Tripoli is known as the capital of the North and it is Lebanon's second largest city with a population of more than 500,000. It has many landmarks. Around forty historical sites which date back to the 14th century: Qalaat St. Gilles; 12 mosques that date back to the Mamluk and Ottoman eras; 12 theological schools; khans or caravanserai; baths (Hammams). Its "souks" and khans are crowded with people of various trades. You see the tailors, jewellers, perfumers, tanners and soap-makers working in a charming lively atmosphere.
How to Reach Tripoli
It is at 85 kilometres north of Beirut. A highway from Beirut leads to Tripoli.
Historical documents and the archaeological sites in the city suggest that the city dates back to the 14th century, but the exact history of the city is known since the 9th century B.C., when the Phoenicians established at the western cape of the city a small trading station which became, during the Persian rule, the headquarters of the confederation of Sidon, Tyre and Arados Island. Tripoli has natural ports and offshore islands. For this reason, it was the most important military and trade centre in the region.
During the Hellenistic period, under the successors of Alexander the Great, Tripoli became a naval base and enjoyed local autonomy. During the Roman rule, the city flourished and many archaeological sites were built. During the Byzantine rule, in 551, Tripoli was destroyed by an earthquake and tidal waves. In the middle of the 7th century, during the Umayyad rule, it became a naval base. Under the Fatimid rule, it received its semi-independence and became a dynamic cultural centre.
At the beginning of the 12th century, Tripoli was besieged by the Crusaders. They occupied it in 1109. The city suffered from the extensive destruction that took place in it, which reached Dar al-Ilm, its famous library that comprised thousands of books. During the Crusade wars, it was the capital of the county of Tripoli. In 1289, Tripoli fell to the Mamluk Sultan Qalawun, who gave orders to destroy the old city and build a new city inland, around the old castle.
During the Ottoman rule (1516 – 1918), the city regained its prosperity. Today, many ruins that date back to this period are found in Tripoli.
The Great Mosque was built between 1294 and 1315 on the ruins of Saydet el Bourj (St. Mary of the Tower Church), which was built by the Crusaders during the 12th century.
There is a large courtyard surrounded by porticoes that lead to a domed and vaulted prayer hall. Elements of Western architecture can still be seen, including the northern entrance and the bell tower which was transformed into a minaret. On the plaques inside the Great Mosque there is information about the place and details of the lifestyle during the Mamluk period.
Khan Es-Saboun (Soap Khan): It was a barracks, and it dates back to the 17th century. It is built according to the classical style of khans. It has an interior courtyard, and has been renovated, so now it is used by soap traders.
Khan El-Khayyatin (Tailors Khan): It was built during the first half of the 14th century over the ruins of an old structure. It consists of a long roofed passageway. It contains shops and showrooms. At its western entrance, there is a granite column surrounded by a marble Corinthian crown.Khan al-Misrriyyin (Caravansary of the Egyptians): It was built in the first half of the 14th century. Its style is the classical one for khans. It has an open courtyard with a fountain in the centre surrounded by shops in the first floor. In the second floor there are showrooms.
It is outside the old city and was built in 1336 on the site of the Crusader Carmelite Church by Emir Seif El-Din Taynal. His mausoleum is next to the second prayer hall. In the first prayer hall, there still remain some elements of the old church such as the granite columns and chapters of marble columns that date back to the Roman period. The architectural decoration on the door that separates the two prayer halls reveals the Mamluk style.
The most important touristic sites of Tripoli are found around the Crusader Castle, where the "souk" as well as Mamluk and Ottoman ruins are found.
The citadel of St. Giles overlooks the city. It is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. It dates back to the 12th century. It took its name from Raymond de St. Gilles, Count of Toulouse, who built it and died in it in 1105. It has been renovated several times.
During the Mamluk rule in 1289 it was set on fire. It was rebuilt between 1307 and 1308. Sultan Sleiman el Qanouni renovated it in 1512. Its present shape is due to the efforts of Mustafa Barbar Agha, the governor of Tripoli at the outset of the 19th century, who restored it. The visitor enters the citadel from a door that dates back to the Mamluk period. Inside, there are many structures, courtyards, stairs and vaulted rooms. The present castle's main features and octagonal shape date back to the Fatimid era (11th century). The Crusaders turned it into a church. There are also some Crusader structures (12th – 13th century), and additions that date back to the Mamluk era (14th century) as well as additions made by the Ottomans (16th century). Its walls overlook the old city and the banks of Nahr Abu Ali (Abu Ali River).
The citadel opens daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (4 p.m. in winter).
It lies near the Great Mosque and it is the most ornate landmark in Tripoli. It was built by el Emir Qartay in 1326. At its entrance door there are colored marble plaques which make of it the most wonderful Mamluk relic in the region (Egypt and Syria). The prayer hall is covered by an oval dome.
It was built during the second half of the 15th century. Its façade wall, with its corner’s stones made of sandstone and black basalt stone overlooks the door which is decorated with shell motifs embellished by radiating zigzag motifs, triangles and twisted colonnades similar to a decorated braid.
It lies southeast of the old city. It is distinguished for its octagonal minaret. It took this name because it is on the second floor. It was built during the mid-16th century, during the reign of Sultan Sleiman Al Qanouni.
It was built on the banks of Abu Ali River during the first quarter of the 14th century A.D. It is roofed by triangular domes. The south-eastern wall of the Mosque is decorated by multi-coloured marble plaques. Its mihrab or (Prayer niche) is decorated with golden mosaic. Above its door there is a square minaret decorated with double windows.
Hammam "Izz Ed-Dine (bathing house):
It was offered to the city by its Mamluk governor, Izz Ed-Dine Aybak, who died in 1298 and is buried in a mausoleum beside the Hammam. It was built in the location of St. James Church and its hospice (It dates back to the Crusader era). The porch still carries a plaque on which the name of the saint is inscribed between two shells. On the lintel of the door there is the Pascal Lamb.
Hammam al Jadid (New Bath):
It was built in 1740. It hasn't been used after it was taken by the government for public use in the 1970s. Yet, it is the largest "Hammam" in Tripoli.