Tripoli, Trablos in Arabic, is Lebanon's second largest city. Tripoli occupies a surface area of about 22.5 square kilometers and can be easily reached using the north-bound coastal highway from the capital city of Beirut. As soon as you enter its broad tree-lined avenues, it is obvious that Tripoli has a character of its own. Here, the past has been preserved uniquely as in no other part of Lebanon and the visitor will encounter architectural styles, customs, and traditions that have all, but, disappeared elsewhere.
Statistics regarding the size of the population of Tripoli are contradicting. Official figures point at an approximate population of 750,000, while scientific studies keep these figures as low as 500,000 people only.
The city of Tripoli is divided into two parts: AlMina - the port area and site of the ancient Phoenician city - and the town of Tripoli proper. Thanks to its historical wealth, relaxed lifestyle and thriving business climate, this is a city where modern and medieval structures blend easily into a lively and hospitable metropolis. The medieval city at the foot of the Citadel is where most of the historical sites are located. Surrounding this area is a modern metropolis which is occupied with commerce, banking, and recreation. The area known as AlTell, dominated by an Ottoman clock tower (built in 1901-1902 CE) in the heart of down-town Tripoli, is the transportation center and terminus for most taxis. Major bus routes start from AbdulHamid Karami - alias, Nour - Square.
Unlike Beirut, which in recent years has suffered from uncontrolled development, Tripoli boasts well-defined roads and avenues, perfectly aligned buildings, and rationally designed shopping and office areas. Yet, behind this agreeable modern face lies a long history. The Mansouri Great Mosque, the Taynal Mosque, the enormous Citadel, numerous madrassas - historical theological schools - and hammams - Turkish baths -, cathedrals, churches, street markets and colorful khans - caravanserais or historical hotels -, all these impressive remains help to make Tripoli a major tourist attraction in Lebanon. Additionally, the Tower of Barsbay rises at the coastal side of Tripoli demonstrating an example of the solid military architecture of the Mamlukes.
The visitor of Tripoli can hardly fail to be impressed by the medieval atmosphere created by the numerous monuments dating from that period. The old quarter is a honeycomb of narrow streets and alleys, souks, khans, mosques, Islamic madrassas and shops, crowded together in a higgledy-piggledy fashion. The oriental flavor of the district is enhanced by craftsmen, tailors and market stalls. It is a pleasure to wander through these streets, taking the time to breathe in the atmosphere and to gaze at the curious examples of Islamic architecture.
Some of the khans are as many as 700 years old. At the Khayyateen - Tailors' - Khan, craftsmen sit in narrow alcoves along the sides of the streets, hardly bothering to look up from their work as tourists and passersby move along. From the Khayyateen Khan, one can walk to the Saboun - Soap - Khan, where the perfume of the vendors' wares mingles with that of flowers in the garden courtyard; the Sayyagheen - Jewelers' - Souk backs onto the spice market, and so on. The most important thing to note here is that all craftsmen work in surroundings that have changed very little over the last 600 years.
Just as in the past, Tripoli today is a flourishing industrial centre; its specialties include iron and furniture manufacture, textiles, plastics, salt, oils, soaps, and other manufactures. Inhabitants of the city hope to revive its major oil pipeline terminal and refinery. Commerce has thrived as the Tripoli Port has grown in importance. Agriculture has tended to spread further away from the city in recent years because of a construction boom and population increase, but Tripoli can still claim to be the center of an important agricultural region stretching to neighboring Akkar and Dhanniyyah. Of a completely different and almost futuristic character, there are the extraordinary buildings of the Tripoli International Fair designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who is one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture worldwide. Tripoli also retains the cultural importance conferred on it centuries ago by its famous historical library, Dar AlIlm of Bani Ammar (1069-1109 CE), which was home to 3 million books. Above all, nobody can resist leaving the town without tasting the Tripolitan pastries, the reputation of which has been long established.
Tripoli never ceases to fascinate. While no one can tell what will become of its rapid development, it is fortunate in preserving some corners where time has stood still, and which provide traces of the city's distant past.
The wealth of historical monuments makes Tripoli the second largest preserved Mameluke city in the world.
Tripoli in the Prehistorical, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusade, Mameluke, and Ottoman periods.
Tripoli is made up of two towns, the city proper with its ancient and modern quarters and the coastal town of AlMina.
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