Shaded souks and winding alleyways make up the heart of this ancient city. It is home to some of the most important collections of Mamluk mosques, Madrassa, Hammams and Khans in the world. With a much more vibrant street market scene than the country’s capital there is plenty to see on foot in old downtown Tripoli.
The city was the capital of fourth-century Phoenician federation along with Tyre, Sidon and Arwad further south and so three, walled towers were built to house settlers from each and giving Tripoli its name (translated as Three Cities). Tripoli was home to an assortment of civilisations from the Assyrians, Persians and Byzantines who all added layers to the rich city.
However it is hands down the Mamluks that left the greatest mark.
Tripoli has a much more conservative, traditional feel than cosmopolitan Beirut – dressing more modestly is a must and women should keep a scarf handy if you plan to enter mosques. That said, for most of the year Tripoli is perfectly safe to wander unaided around the bustling markets and locals generally very happy to assist and point you in the right direction when you get lost. There have however been a number of security incidents and fighting between specific neighborhoods of the city so it’s advisable to check the security situation with local media before planning a trip.
Getting there and away
From Beirut’s Charles Helou bus station take the Direct Connex bus service that runs an express service to Tripoli every 15 minutes for approx $3 and takes an hour and a half depending on traffic. There are also a myriad of small mini buses, but the driving often leaves something to be desired. Returning head to the main Al-Tall Square and busses depart regularly from the corner.
By: James Haines-Young