LAYERS OF LEBANON

Lebanon 2018 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | PHOTO ESSAY

Often overshadowed by Beirut and other southern cities, Lebanon's biggest northern city and former trade hub is rich in history and architecture.

Though the history of the city goes back to the 14th century BC, it's current name comes from the Ancient Greeks, which called the city Tripolis. Arabic form is Tarabulus for short, or Tarabulus Al-Sam to distinguish it from its Libyan twin in name. Once known for its orange orchards and the overwhelming scents, Arabic's other name for Tripoli—al-fayha— comes from the words for diffusions of smell.

Souks

A playground for all the senses, Tripoli's souks offer visitors a stimulating transport into tradition and history. The scent of food, spices, and perfume waft through the narrow streets and passages as people wander through the colorful, bustling stalls. Depending on the souk, visitors will find Mamluk, Ottoman, and other architectural influences behind displays of gold and silver jewelry, soaps, and tailored goods. As an important trading city of Mamluk Syria, Tripoli is filled with Mamluk architectural features. In the souks, the most obvious example is the alternating light and dark tiles at the entrances of mosques and madrasas, which often connect to the souks and other buildings such as hammams (bath houses). The souks are a reminder and portal to Tripoli's commercial and trading history, which began under Phoenician rule and continued through much of the city's lifetime.

Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles

Ottoman presence is most readily identified at the citadel of Tripoli. Though named after Count of Toulouse and Crusader commander Raymond de Saint-Gilles, the hilltop fortress and citadel were largely reinforced and restored after the Ottoman conquest under Sultan Selim I in 1516. Originally built in 1103, Selim I's successor Suleiman the Magnificent began rebuilding the structure, and much of what stands today is the work of Ottoman sultans to restore Tripoli's citadel and surroundings.

Great Mosque of Tripoli

The Great Mosque of Tripoli as it's known in Lebanon, or the Mansouri Great Mosque, is another reminder of the city's many ruling groups and layered history. Built in the Mamluk period, the mosque is sometimes mistaken for a Christian edifice because some of the structures—namely the door and the minaret—are most probably from an earlier Crusader building. However, Mansouri Mosque is the first Mamluk construction project in Tripoli, and the mosque itself, courts, arcades, and fountain are distinctly Islamic. Connected to the mosque on the eastern flank is the madrasa that also connects to the souks.