May/June 2000

T r i p o l i

Lebanon`s Mamluk Monument

Written and Photographed by Dick Doughty

(This page may take few more seconds to load!)


The conventional wisdom of the 13th century held Tripoli under the Crusaders to be unconquerable. Capital of one of the four Frankish states since 1109, it was an Eastern Mediterranean port some 2000 years old, where Venetians, Genoese, Pisans, Arabs, Ottomans and Jews ran shipyards, fisheries, olive-oil presses, textile shops and orange groves. Its sugar traders were famously innovative, and were among the first to arouse Europe’s sweet tooth. So well-fortified was the city that in the late 12th century, Saladin, who wrested Jerusalem from the Crusaders, settled for merely worrying the environs of Tripoli.


Qibla Wall at the Burtasi Mosque

Using polished lengths of colored marble, artisans crafted polychrome marquetry panels that are among the most striking of the applied decorations in Mamluk Tripoli. Above is the central motif of the qibla wall of the Mosque of al-Burtasi; the panel measures approximately a meter (3’) square.


During the 13th century, Tripoli fended off three sieges. The last two were by the formidable Al-Zahir Baybars, the Mamluk sultan who had become a Muslim hero in 1260, fighting in the vanguard of Sultan Al-Muzzafar Qutuz’s victory over the Mongols at ‘Ain Jalut. Baybars campaigned almost annually in the Levant, seeking the restoration of the Mamluk state in Egypt and Syria by chipping away at Crusader rle. In the 1280’s, Sultan Al-Mansur Sayf al-Din Qala’un carried on that strategy, and by late in the decade, his prospects looked god.


The central court of the Qaratay Madrasa

Sized panels still wear well after nearly seven centuries of footfalls around the ablution fountain in the central court of the Qaratay Madrasa.


Qala’un took major Frankish strongholds in 1285 and 1287, and when internal rivalries weakened Tripoli’s defenses, he saw his chance. In the spring of 1289 he led his army north, stopping to pick up reinforcements in Damascus. About Tripoli’s walls he deployed a huge force - sources number the soldiers at between 40,000 and 100,000 - along with some 19 mangonels and catapults. Crusader reinforcements never arrived. The Venetians fled the city first, fearing that the Genoese might take all the ships. The siege lasted a day shy of five weeks, and when Qala’un was finished, the only remaining seat of Crusader power was Acre. Two hundred and twenty-seven years of Mamluk rule in Tripoli had begun.


A cannon overlooking modern Tripoli from its citadel

From the sea and from Tripoli’s hilltop citadel - named for St. Gilles, Crusader Count of Toulouse - the Crusaders besieged Tripoli fitfully for a decade until their victory in 1109. Almost two centuries later, Tripoli fell to Sultan Qala’un, who in 1289 began the Mamluk rule under which Tripoli was capital of one of the six provinces of Syria. The Mamluks enlarged the citadel, as did the Ottomans after them, who also added cannons.


Victorious, Qala’un repaired to Cairo. He left Tripoli under the control of Sayfedeen Balaban Tabbakhi as governor of the mamlaka, or state, of Tripoli, which was one of the six political units that made up what the Arabs called bilad al-sham ("the north country"). Its territory included roughly what is now the modern nation of Syria along with today’s Lebanon and parts of Palestine. Tabbakhi’s orders were to oversee the demolition of the Crusader city, and begin its reconstruction as a Mamluk one.


The ablution fountain of the Mansouri Great Mosque

The first major architectural project under the Mamluks in Tripoli was the Great Mosque commissioned before the city had recovered the resources to undertake much decorative craftsmanship. Its central, domed ablution fountain is plain though neatly proportioned and is surrounded by a courtyard rimmed by porticoes and the hall of the prayer.


The demolition was not done entirely out of spite. Tripoli, named by the Greeks when it led a consortium of three coastal settlements (tri-polis), was itself something of a double city, as it is today. There was the walled harbor town, called al-mina, which is Arabic for "the harbor". It was the center of the city through successive eras until Mamluk times, and lay on a flat promontory that jutted into the sea from the fertile coastal plain, forming a harbor on its northern side.


The gate of the Qaratay Madrasa

The prosperity that returned to the city under the Mamluks stimulated the crafts, and next door to the Great Mosque rose the madrasa commissioned by Qaratay. Above its door is one of the city’s most elegant facades, which incorporates Qur’anic inscription, a joggled marble relieving arch, a marquetry panel of dramatic fluidity, ablaq (alternative courses of black and white stone) and a muqarnas half-dome.


