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History of Tripoli

The Mameluke Period (14th Century CE)

Tripoli > History > The Mameluke Period > History of the Mameluke Architecture in Tripoli (Part II)

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History of the Mameluke Architecture in Tripoli (Part II)

The Plans of Tripoli

The Mansouri Great Mosque is considered as the basic axis of the Mamluk Tripoli plan of architecture. Around it, the markets branched where valuable articles like: gold, silver, jewels, perfumes, spices, incenses, books, rose and flower waters, chaplets, paper threads, ropes and many other things that don't harm the sense of smell and sight and don't cause noise that disrupts the prayers. That's why the jewelry market was built near the northern main gate of the mosque. At the same time, and at the eastern side of the mosque, the perfumers market, to which two other gates of the mosque can be opened, was built. The fourth gate, however, opens to the west, where the nice smell of orange and lemon flowers of nearby orchards fills the place. The Mamluks did not built a wall around the city, however, they constructed a small defensive tower near the eastern gate of the Mansouri great mosque. They constructed the markets, roads, the narrow streets following a zigzag fashion. That' in addition to constructing ceiled roads (with ceilings) on top of which houses were build in order to offer enough protection. This system made the city appear as one tight block protected by houses, with thick walls, built by the use of strong sandy stones that can resist the shells of invaders. Military windows were made for shooting arrows over every crossroad a house arched with stones. These windows allowed shooting in all directions. Below them, there is a stony arched with wide arcs and thick wooden gates plated with iron and big nails, closed in the evening or in the cases of near danger. When closed, the market looks like a fort difficult to attack and also like a tunnel under the houses. This can be noticed nowadays in Aattareen (perfumers) market, where three houses are built over three crossroads of the market. Many other examples can be seen in Nouri district, Kartawieh narrow street, Sayed AbdelWahid Miknasi, Roummaneh, Houjeijieh, Hommos, Beyrouty, Takieh Kaderieh narrow street, Ouwaynat ascent, Dabbaghah district, the narrow street next to Jadeed bath, Haraj market road, Sousieh, Jadeed market, Tarbiaa, Mahatra, and the Taht Sibat (an eloquent Arabic name derived from Sabat which means the ceiled road) road. Because of these prosperous building characteristics, unique to Mamluk Tripoli, and for military and defensive necessities to face the invading Crusaders and their pirates, a strong impression was taken about the numerous secret underground tunnels in the city. While building the mosques, schools, baths and Khans, the Mamluk architect took into consideration the inclusion of fortressed strong structures with thick walls. At the end of each road or at each corner of a long narrow-street, a thick stony wall was built. Narrow vertical windows (Mazaghel) were made in it for shooting arrows. In each narrow street, there was more than one corner to stop any attack and to decrease the number of invaders in order to drive them back easily. A gate was built near every market. There were several gates at the edges of the city. These gates were renewed or increased in number following the expansion of the constructions in the city. The names of dozens of these gates in different districts and markets of the city are mentioned in the records of the legal court in Tripoli.

