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Tripoli (Lebanon)

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Tripoli's clock tower
Travel Warning WARNING: Due to the civil war in Syria, there have been reports of spill-over violence spreading to Tripoli. For this reason, the city is DANGEROUS and travel is not recommended. Recent security plans by the LAF [1] have so far succeeded in bringing much needed calm to Tripoli.


Tripoli [2] (Arabic: Trablus طرابلس) is an old city in northern Lebanon. It is the largest city in Northern Lebanon, and is Lebanon's second capital, with a population of nearly 530,000 (metro area).

The city's history stretches back to the 7th century B.C.E. as a port city. It saw rapid development during the following periods as a Persian and subsequently Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine and eventually Arab city. The latter which would bring it to the forefront of trade, commerce and education throughout the Middle East. Tripoli is therefore considered Lebanon's most ancient city with surviving souks and mosques that were built up to 9 and 10 centuries ago.

In recent times the city has witnessed an unfortunate financial decline due to the shift of wealth southwards towards Beirut. This began towards the start of the 19th century as Beirut moved from Ottoman to the colonial French era. This brought about extensive investment and development to the capital as Tripoli which was formerly a capital of its own state, was negated to becoming the second city in the newly created "Greater Lebanon"[3].

Tripoli's historic status, coupled with a young and dynamic well educated populace has meant that the city continues to be a contender for strong growth and development in Lebanon (given the right investment). The city's unfinished and highly cherished International Fair, built by Oscar Niemeyer during Lebanon's big state days of Fouad Chihab, is testament to a story of what could have been.

Get in[edit]

From Beirut's Charles Helou station, you can either take a bus (you might have to wait 20 minutes for the bus to get full), Share a Taxi with others or hire your own taxi (You'll pay for 4 people)

Mina town in Tripoli

Getting Around[edit]

All over town you will find more old Mercedes than any other vehicle. You may share one with others in the direction you are heading: to and fro El Mina for example. Try to pay LL 1,000 only for such a trip, even back and forth form the resort hotels out of town.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

Old City[edit]

The Old City is mainly a Mamluk city. The urban form of Mamluk Tripoli was dictated mainly by climate, site configuration, defense, and urban aesthetics. The layout of major thoroughfares was set according to prevailing winds and topography. The city had no fortifications, but heavy building construction characterized by compact urban forms, narrow and winding streets for difficult city penetration. Residential areas were bridged over streets at strategic points for surveillance and defense. The city also included many loopholes and narrow slits at street junctions. There are old souqs (markets) and khans (caravanserai), hammams (Turkish baths), citadels, great Mamluk mosques and madrassas. A vibrant area of the city, visitors will find an agglomeration of jewelers, perfumers, tanners, soap-makers and tailors within the narrow streets. The city is known for its production of soap,copper and brass trays, engraved wooden boxes, furniture, and oriental sweets..

Palm Islands Nature Reserve[edit]

Located about a 30 minute boat ride off the coast of Tripoli, the Palm Islands Reserve is composed of three small islands. Established as a national nature reserve in 1992, the site is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. It is also an important egg-laying site for endangered sea turtles.

Other attractions[edit]

  • Al Muallaq Mosque. is translated as “the Hanging Mosque,” named so because of its location on the second floor. It was established in the 16th century by the Ottoman governor of Tripoli, Mahmud ibn Lufti, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan  edit
  • Al Mansouri (Great Mosque). Built between 1294 and 1315, the mosque is named after Al Mansouri Qala’un who liberated Tripoli from the Crusaders in 1289. This was the first monument built in the new Mamluk Tripoli. The mosque was erected on the site of a former Crusader church, St. Mary’s of the Tower. Outside of these elements, it is a traditional Mamluk-style mosque. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.  edit
  • Al Attar Mosque. The mosque is named after a prosperous perfume merchant, Badr al Din ibn al Attar, who donated money for the construction of the mosque in the mid-14th century. Located in the souk area of Tripoli, the Al Attar Mosque is one of the most important mosques in the city. Its sandstone minaret is a distinguished landmark of Mamluk Tripoli. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted any time during the month of Ramadan.  edit
  • Taynal Mosque. This is the second most important mosque in Tripoli after the Great Mosque. It was constructed in 1336 under the patronage of Amir Taynal, the governor of Mamluk Tripoli. This beautiful example of Islamic religious architecture is noteworthy for its large size, lavish decoration and architectural peculiarities (elements of a Crusader church incorporated into the mosque architecture). Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.  edit
  • Citadel of Raymond de Saint Gilles. A massive and impressive fortress, 140m long and 70m wide, which began as a much smaller fort and encampment used by Raymond and the Crusaders to lay siege to Tripoli beginning in 1101. Following the reconquest of Tripoli by the Mamluks in 1289, the fortress was destroyed. In 1308, Esendemir al-Kurji, then governor of Tripoli, constructed a citadel to house troops on this site. Under Ottoman rule, significant restoration work and additions were made to the citadel. The present state of the citadel is largely the result of work undertaken by Mustafa Barbar Agha, governor of Tripoli at the beginning of the 19th century. LL7500.  edit
  • Al Burtasiyat Madrassa-Mosque. This is one of the most beautiful mosques and Islamic schools, or madrassas, from Tripoli’s Mamluk period. Designed by an Andalusian architect, Prince Issa Bin Omar Al Bertasi Al Kerdi had the mosque and school constructed in the early 14th century. It is in the Bab El Hadid area of Tripoli on the west bank of the river. The mosque is a 5 minute walk from the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.  edit
  • Mosque of Sayedi Abel El Wahid. The smallest of the Mamluk mosques in Tripoli, this mosque is located east of the Al Aatarien Souk (market). Characterized by its short minaret, it was built by Abed El Wahid El Maknasi in 1305. The shrine of Abed El Salam El Meshishi is located to the right of the mosque. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan  edit