Then there was the citadel, which lay inland some three kilometers (1.9 mi), snug against the foothills of the mountains, capping the hill known as Abu Samra. Just who first built it is uncertain: Some maintain the castle was the construction of Raymond I of St. Gilles, the Crusader Count of Toulouse; others say St. Gilles enlarged and fortified an existing Fatimid Arab stronghold. But there is no doubt how St. Gilles used it: It was his base during 10 years of on-again, off-again, ultimately successful sieges of al-mina that ushered in Tripoli’s Crusader era. The castle bears his name today, Qal’at Sinjil, and the solidity of its construction exempted it from Qala’un’s demolition orders. Indeed, the Mamluks expanded the fortress further still. (Today, it is the city’s most dramatic tourist attraction).


The market in old Tripoli

Defense-minded Mamluk planners never built a wall around Tripoli. Rather, they laid out market streets in a deliberately confusing fashion, with gates dividing the craft quarters from each other, to confound and confine intruders. Even modern residents find it easy to get lost.


Qala’un also ordered the Mamluk city to be constructed not at al-mina, but instead under the brow of the citadel. This, says Khaled Ziyadeh of Lebanese University, was both strategy and sensibility. Ziadeh has specialized in Tripoli’s social history. "To the Crusaders," he says, "the citadel was a military fortification that they first used to besiege the Arab city and later to guard the coastal center. But to the Mamluks, a citadel was always a social and political unit as well as a military one. The Mamluks were very much afraid the Europeans would return - remember, they had only retreated as far as Cyprus - which gave the Mamluks good reason to build inland rather than right on the coast. But that was not their only reason. It was also their tradition, which they had developed in Cairo."


The mihrab of the Burtasi Mosque

Although Mamluk features - ablaq, marquetry, a joggled voussoir and mosaic tile - dominate the mihrab, or prayer niche, in the Mosque of al-Burtasi, Corinthian colonnettes testify to the endurance of the esthetic legacy of the Greek successors of Alexander the Great.


Just who the Mamluks were can be difficult to understand today, for they have no modern analogue. The word mamluk means "something that is possessed" in Arabic, and it refers to a caste of elite military slaves. In the central Islamic lands, between the 10th and early 19th centuries, that phrase was not the self-contradiction it seems today. To become a Mamluk, you had to be born a peasant in the Turkic-speaking lands of Central Asia; and you had to be purchased by a patron, a Muslim ruler to whom you would swear fealty for life. In return, you would be schooled - often very well schooled - as an officer or, in the case of the most able, as a cavalryman. You rose through the military ranks on your own merit, for a Mamluk could neither inherit nor bequeath his position. Mamluks spoke Turkic tongues among themselves, which set them apart from local populations, and they took great pride in having been chosen individually to rise out of poverty and become men of achievement, responsibility and refinement. For their patrons, this system enabled them to control their domains using professional guards and armies who had no potentially subversive connections among the subject populations.


Khan al-Khayyateen

In addition to sacred architecture, the Mamluks also sponsored construction of civic and commercial work such as industries, farms, craft workshops and markets, among which the best-preserved is the tailors’ hostelry and market, or khan al-Khayyatin, which is still used for its original purpose. Other markets, some of which still stand today, were built for the sale of soap, perfume, wax, silk, wool, hats, boxes, baskets, rope, chains, saddlery and horses; craft districts were built for carpenters, tanners, knitters, weavers, upholsterers and smiths of iron, copper and gold. Provisioners’ markets included fishmongers’, butchers’, bakers’ and confectioners’ as well as sections for the sale of oil, rice, wheat, melons and milk.


Inevitably, the Mamluks became powerful in their own right. Both in Baghdad and, more dramatically, in 13th-century Cairo they overpowered their patrons and established hereditary dynasties of their own. In Egypt, the Mamluk dynasty ruled for more than 500 years - independently from 1250 to 1517 and effectively, as Ottoman tributaries, until 1811. Supporting the Mamluk sultanate were such social institutions as the fortress, the palace, mosques and religious academies, which were patronized by sultans, princes, governors and other powerful individuals who increasingly, as time went on, were themselves Mamluks.


Tripolitan sweets exhibited in a shop

Tripoli’s trade with Europe in candy, loaf and powered sugar predates Crusader times, and a sense of proud tradition endures among the city’s confectioners - at least one of whom now takes worldwide orders via the Internet.


