once contained the statues of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus ('the wise') - the Roman emperor from the year 161 to 180, who also was a Stoic-philosopher and a writer of   the literary work: Meditations. The arch dates to 163 AD.

 

 

برج طرابلس
Burj Tarabolous

Tripoli

The tower was previously known as Al-Fateh or Al-Fateh Tower, in reference to the 1st of September 1969. After the liberation of Libya on October 2011 all names containing the word "Alfateh" were changed to "Tarabolous" and thus the current name: Tripoli Tower. The Burj consists of two towers, each of 24 floors (excluding the ground floor), with a revolving restaurant at the top. The restaurant turntable is in the shape of a doughnut with a stationary service core, very reminiscent of a sushi restaurant. The offices of most of the airliners, large institutions, and foreign companies are located in this tower.

Burj Boulayla tower in Tripoli
The New Burj Boulayla (Boulayla Tower)

 

the new sky scrapers of Tripoli
The new sky scrapers of Tripoli (still under construction): dwarfing Boulayla and Tripoli towers. JW.Marriott Hotel (bottom right).

 

 

 

Markets (traditional souks)

the indoor market in the old city in Tripoli

Tripoli is the home of a number of traditional markets, doing business for most of the day and well into the evenings. Among the main markets of the capital are: Souk Attara (textiles and clothing, just off Martyrs Square); Souk Ghizdir (commission your own copperware); Souk Atturk (the largest market in the Old City, sells everything); Carpet Bazaar; and Souk Sharia ar-Rashid (all kinds of goods).

 



The Red Castle or Assaraya Alhamra:

saraya alhamra before gaddafi

Assaraya Alhamra before Gaddafi.

The castle was the seat of power in Tripolitania ever since the Turkish Pashas used it as their official headquarters in the 16th century, and remained so until recently when things began to change after the colonial wars at the start of the 20th century.

The red Castle
Assaraya Alhamra, Tripoli.

The Red Castle is an impressive building with an area of about 13000 square metres. The site was the location of a Roman fortified camp, dating to the 2nd century AD. In the 16th century the citadel was improved by adding defensive towers to aid in defending the castle. During the conflict between the religious factions of Turkey, the castle became a true house of horror, with leaders crucified, butchered, plagued and exiled.

 

the red fort building in Tripoli

 

Red Castle Tripoli

 

Assaraya Alhamra (the red fort)

 

 

The Red Castle Museum

Assaraya Alhamra Museum (the Red Castle Museum), sometimes also known as the National Museum), is one of the must-see places in Tripoli; housing a rich collection of artifacts from various periods of Libyan history, right from the Stone Age and down to the present, including a wonderful collection of Greek and Roman statues and busts. Most of the other sections of the complex are currently used by the Libyan Department of Antiquities.

Assaraya Alhamra Museum, Tripoli.

The entrance to the Assaraya Alhamra Museum (the Red Castle Museum).

 

 

The Old City (Medina)

the main entrance to the Old City
The main entrance to the Medina, known as Bab Al-Hurriyah (the Freedom Gate).


The Old Medina in Tripoli

The Old City (or Old Medina), with its labyrinthine dark lanes, is an exotic place to see, bustling with life and shoppers and oozing with rich aromas of spices, coffee, nuts, falafel and freshly-made sweets. The local shops in the medina sell a wide range of traditional products such as clothing, textile, leather products, like shoes, bags and wallets, silver and gold jewellery, and copper and brass ornaments of all kinds.

the market in the old city in tripoli
The Market in the Old City.

an old street from the Old City

This is what you call an old street from the Old City. There are a number of  similar streets in the medina, where the real character of the medina is still clearly visible.

a street from the Medina

Apparently Tripoli remained within the boundaries of the Medina until sometime during the 19th century when the city began to grow and subsequently spread beyond the boundaries of the old city. The latest statistics indicate that about 3500 people still live in the medina. Many of the houses in the city are in need of restoration work.

 

bab albahr: a gate to the old city

 

 

Tripoli's Taxi Chariot

tripoli taxi chariot: white horse and white chariot with red seats

Explore the streets of the capital the traditional way: a white chariot drawn by a white horse.

 

Emergency Phone Numbers & The Main Hospitals In Tripoli:

Ambulance: 191
Air Ambulance: 361 96 81
Tripoli Central Hospital: 360 50 01
Tripoli Medical Centre: 360 49 33-36
Burns & Plastic Surgery Hospital: 360 55 41-5
Tajura Cardiac Hospital: 369 23 04-8
El-Jalaa Midwifery Hospital: 444 30 12-15
El-Jalaa Pediatric Hospital: 444 41 81-84
Optical Hospital: 340 30 47-50
El-Khadra Hospital: 490 06 63
Abu Saleem Hospital: 490 06 04-09

 

 

 

A Map of The Main Site of Interest In Tripoli

map of Tripoli main sites of interest

 
1-Nadi Bab al-Baher 2-Sidi Solieman Mosque 3-Ben Saber Mosque 4-Marcus Aurelius Arch
5-Gurji Mosque 6-Old French Consulate 7-Sidi Abd Alwahab Mosque 8-Othman Basha Mosque
9-Secondhand Bookshop 10-Turkish Prison (O. Church) 11-Catholic Cathedral 12-Banco di Roma
13-Darghut Mosque 14-Hammam Darghut 15-Al Kateis Mosque 16-Mohamed Basha Mosque
17-Yusuf Qaramanli House 18-Hammam Al Kebira 19-Sidi Katab Mosque 20-Tunis Garage (Bus & Taxi)
21-Mutahedeen Agency 22-Ben Latif Mosque 23-Charush Mosque 24-Huria Mosque
25-Druj Mosque 26-Kuaruba Mosque 27-Ottman Clock Tower 28-Traditional Teahouse
29-Assaraya Alhamra 30-Jamaheriya Museum 31-Police Station 32-Balcony
33-Old Castle Door 34-Ahmed Basha Mosque 35-Sufi Mosque 36-Ben Tabun Mosque
37-Knenara Mosque 38-An Naqah Mosque 39-Hammam Alheygha 40-Mat'am Assarai & Asharq
 

 

 

a road map of Tripoli
Click for a larger map of Tripoli.