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October 31, 2009
Thu AlQe'da 12, 1430

History of Tripoli

The Mameluke Period (14th Century CE)

Tripoli > History > The Mameluke Period

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Please send your comments, suggestions, or contributions to: Dr. Ghazi Omar Tadmouri.

Major Events

1289 CE: Fall of Crusader Tripoli (harbor city) to Sultan al-Mansur Qalawun; city site transferred inland at the foot of Mount Peregrinus (Abu Samra) for protection against the return of the knights still on Cyprus and Rhodes; Arab Tripoli or medina built around inland citadel (the castle of saint-Gilles) over Crusader bourg and along the banks of Qadisha River (Abu Ali).



Legal Status

Central city and provincial capital of Mamlakah or kingdom (one of six in Mamluk Syria); Tripoli ranked third after Aleppo and damascus; subdivided into six willayahs or provinces; extended from Jubayl and Aqra mountains south, to Latakia and alawiyin mountains north; included al-Hermel, the plain of akkar and Hosn al-Akrad (Krak des Chevaliers).


Mameluke decorative motifs.

Economy and Dominant Function

Major trading port of Syria supplying Europe with candy, loaf and powdered sugar (especially during the latter part of the 14th century); main products from agriculture and small industry included citrus fruits, olive oil, soap, and textile (cotton and silk, especially velvet).


Social Factors

Mamelukes formed the ruling class holding main political, military and administrative functions; Arabs formed the population base (religious, industrial, and commercial functions); general population included the original inhabitants of the city, immigrants from different parts of Syria, North Africans who accompanied Qalawun's army during the liberation of Tripoli, eastern Christians, some Western families, and a minority of Jews.



Population Size

Number estimated between 20,000 and 40,000; against 100,000 in each of Damascus and Aleppo.


City Size and Urban Growth

High rate of Urban growth and fast city development (according to traveler's accounts); poles of growth included the Fortress, the Grand Mosque, and the river banks.


Infrastructure and Public Works

Seven guard towers on harbor site to defend inland city; appropriation and expansion of the Crusader castle of saint Gilles as the Citadel of Mamluk Tripoli; reuse of the "Aqueduct of the Prince" bringing water from the rashin spring; construction of several bridges; surrounding orchards expanded through marsh drainage; fresh water supplied to houses from their roofs.


Urban Form and Functional Structure

Dictated mainly by climate, site configuration, defense, and urban aesthetics.

Layout of major thoroughfares according to prevailing winds and topography; no fortifications but heavy building construction, compact urban forma, narrow and winding streets for difficult city penetratio; bridging over street with residential construction at strategic points for surveillance and defense; loopholes and narrow slits at street junctions.

Public buildings emphasized through sitting, facade treatment, and street alignment.

Mosques evenly spread with major concentration of madrasas around Grand Mosque; all khans located in the northern part of the city for easy accessibility from roads to Syria; hammams carefully located to serve major population concentrations: one next to Grand Mosque, the other in the center of commercial district, and the third in the right-bank settlement.


Building Types and Major Buildings

Nine Mosques:

  • Six congregational mosques: The Mansouri Great Mosque, and the mosques of AlAattar, Taynal, AlUwaysiyah, AlBurtasi, and AlTawbah.
  • Two quater masjids: Abd al-Wahed, and Arghoun Shah.
  • Two mosques were built on empty land (al-Burtasiat and al-Uwaysiyat); the rest incorporated earlier structures (churches, khans, shops, ...).
  • One of the most beautiful mosques is the Taynal mosque, whose quiet design, splendid minaret and different cupolas make it one of the most interesting sights in the city.

Sixteen madrasas:

  • Four no longer exist: al-Zurayqiyat, al-Aattar, al-Rifaiyah, and al-Umariyat; six concentrated around the Grand Mosque (Anonymous ...

The Khanqah

Secular Buildings

Five Khans

Three Hammams:

The hammams, Turkish baths, are noted for their cupolas, which are luxuriously decorated; the light streaming down from them enhances the atmosphere of the place.


Building Construction and Architectural Style

The religious and secular buildings of the Mamluk period comprise a fine example of the architecture of that time. The oldest among them were built with stones taken from 12th and 13th Century churches; the characteristics of the architecture of the period are best seen in the mosques and madrassas, the Islamic schools. It is the madrassas which most attract attention, for they include highly original structures as well as decoration: here a honeycombed ceiling, there a curiously shaped corniche, doorway or moulded window frame. Among the finest is the madrassa al-Burtasiyah, with an elegant facade picked out in black and white stones and a highly decorated lintel over the main door.

Well-cut and well-dressed stone (local sandstone) used as medium of construction and for decorative effects on elevations and around openings (ablaq technique of alternating light and dark stone courses).


Building Construction

Use of bearing walls as vertical supports; cross vaults to cover most spaces from prayer halls to closed rectangular rooms, to galleries around courtyards; and domes over conspicuous and important spaces like tomb chambers, mihrab, and covered courtyards.

Typical details include cross vaults with concave grooves meeting in octagonal openings or concave rosette; simple cupolas or ribbed domes; use of double drums and corner squinches for transition from square room to round dome.


Decoration

Concentrated on the most conspicuous areas of buildings: minarets, portals, windows, on the outside, and mihrab, qiblah wall, and floor on the inside; may be subdivided into:

structural decoration: using the medium of construction itself (ablaq walls, plain or zigzag moldings, fishscale motifs, joggled lintels or voussoirs, inscriptions, and muqarnas); mostly found on the outside.

applied decoration: (marble marquetry, stucco, and glass mosaic); mostly found on the inside.

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