In Mamluk Tripoli, after securing the seat of government in the citadel, quartering the troops and making basic repairs to the aqueduct, among the first major projects undertaken was the construction of a central congregational mosque. Commissioned five years after the city’s capture and dedicated to Al-Mansur Qala’un during the brief reign of his son Al-Ashraf Salah al-Din Khalil, it was this Great Mosque that first stamped the city with its new Islamic, Mamluk identity and offered a new hub for the religious and commercial life of the city. It rose on the site of the Crusader church of St. Mary, and it incorporated a relic gate and, for a minaret, the church’s square-plan bell tower, both of which survive to the present day.

Using a nearly square paved courtyard, a central domed ablution fountain and a vaulted prayer hall, the Great Mosque followed architectural design principles common to the region at the time. However, it was built of the same stone as the citadel and other fortifications, and it lacked the ornamentation that is the most recognizable and pleasing feature of the architecture that developed out of those same principles several decades later.


Inside the Taynal Mosque

The interior of the 1336 mosque of Amir Taynal, a three-term governor of Tripoli, is surprisingly plain and intimate for what was one of the most abundantly endowed mosques in the city, especially when compared to the grandeur of its entrance hall. Decoration was restricted to carved wooden minbar (pulpit) and the marble floors, now damaged and carpeted. In this way, the mosque expresses more dramatically than most the Mamluk tendency to lavish ornamentation on the publicly visible elements of a building: entrances, minarets and windows.


That was because the years of the Great Mosque’s construction were lean years, says historian Omar Tadmori of Lebanese University. Security and the restoration of basic services were foremost in the minds of the city’s patrons and governors, who oversaw a permanent garrison of about 5000 soldiers. Europeans mounted occasional raids from their bases in Cyprus and beyond, and there was the ever-present fear - albeit never realized - of another all-out Crusade. Tadmori, who has advised on restoration projects throughout the Mamluk city and is modern Tripoli’s leading architectural historian, notes that "the Mamluks did not build a wall around the city..; [rather] they constructed the markets, roads, and the narrow streets in a zigzag fashion" to confound and confine intruders - in short, to make the city into a trap. Tall stone houses rose at strategic corners, and each was fitted with slit windows for shooting. Each market and each section of the city could be closed off by its own gate.

Yet defense was hardly the sole consideration in city planning. Tadmori also points out that "the building of mosques, schools, baths, and hostelries (khans) in the center of the main markets was always considered. They were built next to each other to allow traders, travelers and visitors to go to the mosque together, or attend the nearby school." In addition, the nature of crafts and trades determined assigned locations for each of the more than three dozen specialized markets: The more prestigious and refined ones, such as the cloth, gold, perfume, shoe, and confectionery suqs, clustered close to the Great Mosque; the loud or smelly ones, such as the coppersmiths’ and tanners’, were situated where they would be least likely to distract those who gathered for prayer.

One prominent early patron of building was Prince Sonkor bin ‘Abdallah Nuri, whose bath and madrasa (Qur’anic school) both bear the name Nuri today, as does the entire district around the Great Mosque Other princes, governors and even sometimes the wives of such officials underwrote construction of other mosques and of baths, schools, markets, squares, fountains, gates and numerous houses; others sponsored the draining of marshes, the repair and replanting of fragrant groves of oranges, bananas, dates and walnuts and fields of sugarcane, along with irrigation systems; still others helped rebuild and expand industrial workshops for making soap, pressing olive oil, refining sugar, and weaving velvet and other textiles. Such patronage, undertaken out of a combination of noblesse oblige and a desire for self-commemoration, increased trade and the local tax base. In a few decades, Tripoli’s population climbed from fewer than 20,000 immediately after the Crusader exodus to more than 40,000. (By comparison, some 100,000 people lived in Damascus at the time.)


The central dome of the Attar Mosque

In the al-Attar Mosque, converted from a Crusader church in 1350 by Badr al-Din al-Attaar - perfumer by name as well as by profession - a chandelier hangs from a dome that rises to complete the rectangular vaulting. As in most Mamluk buildings of Tripoli, the interior stone was not dressed smooth, since it was originally plastered and white-washed. Practically, this made the most of window lighting; architecturally, it showed the influence on the Mamluks of their Fatimid predecessors, whose roots lay in North Africa, where such interior styles remain common to this day.


