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October 31, 2009
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Tripoli in the Travelers' Literature

Jerusalem and Tripoli Lebanon: Common Features and Relations

Author: Prof. Omar AbdelSalam Tadmori

Tripoli > History > Jerusalem and Tripoli

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AlQuds and Tarablus

Many civilization features, as well as historical and cultural relationships, formed common ties between Tarablus (Tripoli) and AlQuds (Jerusalem), despite some differences in their nature, features and architectural characteristics.

Tripoli is situated on the seashore, while AlQuds is an inland city that is about 720-780 meters above sea level. Tripolitan soils are mostly sandy, whereas those at AlQuds are mainly composed of rocky lands with little elevations, similar to those at the Abou Samra and Qubbah districts in eastern Tripoli.

Although AlQuds represents a very important religious core, Tripoli was an important political and economical center. During the Islamic history, Tripoli played a very important regional role. Since the beginning of the Abbasid rule to the late Ottoman Era (including the Fatimid, Crusade, and Mameluke periods), Tripoli was considered as a base for a province, a capital of a state or Emirate, and/or the headquarters for the vice Sultan. At that same period of time, AlQuds had almost no political value at all since the Ramlah city was considered as the capital of Palestine starting from the early Islamic conquests until the middle of the Mameluke Era and it was important both at the administrative and political levels. AlQuds followed the Ramlah sometimes and in other times it was under the rule of Damascus. The Prince of Damascus assigned for himself a representative in AlQuds; the same applies for the Judge of Damascus who also appointed a representative in AlQuds.

As for Tripoli, it had an independent governor and judges starting from the Fatimid period at about the 4th century of Hejira (10th century CE).

When the crusades assigned AlQuds as the capital of their Eastern Latin Kingdom, Tripoli was also assigned as the capital of the Fourth Latin Kingdom. AlQuds was occupied by the Crusades for about 90 years, whereas Tripoli remained as such for about 180 years. When the Mameluke State was founded, the lands were divided into governorates and Tripoli used to have supreme importance when compared to many other Shamite (Syrian) cities. Tripoli came third after Damascus and Aleppo in terms of importance and the governor of Tripoli was directly appointed by the Sultan in Egypt; the same applies for the judges, the military leaders, and other officials. When Tripoli became under the Mameluke rule in 688 Hejira (1289 CE), it was assigned as the capital for a governorate that extended from Al-Kalb river at the south to the northern suburbs of Lattakiya at the north and in the inner lands it extends to Homs, the Alewives' Mountains, Akkar, Jubbat-i-Besharri, the forests of Al-Batroun, the Akoura, and Mounaytirah Mountains. At that same time, AlQuds was under the rule of Damascus and it remained as such until year 777 Hejira (1375 CE) when it was announced as an independent governorate. However, the governor of AlQuds was only ranking as seventh in the order of the Sultanate governors. Ibn Taghri Bardi quoted: "The governor of Damascus used to appoint his representatives in AlQuds, Al-Ramlah, Sidon, Beirut, Baalbek, and other cities."

The part of AlQuds city that is enclosed within the walls occupies a surface area of one kilometer square. The wall elevation may go up to 30 meters in some places with 2 meters of thickness on average. Based on the estimation of the Persian traveler Nasir-i-Khisrau, old Tripoli - which was situated at the seaside, at the location of present day El-Mina - had a similar surface area to that of AlQuds since it measured about 1000 Cubits X 1000 Cubits. According to the historian Ibn Aybak Al-Dawadari, the wall of Tripoli completely surrounded the city and it was so strong and large that three chevaliers where able to ride their horses side by side on top of it. At present, the wall surrounding AlQuds still exists, however that of Tripoli was completely demolished upon the orders of the Sultan Mansour Qalawoon shortly after the conquest of the city. Subsequently, the Sultan ordered the construction of a new city below the feet of the citadel, close to the Qadisha river, and away from the sea. However, the new city did not have a wall, instead the civilian and other public buildings were built so close together in a manner that made the city resembles as a whole a huge fortress with gates opening to different directions. Guardians were protecting these gates day and night. The gates, in turn, were closed at sunset time and were never opened for any late comer; so he was obliged to sleep his night outside the city (a military precaution that was common for all Arab cities at that period).

Starting in year 1858 CE, inhabitants of AlQuds started building new homes outside the wall. When the expansion reached a maximum rate in AlQuds in 1881 CE, Tripolitans also started to build some new houses outside the western borders of the city on top of some sandy hills (e.g., present-day Al-Tell and Al-Zahriyeh districts).

