Last update:
October 29, 2009
Thu AlQe'da 10, 1430

A Wander Around Inside Tripoli - Lebanon

(A Diary of Series of Walkabouts "Kazdouras")

Author: EurIng. Hilal Kabbara and Mrs. Lama Mawlawi Kabbara

Photographs are courtesy of Architect Khaled O. Tadmori

Reproduction is not allowed

Tripoli > Present > Kazdoura 2

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Day 2 (Al-Aswak - The Old Bazaars)
A young girl and a boy (wearing Tarboush [Fezz]) from the Aswak Dakeliyyeh district.
Stairway at the Aswak leading to Abou Samra district.
The Sayyagheen (Goldsmiths) Bazaar after a renovation by the Municipality of Tripoli (Headed by Mr. Minkara at that time).
The ceiling at the Nouri Bath.
Inner view from the Jadeed (New) Bath.
The Khayyateen Caravansaray after the renovation.
The Bortasi Mosque next to the Abou Ali River. Photo taken from the roof of the Khayyateen Bazaar. In the Background is the lower part of el-Qoubbeh district. In the upper-right corner of the photo is the aproximate location of the Mawlawiyyeh theological school.

So here we are now at the old city markets "Al-Aswak Al-Dakhelyyeh" (the inner bazaars) and before we enter to explore the historical aspects of the "Aswak" we must pass through different areas. As you are coming from "Sahet-Al-Tell" through to "Al-Saraya Al-Atika" (old council building street) you will reach a small round about. At this small round about you can branch off to go to "Sahet-Al-Nejmeh" (Star Square), "Shareh Al-Madaress" (Schools' street), "Al-Zehrieh", and to "Al-Aswak Al-Dakheelieh" such as "Souk Al-Kendarjeyeh", "Souk Al-Bazerkan", "Souk Al-Seyagheen", "Souk Al-Nahasseen" in Al-Tarbi'ah, "Khan-Al-Khayyateen", "Souk-Al-Attareen", "Khan Al-Saboon", etc.. These "Aswak" almost resemble each other in their architectural design. Mainly stone-built construction and you can clearly see the old type arches called "Kanater". Their historical age dates back to the days of the "Memluks" and some to the "Ottomans". If you';re not a born and bred "Traboulsee" (Tripolitan), you would most likely get lost amongst these "Aswak" due to the many narrow alleys "Dekhlayjat" or "Zawareeb" that are linked to each other like cooked spaghetti. Adjacent to one of these "Zawareeb" you would find a very old and historic landmark that is "Jameh-Al-Mou';allak" (The hanging mosque). This mosque hangs in the shape of an arch, which is a superbly fantastic view. Perhaps one of the most busiest of these "Aswak" is "Souk-Al-Attareen" (Perfumers-pharmacists Bazaar). It';s so called because in the old days it used to be mainly for chemists or pharmacist who used to give prescriptions on the spot by mixing stuff together for "Tobb Arabi" (Arabic medicine) to be given to ill people, so "attareen" means pharmacists. Nowadays "Souk-Al-Attareen" is very different, although you still find some "attar" (chemist/pharmacist) like "Haj Kamal Al-Shahal" and "Haj Nasouh Al-Rafi" but most of the old "Attars" have passed away like "Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Saiegh", "Sheikh Nasouh Al-Baroudi" and many others. Anyhow, nowadays "Souk-Al-Attareen" is full of grocers, street merchants and clothes shops. The street merchants sell products such as vegetables, sweets, and even clothes on "Arabiat" (Trolleys and pushcarts) and you can hear them shouting, some do it with a singing tune, to attract street's wanderers and shoppers. From "Souk-Al-Attareen" you can turn into many little alleyways and one of them will lead you to "Al-Jameh Al-Mansouri Al-Kabeer" (The Mansouri Great Mosque) is by far the most famous historical landmark in Tripoli. I will be talking about this mosque separately as I';ll take you inside it to explore the many different parts and features as well as the most traditional and festive practices. One of the main exits of "Al-Jameh Al-Mansouri Al-Kabeer" will drop you off to a street that takes you to "Souk -Al-Saigheen" where people can buy and sell jewellery ranging from locally made to imported ones. Off "Souk -Al-Seyagheen" you can divert to "Khan Al-Saboon" (Soap Caravansaray), which is again a proof of the great ancient historical architecture in Tripoli. It's an old stone paved ground with a pond in the middle surrounded by arches and decorated sandstone columns, it's an absolute beauty. You can also divert to find Arabic baths "Hammam" or "Hammamat" such as "Hammam Al-Nouri" and "Hammam Izziddeen" which are dated back to the Ottomans' days and if you like you can drop in for a bath. As you enter one of these "Hammamat" you will be overwhelmed by supersaturated steam like you get with sauna and I can assure you to be happily coming out very squeaky clean!! After a nice Arabic bath you may like to visit "Souk-Al-Sagha" (Goldsmiths Bazaar) and if you have a sweet tooth you can drop in at "Abou Noah's" to buy some "Halawet Al-Shomiaseh" (A traditional sweet made from mushy rice and thick milk cream), or you may like to have something salty such as "Za';tar" (A traditional mixture of herbs mainly Thyme, salt, sesame seeds, cumin etc.) so you can always go to find "Al-Sakardeess" (became Al-Massri later on) who will treat you and you may like to buy "Ka';keh-b';somsom" (a traditional bread topped with sesame seeds) to eat with the "Za';tar", or even "Mankousheh" (a traditional baked pastry topped with Za';tar and olive oil). You can really be spoiled for choice, all that depends on your taste and how much you appreciate good traditional food.LR