Prosperity returned. Two decades after the Mamluk conquest, in 1310, Isa ibn ‘Umar al-Burtasi commissioned a madrasa, the first in the city to make use of what are now regarded as the major elements of Mamluk decorative architecture. The portal and the arched windows of the madrasa were framed in alternating courses of black and white stone, a technique called ablaq - literally, "piebald." This set the openings off dramatically from the plastered, whitewashed sandstone walls, expressions of a North African influence that came to Tripoli by way of Cairo and has almost entirely disappeared today. Muqarnas squinches appeared both in the portal and in support of the central dome. Inside, marble marquetry decorated the qibla wall, which indicated the direction of prayer, and the floor that surrounded the ablution fountain.

The madrasa of al-Burtasi, which today functions as a congregational mosque, was soon one of more than 20 schools in the city. Like their counterparts in Cairo, the Mamluks of Tripoli were not military men in a narrowly soldiering sense: They saw themselves as custodians of the Islamic empire, and their humble origins likely made them sharply aware of the value of the education they had themselves received. As a result, the city blossomed as an academic center as well as a center of commerce and crafts. By encouraging the madrasas, "the Mamluks transformed social and religious relationships through architecture," points out Tripoli-born historian Hisham Nashabe. "They created what became a center for the ‘ulama, the intelligentsia of the time, who lived in the al-Burtasi district until the 19th century."

Tripoli’s prosperity impressed visitors. In 1326, Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta remarked on the city’s "amazing markets and fruitful plains." In her 1975 survey of the Mamluk city, architectural historian Hayat Salam-Liebich notes that in the early 1300’s "travelers mention [Tripoli’s] numerous mosques and madrasas, its beautiful markets and luxurious baths, and its construction of white-washed stone, but what most impressed everyone who visited the city… [were] the water channels everywhere and the water piped from the neighboring hills that could reach the tops of houses several stories high."


The vestibule of the mosque of Amir Taynal

The portal’s central triptych demonstrates a refinement in marquetry craftsmanship that has much in common with contemporary work in Damascus and Cairo.


With wealth came more refined, elaborate architecture, and the most elegant articulations of the Mamluk decorative vocabulary appear in the buildings of this early 14th-century period. It was in those years that the craftsmen of the city, looking mainly to Damascus and Aleppo, were able to carry their skills to sublime heights. Of the several dozen constructions of that time, two stand out.

The Qaratay Madrasa, built next to the Great Mosque between 1316 and 1326 by the governor of Tripoli, makes exquisite use of marble marquetry, especially in the square plaque above the main door, where interlacing bands of polychrome marble form four loops about a central, circular window. Other, square marquetry panels decorate the floor. Ablaq appears not only around doors and windows, but is also echoed in relieving arches above each window, in which alternately black and white stones interlock in fluid, elaborately curvilinear patterns.

In the 1330’s, as the central city became increasingly built up, Vice-Sultan Sayfeddeen Taynal Hajeb Ashrafi commissioned a mosque at the southern edge of the city. Using the site of a former Carmelite church, where several Roman-era Corinthian capitals and columns were lying about, he sponsored construction of the city’s most spectacular portal. Today it is also the best preserved because, unlike other portals, it stands inside the mosque, which is entered through a modest covered portico, or riwaq. The riwaq opens into a plain but grandly proportioned, domed vestibule that is used as a secondary prayer hall, and which also provides a superb frame for the decorative portal that leads into the main prayer hall. Yet in that main prayer hall, there is relatively little decoration. In this way, the Taynal mosque exemplifies the Mamluk tendency to concentrate decoration on the most noticeable parts of the structure: the portal, the minaret and, to a lesser extent, the windows.


The mosque’s minaret is thick-shafted because it contains a double spiral staircase that is unique in Tripoli - at the bottom, one staircase opens to the interior, and the other opens to gardens that are surrounded by apartment blocks.


The portal at al-Taynal, among the tallest in the city, is clearly its most refined Mamluk expression. It uses polished ablaq, a joggled relieving arch, extensive calligraphic inscriptions, three panels of marble marquetry and a crowning muqarnas half-dome. It is a coherent structure, one in which details contribute to what Sala-Liebich describes as the "feeling of freshness and purpose" that characterizes the best of Mamluk craftsmanship.

