From its setting on one of the best natural harbors in North Africa, Tripoli exuded an exotic Arabic-Islamic flavor peppered with Mediterranean charm. It was the most cosmopolitan city in Libya, and few travelers left disappointed after exploring its rich mosaic of historical influences.
One of the most impressive sights in the city was the House of Yusuf Karamanli, built in the 19th century as the private residence of the city’s former ruler. It was an extravagant example of the way of life once hidden behind the high walls of the medina. Converted into a museum, the palace featured restored traditional rooms, displays of royal clothing and period furniture. The first floor sitting room was especially remarkable. The inlaid furniture, lavish tile work and an elaborate wooden ceiling made visitors feel like royalty themselves.
The Madrassat al-Founoun Wasanaa’a al-Islamiya was another incredible example of traditional Libyan style. The beautifully arched facade gave way to an expansive, lovely courtyard steeped in history. During the Ottoman period, the building served as a school but was transformed into a prison by the Italians from 1911 until 1942. Libyan deportees were gathered there before being forced into exile. The moving sculpture that stood at the western end of the courtyard was a tribute to those who never returned to their homeland.
The site was recently converted to be a school again. There, young Libyans learned traditional crafts, like pottery, leatherwork and woodwork. If they asked kindly, the students and teachers would let visitors watch their lessons.
One of the highlights of the city was the Tripoli Zoo, located in the sprawling An Nasr Forest. The spacious and well-kept enclosures were home to lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys, waddan and other exotic creatures. On Fridays, the landscaped grounds were particularly lively as families hosted picnics and children played games in the open green spaces.
The colonial legacy came alive at the Old French Consulate. The 17th-century building was as rich in beauty as it was in history. The two-story tiled courtyard was surrounded with colored windows, delightful arches and ornate woodwork. The restored consular offices were a study in colonial elegance, and the caretaker often let visitors climb to the roof to take in spectacular views of the city.
Visitors could look through a fascinating window on the past at the Al Saraya al Hamra castle. Until the 20th century, the castle was the seat of power in Tripolitania, and its 13,000 square meters were filled with houses, courtyards and mysterious alleyways.
Islam is the soul of Tripoli, and there are many mosques worth exploring in the city. The elegant Draghut Mosque was built in the 6th century and is characterized by its arabesque and calligraphic relief inscriptions, graceful arches and stunning pillars.
Originally a Roman Catholic cathedral, the Masjed Jamal Abdel Nasser mosque was converted into an Islamic place of worship in 1970, not long after the revolution. Beloved for its use of sandstone and marble, the mosque’s impressive exterior is best viewed from the teahouses across the square.
The small but beautiful Gurgi Mosque was the last in Tripoli to be built under the Turks. The interior gleamed with imported marble, ceramic tile work and intricate stone carvings, and the stone lattice carvings that decorate the main room’s domes were absolutely breathtaking.
Although the conflict of 2011 damaged much of Tripoli and travel is not recommended at this time due to a high threat of terrorism, violent clashes and kidnapping, there is hope that the capital will one day return to its former glory.
Tripoli Geographical Location
Tripoli is located on the northern coast towards the western border. It is Libya’s largest city with a population of approximately 1,800,000.
Arabic is the official language of Libya but Italian and English are understood in major cities.
Tripoli Predominant Religion
- 97% Sunni Muslim
- 3% Other
Islam is the official religion of Libya.
The Libyan Dinar is the official currency of Libya.
Tripoli has hot summers and mild winters with little precipitation throughout the year.
Tripoli Main Attractions
- Jamahiriya Museum
- Tripoli’s Medina
- The Arch of Marcus Aurelius
Other Attraction in Tripoli
- Red Castle
- Martyrs’ Square
- Karamanli Mosque
- The Gurgi