The Medina is my favourite part of Tripoli. Until the end of the nineteenth century it WAS Tripoli. Since then the city has expanded beyond its walls. It is still by far the most interesting part of the city, with many historical buildings, mosques, churches, old consulates, souqs, alleyways and Roman ruins.
65,000 people still work inside the Medina, mostly as craftsmen in small workshops. You can see coppersmiths, silversmiths etc at work as you wander around. This is very much a place where local people go to shop.
Tripoli: the old city...
Tripoli: the old city
Tripoli Medina is an ancient walled city, dating from Roman times. Its high walls were originally built on the landward side to repel attacks from the interior, and these survived many invasions throughout the centuries.
The city's sea-facing wall is less ancient, however, as it was built in the 8th century by Tripoli's Muslim ruler.
There are three large gates built into the city walls: Bab Zanata on the western side, Bab Hawara on the south-eastern side, and Bab al-Bahr on the northern side.
The city's basic street plan is Roman in design and consists of many narrow, criss-cross streets and small, blind alleyways. The latter were often useful to confuse would-be attackers, and to seal off areas used by extended families. Through roads in the old city are mostly unroofed, but with the buildings supported at intervals by buttresses, which also serve to shade the pedestrian from the sun.
Windows facing on to the public street are disappointingly plain, to curb the interest of the curious and to maintain the privacy much prized by all Middle Eastern families. Interior doors, windows and courtyards are, however, much more ornate, with beautiful archways in both Roman and Islamic style, and much elaborate tile, wood and plasterwork.
The old city contains seven beautiful mosques, featuring much impressive architectural detail. The castle, known as Al-Saraya al-Hamra is located on a pre-Roman site in the eastern section of the old city, and dominates the Tripoli skyline. This was once the residence of the ruling families, and contains both public and private quarters, including a large harem, where the women of the family were segregated from the outside world.
In the days when Tripoli was filled with merchants and camel caravans plying the Saharan trade routes, the old city was the site of several large inns, known as serais or funduqs. Here, merchants lodged with their goods and camels, in accommodation surrounding a large courtyard. Several of these serais are still in existence today. They are considerably less ornate in their decoration than the private houses, but still provide interesting insights into the customs of a bygone age.
After Libyan independence in 1951, many traditional families moved out of the old city to occupy houses and apartments formerly used by the departing Italian population. These newer houses were equipped with better sanitation, water supply and other facilities, and the houses in the old city were left abandoned. Most fell into a sorry state of disrepair, as a result of neglect and encroaching damp, and by the mid-1970s, these fragile and beautiful buildings lay in ruins. A project to restore key buildings and to chronicle the city's history was then inaugurated by the Libyan authorities. This has been undertaken very successfully, with the result that the main mosques, synagogues and consular houses in the old city have been fully restored to their former glories. A research workshop and library have also been established in the old city. Tripoli: the modern city
During the 18th century, or perhaps a little earlier, the city of Tripoli overspilled its original walls. This outer area was redeveloped in the early 20th century by the Italians, who created a set of administrative buildings, official residences and general residential areas for the Italian colonial population.
The street plan consisted of straight thoroughfares, radiating from Green Square in front of the castle. A cathedral and financial district adjoined the main souq, and the 'garden city' thus formed was affluent and pleasant.
With the 1969 revolution, dramatic changes took place in the city of Tripoli. Colonial influence and European heritage were now seen as less than desirable. Street names were changed, all signs were written in Arabic only and the cathedral was closed. An enormous influx of the Libyan populace into the city resulted in a five-fold increase in Tripoli's population during the seventies and eighties. To accommodate this huge increase, many new suburbs sprang up all around, and a lack of planning resulted in a sprawling metropolitan area with severe traffic congestion at peak times.
In the late 1980s some civil service personnel were removed from the capital to other sites, and this eased the traffic problem slightly. City expansion continues, however, and many people commute into its centre from outlying towns, many travelling between 60 and 80 kilometres to and from work each day.
Traffic congestion is still a major problem and extra travelling time should therefore be allowed by those intending to keep business appointments.
The city centre is still Green Square in front of the castle, and most of the major commercial streets lead off from it. The former palace of the late King Idris is situated at the southern end of Sharah Mohammed Magarief, one of Tripoli's two main streets, about 500m south of the former cathedral. It is now known as the People's Palace, and is used by Colonel Qaddifi's political activists. The former cathedral is now used as a mosque.
The coast road, which traverses the old harbour area, has no buildings and is chiefly used by traffic travelling eastward.
when I arrived from benghazi,I...
when I arrived from benghazi,I had almost no money left,because the embargo was almost finished,and the US$ dropped very very low;so nobody accepted to change my last $;I tried an electricity shop,the owner was young and spoke perfectly french,his mother was french.My $ were already worth nothing,so he just gave me money from his cashier to help.Then we went to all the buildings in the area to meet people who knew the prices of all the buses(everyone knows everyone there),and they planned everything for me for the next day,because I had to leave libya to tunisia,and I had not enough money to reach the border by bus.
Then,we sat a few hours,until midnight,in front of his shop with some of his friends,and I was asked 1000 questions about europe,because at that time,there were no tourists at all in libya!
Tripoli's National Jamahiriya Museum houses a superb collection of mosaics, mostly from the 2nd century AD. These mosaics were usually used to decorate the floors of Roman villas, They are made from small pieces of marble, limestone and terracotta, called tesserae, fitted together rather like a jigsaw puzzle.
The most famous of these is the Four Seasons mosaic from the Villa Dar Buc Ameera near Leptis Magna. In it the four seasons are represented by winged maidens, known in classical mythology as the Horae or goddesses of the seasons. Each wears a seasonal wreath. Winter, at the top, wears a wreath of reeds, Spring wears blossoms, Summer, on the right, a wreath of wheat and Autumn, at the bottom, wears grapes. She also has a bunch of grapes pinned to her right shoulder and hanging down over her breast.
TRY TO SEE TRIPOLI ALSO BY CAR
Yes....should you have the opportunity for someone to drive you around you can capture a lot more of Tripoli by car. Here i was lucky to make friends with two Libyan Engineers and they were so proud to show me their country best spots.