In the years that followed the 1330’s, buildings of all types continued to be erected and decorated - some very well - and some of those still stand today. But by mid-century, the reign of Al-Nasir Qala’un had ended, and his successors proved less adept. Plague devastated the Mamluk world socially, economically and politically no less than it did Turkey, Europe and North Africa. And though Tripoli’s sugar trade continued to gain renown in Europe in the late 14th and 15th centuries and the city grew even more cosmopolitan, yet the building crafts seemed to lose the exuberance that had characterized what the early Tripolitan Mamluks called Tarabulus al-Mustajadda ("Tripoli the Renewed"). In 1517, Tripoli was folded into the Ottoman realm and its administrative status was downgraded. It remained a leading academic city of the Eastern Mediterranean until the mid-19th century, when it was eclipsed by the rise of Beirut. Today, its role is largely commercial.

In recent times, efforts to conserve, restore, catalog and publicize the city’s Mamluk heritage have been carried out by a dedicated coterie of local Islamic waqf (foundation) trustees and Lebanese historians, among the latter Tadmori and Ziadeh. The Lebanese civil war did not significantly damage the core of Tripoli, and the city retains most of its Mamluk plan despite Ottoman, colonial and modern overlays. Two published architectural surveys, Salam-Liebich’s and another carried out by graduate students of the American University in Beirut, have established a basis for conservation. The city has designated 45 buildings as historic landmarks, and it has marked them with trilingual blue signs that identify them and give their construction dates: 30 of them date to the Mamluk era.


The inner portal of the Taynal Mosque

The vestibule of the mosque of Amir Taynal is larger in both in height and area than the prayer hall that lies on the other side of the most elaborate portal in the city. In the vestibule, the original ablution fountain and its surrounding floor panels of marble marquetry have been removed after being damaged, and the area is now used as a secondary prayer hall. The granite columns date from the Roman era; the mosque’s builders recovered them from the ruins of a Crusader-era church that stood on this same ground.


However, modern Tripoli may be in a lean time not unlike the early years after the Mamluk conquest "Right now, there is no money for conservation beyond basic maintenance," says Shawki Fatfat, an architect in his late 20’s who spent much of last year unemployed. "There are too many other more pressing problems since the [end of the Lebanese civil] war. This is understandable, but there is so much more that we could be doing - excavations, restorations, even just cleaning things."

Fatfat and others are hopeful that the Mamluk city will become the fifth site in Lebanon to be listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as one of its more than 600 World Heritage Sites The motion is being brought by Nashabe, who also represents Lebanon on UNESCO’s executive board.

World Heritage Site status, he says, would "raise the profile of the city in a way we desperately need. It is like a certificate of authenticity, validating it in the eyes of international concerns that could then be in a more confident position to make partnerships with local ones."


Restoration of the Tuwashiyah Madrasa

At the Tuwashi Madrasa, plasterers take a break from refinishing the interior walls. Built in 1471, it is one of the city’s later Mamluk buildings, and one of the only ones to maintain the original smooth, white interior finish. Its exterior also has been renovated in recent years. To stimulate further renovations in the Mamluk city, Lebanese architectural conservationists hope to add Tripoli to the United Nations’ list of more than 600 World Heritage Sites.


Today, the old city is a crowded warren of dilapidated char and seemingly undiminished utility, one among that handful of very old urban cores, from Fez to Istanbul, that wear well the passage of half a dozen centuries. True to the Mamluks’ intentions, the city remains exceptionally difficult to navigate. Even Fatfat gets lost: "I grew up here and have studied and photographed every one of the monuments, but I still get confused sometimes," he confesses. But unlike many other cities, where markets have grown and expanded organically over long periods of time, Tripoli’s have remained confined by the original plan, and one can still see where the gates - now removed - would have sealed one trade’s area off from another’s, leaving intruders at the mercy of archers.

Now, the stems of satellite dishes often poke out of the old slit windows and rooftop crenelations designed for the archers, and while women still negotiate the narrow passages with baskets of vegetables on their heads, some of them pause to take calls on cellular phones. Yet the coppersmiths still bang out tea trays; the Khan al-Khayyatin ("tailors’ hostelry") is still stacked with bolts of cloth, and the ramshackle, nearly abandoned Khan al-Saboun yet houses a few makers of multicolored, hand-packed, spherical olive-oil soaps, variously sweet and musky - one even gooey with honey. Along the sea, al-mina, which the Mamluks were the first and only occupants of Tripoli to neglect, thrives as an industrial port and fish market, much as it has since Phoenician times nearly 3000 years ago.

The orange groves and sugarcane fields that lay between al-mina and the Mamluk city are increasingly filled with ranks of apartment buildings whose drabness is offset by the vistas they offer their occupants: on one side, the sea, and on the other, the snow-capped mountains. To increasing numbers of middle-class and professional Tripolitans, the old Mamluk city is a place to take pride in - though from a comfortable distance, if only because finding a parking place near it can be so exasperating. That is one development that the Mamluk planners can hardly be blamed for failing to anticipate.