Now let us take a wander to enter "Khan-Al-Khayyateen" (Taylor's Caravansary). This in particular is a famous tourist';s attraction enjoying a distinguished character. Quite recently the German Government achieved the restoration and renovation to some of its parts. There are still some old people work in their old shops in "Khan-Al-Khayyateen" tailoring "Sharaweel" (a traditional pants) and making "Zennarat Hareer" (silk belly belts). When you exit "Khan-Al-Khayyateen" you get to a street called "Shareh Al-Nahr" (i.e., Nahr [River] Abou Ali) one side takes you to "Bab Al-Tabbaneh" and the other to "Bab Al-Hadeed" from where you can get to "Bahsa", "Swayka" and the famous "Tekiyyeh Mawlawyyeh" theological school.LR

On day 3 we'll be taking you for a walkabout in "Taht Al-Qual'a" (below the Tripoli Citadel) to include "Bab Al-Hadeed" through to "Talet-Al-Qual'a" where you would find "Qual';et Trablous" (Citadel or Castle of Tripoli) to get to "Abou Samra" district. Until then relax and have a break.LR

Day 3 (Taht Al-Qual'a - Below the Tripoli Citadel)
The Tripoli Citadel (Up-Right) overlooking Tripoli with an Autumn sky.
A closer look of the Tripoli Citadel.
Aerial view of the main portal of the Tripoli Citadel.
The Qadisha Cave
The Qadisha Cave
The Tripoli Citadel by day.
The Tripoli Citadel by night.
The Tripoli Citadel by night

On day two we promised to take you to "Taht Al-Qual'a" (Below the Tripoli Citadel). Last time we got to "Bab-Al-Hadeed" after coming out from "Khan-Al-Khayyateen" and you might be wondering what "Bab-AL-Hadeed" means and what it is, aren't you? Well, first of all about two centuries ago a significant area of the lower part of Tripoli used to be "Basateen Lymoon" (Orange growing fields) and Tripoli was under the Ottomans' ruling. Tripoli was surrounded by a number of big gates "Abwab" (they don't exist now) such as "Bab-Al-Hadeed", "Bab-Al-Tabbaneh" and "Bab-Al-Ramal". Those "Abwab" were there for security reasons. "Bab-Al-Hadeed" as it's still called now means The Iron Gate which is a neighbourhood at the bottom of "Tal'et-Al-Qual'aa" where you can particularly find open garages for Taxi services to take you to Abou-Samra, Al-Qebbeh "Seer Al-Donneeyeh", "Zgharta", "Ehden" and many more. We personally remember the good old days "Eyam Al-Izz" where we used to pay "Reb'a Lira" (Quarter of a Lebanese Lira) to go from "Bab-Al-Hadeed" to "Abou Samra", they must be charging you hundreds of liras nowadays!! I don't think this falls under the category of steadily rising inflation, it's a nuclear reactor business and don't be alarmed, some have reinvented nuclear power in Tripoli!!!LR

Probably one of the most important attractions that catch your attention in "Bab Al-Hadeed" is " Nahr Kadisha" which is most famously known as "Nahr Abou Ali". So what's "Nahr Abou Ali"? Well, it's simply River Abou Ali. "Nahr Abou Ali" starts from "Nabaa Kadisha" (Kadisha Spring) passing through "Wadi Kadisha" (Kadisha valley) all the way through next to the bottom of "Qual'at Trablous" then to "Bab-Al-Hadeed" through to "Bab-Al-Tabbaneh" and "Sahet Al-Mallouleh", to finally arrive to its discharge point in the Mediterranean sea north to Tripoli main harbour in Al-Mina. In late 1955, this river flooded to destroy many surrounding areas to consequently leave many houses ruined and a quite large number of dead people. Due to this, a large construction (/destruction; note added by the editor!) project was planned, designed, and implemented to avoid another disaster. This project concentrated mainly on the excavation of the soil and deepening the passageway through which the river stream runs. During the process of straightening "Nahr Abou Ali" excavation machinery removed massive remains of archaeological and historical beauties from both river banks such as "Hammam Al-Attar", "Hammam Al-Hajeb", "Hammam Al-Nozha", "Al-Bymarestan" (The old Memluk Hospital), "Khan Al-Manzel", "Al-Batrakeyyeh", "Kasr Al-Tontash" and many more (shame they did not have building insurance at the time, or even did not know that something like that ever existed!!!). Nowadays, "Nahr Abou-Ali" looks like a very thin water stream rather than a river and, unfortunately, the concrete channel in which the river goes is well oversized (may be the designers had their reasons) and you can clearly see rubbish and other stuff thrown into it. This is understandably unhygienic for the environment, which may well lead to contamination and therefore to contracting diseases.LR

Anyway, if you ascend from "Bab Al-Hadeed" for about 100 metres through "Tal'et-Al-Qual'a" towards "Abou Samra" you will find on your left hand side undoubtedly the most beautiful landmark in Tripoli that is "Qual'at Trablous" (Castle or Citadel of Tripoli). It is located on a rising hill overlooking the city of Tripoli. "Qual'at Trablous" had witnessed all the wars in Tripoli since it was built by early Arabs (more than a thousand years ago) and then enlarged by "Al-Saleebyeen" (the Franks/Crusades) signifying the historical heritage of Tripoli. During the bloodthirsty civil war in Tripoli from the mid 1970's to late 1980's it was not possible for people to visit, it was mainly occupied by faction groups for their military operations. It has now been renovated and refurbished for tourism purposes and I believe that they have supplied ornamental electric lighting by means of projectors to its bottom surrounding which will surely add much life to its architectural beauty. We will not enter "Qual'at Trablous" at this stage but perhaps we will take a closer look inside on another special day! However, if you continue walking up "Tal'et-Al-Qualaa" you will get to "Abou Samra". This is where we are going on day 4 to continue our walkabout.LR

Days 4-5

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