Lebanon's second-city, north of Beirut on the shores of the Mediterranean, is famous for its narrow winding alleys, whitewashed walls, old souqs, mosques and hammams that lend it a quaint air of Arab charm.
Welcome to Tripoli, Lebanon's second city. Not to be confused with his namesake, the capital of Libya. This is Tripoli the city in Lebanon. It is impossible to distinguish from one another nominally, while in Arabic it employs one of the following designations: Tarabulus el Sharq (East of Tripoli, Lebanon) or Tarabulus el Gharb (West of Tripoli, Libya).
Tripoli is without doubt the largest Arab city of Lebanon. While Beirut has lost a good part (or all) of its traditional urban fabric, Tripoli retained, like Damascus and Aleppo, its the medina, with its souks, hammams and mosques. Note that even before the war of 1975; Beirut has always cultivated cosmopolitanism while Tripoli, inhabited by a majority of Sunni Muslims, is looking towards the east since the departure of the Crusaders. Yet the visitor who arrives in Beirut from the highway seems to discover a modern and westernized city. Grand boulevards, brand new stadium, shopping malls, exhibition, large and wide streets, buildings wisely aligned away from the visual chaos that characterizes the capital. The planning of Tripoli is special as the city grew during the second half of the twentieth century, not over the historical center, but towards the sea, to the west. Thus Tripoli city and its suburbs port of El Mina eventually join, and make only one same urban entity today.
Back in the city center. Where are the Bechara EL-Khoury Boulevard, commonly known as the Boulevard and other major arteries. Traffic and taxi horns, alignment of banks, commercial buildings and 1970s, and some disused cinema names full of nostalgia. And then, the historical and political heart of Tripoli, marked by the tower of the clock as well as beautiful masonries of Ottoman time surrounding a public garden. Note the town hall (rather municipality) cosy enough, the Bank of Syria and Lebanon, and some buildings rather dilapidated but beautiful facades that need their next renewal.
Heading south east from that point, you approach the medieval medina and its mazes. It's quite interesting to note in this composition range with a medieval town surrounded by an Ottoman city surrounded by a modern city, but the transitions are or are almost imperceptible. The medina of Tripoli, smaller than those of Damascus and Aleppo, is a fascinating world. The passages will form a maze, without any major artery as souk el Hamidiye in Damascus. However, it must be noted that the souks do not all have the same atmosphere. The souk of the Jewellers, with its wooden ceiling, looks very smart compared to the surrounding streets in which the butchers slaughter their animals on the road! Impossible to describe all these places quite magical and amazing. One of the most endearing is the Khan Al-Saboun, a square courtyard surrounded by workshops for making soap, the most spectacular Khan Al Khayyatin the market for fashion, with its aligned arches, its dresses suspended in height and its strings , is one of the oldest in Tripoli, dating to the first half of the 14th century! Incidentally, note that the town has a number of hammams, the most famous being the Hamma Izz El-Din, the first hammam built in Mamluk Tripoli which dates from 1298. Some are abandoned, others open to the public. The observers will notice that all the historic buildings of Tripoli are numbered and carry (that they are open or not to the public) a bilingual plate making it possible to identify them.
In terms of monuments, there are obviously the mosques and other religious places which of many are from Mamluk period. The Great Mosque is one of the first buildings that need to be discovered by walking. Recognizable by its square minaret, it is organized around a large courtyard, but is not a transcendent beauty. However, do not miss, just with side, the magnificent polychrome gate of Madrassa Al Qartawiyat. You can search in the maze, the mosque Sidi Abdel Wahed, virtually invisible from the outside. It houses the tomb of Sidi Abdel Wahed, and the guard does not fail to show the dedication for calligraphy (from 1305). The most beautiful building in Tripoli from Mamluk period is probably the Madrasa of al-Burtasi which, for once, is not embedded in the fabric but is in the edge of the Abu Ali River. It will be easy to visit the Taynal Mosque (south of center), which has an interior decor quite extraordinary.
The remains of the Crusaders are another aspect of the history of Tripoli. Two are particularly notable monuments: The Tower of the Lions (Borj Es-Sba), big room near the fortified port. As you are by the sea, take the boat trip to Rabbit Island, to take a little air. And then there is the most famous monument of the city, the Citadel Saint Gilles (Qal'at Sinjil), one of the most impressive memories of francs in the region. Tripoli Castle also known as The Fortress of St. Gilles overlooks the city and the Abu Ali River near peak. It offers excellent views to admire a panorama of the city, with its domes, its minarets, its steeples, its buildings and on the other side of the river, the neighborhood of Al Qobbeh (Baladiyat al Qubbah), steep hill on which are accommodations of all kinds...