Tripoli and the North Lebanon Mountains behind

East of Tripoli rise the mountains, whose cool, fertile foothills allowed Tripolitan agriculture to diversify beyond coastal crops, increasing the prosperity of the city’s farm economy that since the earliest times complemented fisheries and maritime trade. From the mountains flows the Qadisha River, which provided an irrigation resource as well as the drinking water that the Mamluks piped in to most houses. Its often steep course linked Tripoli’s traders and travelers with the Beka’a Valley and the Syrian interior. Today, roads follow the river and its tributaries into the mountains, serving farms, suburbs and villages, and metropolitan Tripoli supports some 12 times as many people as it did under the Mamluks.



A 14th-Century Trust

The following text is inscribed on two marble plaques that flank the entrance of Tripoli’s Madrasa al-Saqraqiya, finished in 1359 under the patronage of Sayf al-Din Aqturaq al-Hajib. It is a waqf document, which establishes a foundation or trust and makes over certain of the grantor’s property t it; income produced by that property maintain the mosque and its staff. (See Aramco World, November/December 1973.) As one of the longer such inscriptions in the city, its details illuminate both the nature of a waqf grantor’s intentions as well as the economy of the era. The translation is from Tripoli: The Old City Monument Survey - Mosques and Madrasas, edited by Robert Saliba and published by the American University of Beirut in 1994.


The facade of the Madrasa al-Sqrakiyyah

Most founding inscriptions on the Mamluk buildings of Tripoli were integrated into the decorative scheme of the building’s exterior.


In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate: His honorable Excellency Sayf al-Din Aqturaq, the chamberlain, has constituted as waqf this blessed place as a mosque for Good…. He has provided the following waqf for its upkeep, furnishing, and decorations: The whole of the two adjoining farms in the districts of Hisn al-Akradd, known as the field of the Sultan and Qumayra; and the whole of the orchards adjoining the village of Rish in the district of Tripoli, one known as Masud and the other as Bab al-Aframi; and the whole of the four shops set on the eastern side of the Confectioners’ Suq in Tripoli; and the whole of the house adjoining the mosque; and all of the three houses in the vicinity of Khan al-Misriyyin in Tripoli; and the whole of the dispersed portion and its value; and the half and the quarter of the entire house to the north of the engineers’ hostelry by the old bridge; and the whole of the [bakery] oven known as Kurr Khulid, for the mosque mentioned and legally constituted as waqf. As for the use of the revenue, it is to begin with the building and its upkeep, after which the following is to be spent each month: 40 dirhams for the imam of the mosque, 50 dirhams for the two muezzins who take turns [calling to] prayers from the minaret of the said mosque; 30 dirhams for the attendants of the mosque and the mausoleum; 50 dirhams for five people to read prayers in the said mosque together and individually; 15 dirhams for the price of oil, of lamps, of cleaning equipment, and for the bringing of water. And t be spent on the Monday of each week are three dirhams for bread, to be distributed [to the poor] by the door of the mausoleum, and one single dirham for the price of water and ice; and, in the same fashion, to be spent on the Thursday of each week of every month are 11 dirhams for the price of clothing, such as a shirt and fine clothes and other things, for Muslim orphans, widows and poor people. And whatever remains after that is to be spent on whoever is poor or needy among the children of him who provided the waqf, or their descendants, or his freed slaves, with no distinctions. And if there be no needy among them, the money is to be distributed to the Muslims among the poor by the door of the mausoleum. For the supervision of the above [the grantor] has designated himself, then the wisest of his children and descendants, and whoever is an important chamberlain in Tripoli. He has also stipulated that the waqf is not to be rented for more than three years at a time and that the revenue is to be spent and not subjected to abuse or claimed taxes, as is specified in the written waqf [document] dated in the middle of Dhu al-Qa’dah al-Haram in the year 757 [November 9, 1356] and duly registered in the court of justice in Tripoli the Protected. And this [plaque] was inscribed in Rabi’ al-Awwal in the year 760 [February 1359]. And the right of water for this mosque, a legal right, is in the amount of three-quarters of an inch [pipe diameter] from the aqueduct of Tripoli.


Dick Doughty Dick Doughty is the assistant editor of Aramco World. He visited Tripoli in the spring of 1999.


Hardcopy copyright Aramco World

Design & internet copyright