Although some monuments belonging to the Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyoubid, Mameluke, and Ottoman periods still exist in AlQuds until present, most of the Abbasid monuments are non-existent in Tripoli, only two Fatimid monuments and some engravings exist, and many of the Crusade constructions were transformed into Islamic Mameluke monuments. No Ayyoubid monuments do exist in Tripoli since the Ayyoubids failed to conquer the city. As a result, the majority of monuments - mosques, madrasah, baths, caravansaries, bazaars, houses, alleys, fountains, and squares - existing in Tripoli nowadays belong to the Mameluke period and form together a consolidate structure just as in the old town of AlQuds; each of the two cities look as if they were composed of a single huge building enclosing a network of modest and unified civilized life.

During their presence in Tripoli, the Crusades constructed a Latin district that surrounded the citadel. Some features of that district still exist in present-day Al-Yakoubiyyah district (alias, Taht-i-Sibat), the Iron Gate (Bab-el-Hadeed), Al-Tarbi'ah, Al-Mahatirah, and St. Yuhanna (at Abou Samra). The Crusade constructions are usually made of small-sized sandy stones, whereas Mamelukes used large thick blocks, such as those seen in the mosques, caravansaries, madrasahs, the citadel, and others.

The Mamelukes used the stones of the Latin district in constructions that took place in different areas of the city, that subsequently enlarged in size during the late Mameluke period and the early Ottoman area to include about 26 districts with a total surface area of approximately 3 Km2. The Mansouri Great Mosque was built at the center of the city and opened to the neighborhood via four gates: one that leads to the jewelers’ bazaar, two to the perfumers’ bazaar (formerly, Tawaki bazaar), and one, at the western side, was used as a passage for funeral ceremonies heading to Bab-el-Ramel cemetery. Next to the later door stands a small defensive tower.

When planning the bazaars and alleys, the Mameluke architect thought of using these constructions for defensive purposes. That is why many bazaars were built in different directions, each one ending at a crossroad that leads to the other bazaar and so on. Some bazaars were open and included many houses and shops that were raised next to mosques, madrasahs, zawayah, fountains, baths, and caravansaries. On top of the bazaars, stony arches with slit windows were built to offer cool shadows in the hot days of summer and act as covers from the heavy rains of winter. Houses that were built on top of the bazaars and main streets acted also as defense towers that granted a self-defense power for the inhabitants of each of the districts.

In order to supply more protection, Mamelukes designed the streets and alleys of Tripoli in a way to be tight and have zigzag-like trajectories for them to be easily defended; a raid by many attackers who manage to reach the inside of the city will soon be dispersed as they continue further inside. People will then be able to defend their districts with simple tools, by throwing stones or pouring hot oils from the windows and roofs overlooking the alleys.

Many of the alleys also have dead ends and in their walls are small slit windows (in Arabic, Mazaghel) that may be used to shoot arrows. For every district there was a gate that was also locked at sunset time or at times when reports of coming attacks were confirmed. The documents at the Islamic Religious Court of Tripoli noted the presence of 11 main gates connecting the city with the outside world. This number did not include those small gates that existed within the city between the streets and districts.

A main architectural similarity between AlQuds and Tripoli are the gates of the Tankuziyyah Madrasah in AlQuds and the Tuwashiyyah Madrasah in Tripoli, both Mameluke style. This similarity leads us to assume that it was the same architect who probably constructed both gates. During that same period, a Tripolitan known as Haj Kamil Al-Taraboulsi migrated to AlQuds, lived there, and constructed a madrasah in about 816 Hejira (1413 CE). The school was named Al-Kamiliyyah and its’ inalienable properties (Vakif) were registered at the same year.

During the Ottoman period, the wife of the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, a Russian in origin named Roxelanah and officially called Khorram, ordered the construction the Khaski Sultan Takiyyah in year 964 Hejira (1556-7 CE). She also assigned inalienable properties to support the expenses of this takiyyah, these properties included: all the outcomes from the town of Amioun, four grinders, known as Taytariyyah, located near the town of Rash'een at the Zawiyah area near the Rash'een rive, four other grinders, known as Turabiyyah, at the town of Bishneen at the Zawiyah area near the Abou Ali river, the tenth of the Behara village near Sidon (it summed about 3800 Dirhams), all the income from the caravansaries and the shops of the Sheikh Toutmaj district in Tripoli, all what is included in the Jadeed caravansary near the Koleyt river, and all the Kaysariyyah at the Khan Al-Adimi district (limited at the east by the Adimi caravansary, north by the Atrouji garden, west by the main street and the Koleyt river).


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