  • Soap Khan (Khan EssSaboun) was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century by Yusuf al-Saifi, pasha of Tripoli . Originally it was intended to serve as a military barracks to garrison Ottoman troops and it was purposely built in the center of the city to enable the pasha to control any uprising. It is a large imposing rectangular structure with two story arcaded corridors running around a fountain courtyard. The outer walls had a number of loopholes and arrow slits for defense purposes. In front of the building was an arched portal, flanked by stone benches for the pasha’s guards. A white marble plaque commemorates the building of this splendid military barracks of Tripoli. During the battle of Anjar, Yusuf Pasha was taken prisoner. When Tripoli fell to Fakhr-ed-Din, the Ottoman garrison fled to join his routed forces in Syria. The army of Fakhr-ed-Din occupied the barracks briefly but in the years that followed the building stood empty and useless. To the inhabitants of Tripoli this seemed to be a great waste so a petition was sent to Deir al-Qamar, the residence of Fakhr-ed-Din, with the request to turn the building into a soap factory and warehouse. From that day until the present time the Ottoman barracks have served as Tripoli’s flourishing Soap Khan or Khãn as-Sáboun.
  • Tailor's Khan (Khan Al Khayyatin). In the neighborhood of the Ezzedin baths there are two fourteenth century Mamluk khans facing each other. The Tailor’ khan which adjoins the baths on the north., built in 1341. Its street stalls and storehouses until this day house the dry goods merchants and tailors of modern Tripoli. The Tailor’ khan is a sixty- yard long passageway with tall graceful arches on each side and ten transverse arches open to the sky. At the entrance an engaged Corinthian column is built in the brown sandstone wall and may be a Crusader Church pilaster with a re-used marble capital. There are other Roman granite column sections built into the walls in the vicinity  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Every Sunday afternoon families will gather to the shoreline of Tripoli where the road meets the ocean and they walk on the sidewalk provided while the sun goes down. They'll be vendors with food, and bike rentals for those who want to ride. Its a peaceful and relaxing time, where some will sit at the cafe's smoke hookah and watch the sunset. Its a must for a sweet finish at the end of your day.

For outdoor activities, go to the beaches of Tripoli like: Miramar, Al Naoura, Palma Touristic Center and Las Perlas.

  • El Mina old town: Inhabited since the 14th century B.C., El Mina was ruled sequentially by Persians, Alexander the Great's successors, the Romans, Mamluke Muslims, Turkish Ottomans, and the French. As a result, the old town is filled with history, including mosques and churches, a Caravan Serail, a Mamluk Fortress, and souk (traditional marketplaces).
  • Palm island reserves: If you are enchanted by marine ecology, be sure to spend some time in the Palm Islands Reserve, comprising three uninhabited islands located approximately 5km northwest of El Mina. This Mediterranean marine ecosystem provides a perfect breeding ground for the endangered Green and Loggerhead Turtles, a nesting place for over 300 species of migratory birds (including many rare and endangered species), and a home for the endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
  • Zambo carnival:Each year on the weekend preceding Clean Monday (usually between March and April), hundreds of locals organize and participate in lively musical parades wearing Pagan outfits and masks. The origin of this old tradition is unknown but some people link it to local Greek families (Greek Mardi Gras). What ever the origin is, El Mina is surely the only place in Lebanon where you enjoy such an exotic experience.El Mina tourism center
El Mina Old Town

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • The Souks The most incredible items can be found in the souk, from books to imitation shoes (Adidas, Nike). There are stalls upon stalls of pure kitsch and others of real taste and quality. One street have shops specializing in Islamic clothing, chador-like dresses and other traditional non-western clothing can be found. In contrast, just around the corner you may find shops selling sexy lingerie.

    Suddenly you find yourself in Souk el Sayagheen, the gold and silver market. It's quite magical to look down this dark little street where the shops cast enough light for the jewellery hanging outside in curtains of gold and silver to glitter softly. or maybe "Khan Essaboun! The soap market, where you can buy aromatic & therapeutic, as well as decorated soaps.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Tripoli is famous all over Lebanon for its sticky oriental sweets. Many Beiruties visit Tripoli en group on Sunday mornings to have breakfast at "Hallab". Confusingly to tourists, many sweet houses in Tripoli carry the name "Hallab" in one way or another. This is either because they are legitimate descendants of the famous nineteenth century sweets maker of the same name, or simple free riders trying to profit from the name's reputation. Two however stand out: Rafaat Hallab 1881 [4], and Abdel Rahman Al Hallab [5] . A visit to either will satisfy the most demanding of sweet teeth.

In the beautiful, wide and trees-planted ElMina Road, you can find many cafes and restaurants to satisfy your hunger.

  • Seafood Sandwich Shop, El Mina foreshore (It has little dolphins jumping on either side of the name - that is in Arabic). Don't miss the seafood sandwiches in El Mina (Abu Fadi's in particular); there's spicy-fish, crab, crayfish, and more! Next to a corner-shop with Pepsi signage. There are a few swarma restaurants in a row by the waterfront next to the port. Try the one that is packed with people waiting - there's a reason for that. There are a few casual seafood restaurants further along.  edit
  • Homos & Foul (Homs and beans). One of the famous breakfast dishes in Tripoli is Homs and beans, you will find many old and new style restaurant, on the main streets and inside the old areas of the city.  edit


Drink[edit][add listing]

Tripoli Has the best coffee shops street in all of Lebanon (Mina Road). With more than 100 coffee shops and restaurants on both sidewalks. For bars and pubs, Mina neighborhood would be the best place for a glass of wine or a pint of beer with smooth Jazz music.

  • Cava Mino: the first pub in Mina and the only place for Jazz and good music in the area. The pub has a great ambiance (a nice outdoor space during summer)!A poetry night is hosted once a month...The owners and staff are very friendly, and it has been a very popular place for locals as well as tourists. The menu offers a tasty collection of appetizers. The place really speaks out its slogan: "Le rendez-vous des bons vivants" (In French).
  • Gosha: A pub and restaurant specialized in cocktails
  • ASkale restaurant(Snack-bar):A leading restaurant offering delicious meals, friendly staff and cozy environment, located in the heart of El Mina old town, the newly renovated Laban street.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Quality Inn Hotel [6]
  • Via Mina Pension
  • Al Koura Hotel, Al Tall Street (off Tall St, 2 blocks South-East of the Clock Tower), +961 3 371 041 (fax: +961 6 425 451), [7]. A family-owned pension in the center of Tripoli. The friendly owners speak French. Clean and modern. Breakfast, Wi-Fi included. Dorm LL30 000, private from L50 000.  edit
  • Pension Haddad, Central, Near Hotel Al Koura. Dorm $10.  edit
  • Hotel Al Ahram, (From clock tower walk around the flags to the other side). Dorm $7.50.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

After the selection of the new government at the end of 2009, the security situation in Lebanon has improved drastically making the nation one of the main tourist destination in 2010. Tripoli is becoming safer after the army redeployment in November 2008. In general, Tripoli is safe and people are always willing to help and assist tourists. In July 2008 there has been skirmishes between Sunnis and Alawites of Tripoli. The army mobilised into town and controlled the situation. Since 2011 there were numerous skirmishes between Alawites of Jabal Mohsen and Sunnis of Bab al-Tabbaneh where army has been deployed, but failed to completely stop the fighting. Take caution when entering these areas and do NOT enter them if shots are being fired.

Get out[edit]

  • Ehden is beautiful town at the top of the northern mountains of Lebanon some 30km away from Tripoli. Popular during summer and a main destination to sample Lebanese cuisine.
  • Batroun is home to lots of of historic churches, both Catholic and Greek Orthodox. The town is also a major beach resort with a vibrant nightlife. About 22 km from Tripoli.




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