Next to each gate, it was taken into consideration the building of a school or a mosque. Two schools were almost always built near every gate. One outside to host the visitors of the city who arrive at night after the gates were closed, and the other inside the city. When the districts and streets of Tripoli were planned, the building of the mosques, schools, baths, and Khans in the center of main markets was always considered. They were built next to each other to enable the traders, travelers and visitors who stay at the Khan, to go to the after having a long travel and to pray together (Jamaa) in the mosque or in the nearby school. For example, we can find several Khans in the center of the trading area. Some of these are: Khayyateen, Masriyeen (Egyptians), Jaweesh, Rammaneh, Khashab, Saboun Khans and others. We also find Hajeb, Ezzedeen, Kadi, Nouzha, Nouri baths, and others. The Mansouri great mosque stands near both Nouri bath and Saboun Khan. Tawbeh mosque is near Aaskar Khan and Kadi Karmi bath, and so on. However, the craft and manufacture markets, which cause noise, dust and disturb the people, were built at the edges of the city. Basically, these markets were away from the Mansouri great mosque, which the Vice Sultan, Princes, Judges, Mofti, chief men of the city and the masters of religion go to pray in on Fridays and feast days. Dabbagheen (tanners) and Mallaha (saliners) markets, for instance, are in the far northern side of the city. In the south, Nahhaseen (coppersmiths) and Haddadeen (ironsmiths) markets stand. On the eastern bank of the river, Zerrakeen (work in bluing) and weapon markets exist. On the western bank of the river there are Najjareen (carpenters), Kattanin (who work on cotton) and Kabakibieh (shoemakers) markets. In the center of the city, there is the Bazerkan market, specialized in cloth sale of all kinds. To the western side of this market, leather and shoes (kinderjieh) markets branch. Stone workers stonemasons and marble workers, were in the western edge of Nouri district. Briefly, the valuable industries and crafts had their markets near the Mansouri great mosque. A notable movement accompanied the extension of the city. It was the intention of building mosques and religious schools for praying and teaching. They increased in number in a way rarely encountered except in main cities and capitals. These schools were widespread and intensive in the markets and roads. These closely built schools are crowded till now in a small area whose circumference does not exceed 100 meters. In Nouri district, for example, the schools are intensively crowded around the Mansouri great mosque. There we find: Kartawieh, Shamsieh, Sheikh Hindi, Khairieh Hossen, Nasserieh, Nourieh, Naml, Jaweesh, Towashieh, Dahhan, Sabounieh, Karimieh, Kasimieh Ahmedieh, Kawikjieh, Khatounieh, Sakarkieh, Sabbagh and other schools which were destroyed, removed or turned into shops and houses. Their remaining domes and worship places are the only evidence of their previous existence. These schools were what made the city looks like a huge academy for science and knowledge. That's why until a late period Tripoli city was called: "The city of science and scientists." Going back to the Mamluk markets, we notice that every job and craft had it's own specialized Khan. This system stayed untouched during the Ottoman era The system of the specialized market was subjected to a strict control by the masters of the craftsmen. Every craft had a Sheikh (chief) or an owner of method. Every market had a Sheikh. Even every district had a Sheikh, who was elected by the crafts masters (Sheikhs). After reading the historical sources, the inalienable property statements which are graved on the mosques and schools of the city the Ottoman documents, preserved in the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, records of the Legal Religious Court in Tripoli, and the inalienable property documents, we find many names of the Mamluk city markets. Of these are: the weapon market in Souwaikah district, the Halawiyyin (confectioners') market, Aakkadeen market, Aattareen (prefumers) market, Najjareen (carpenters') market, Nahhaseen (coppersmiths') market, Haririyyin (silk workers') market, the Kameh (grain) market, Iskafiyiin (shoemakers') market, Sawwafeen (wool workers') market, Tawaki (hats) market, Sayyagheen (jewelers') market, the Sabbagheen (tanners') market, Haddadeen (ironsmiths') market, Haraj market, Zarabilieh market (in Tabbaneh), Mounajideen (upholsters') market, Sarrajeen (whipers) market in Mallaha, Tabbakheen market near ZakZouk narrow street?, Jalalatiyeh (saddlers) market in Tabbaneh, Habbak (weaver) market, Hayyak (knitter) market, Bawabijieh (shoemakers') market, Kabakibieh (wooden shoemakers') market (near Bourtasi mosque), the Sammaneen (groceries) market (in Tabbaneh), Kawoukjieh (fezzes) market, Shaareen (small window makers) market, the Kattaneen (cotton) market (between Ezzedeen bath and Kadrieh school in Bab Hadeed), Dabbagheen (leather tanners'), Mallaha (salina) market, Shawwayeen (grillers') market (to the west of Aattar mosque), Tabbaneen (straw workers') market, Khail (horses) market, Bayaterah (veterinarians') market, Kojajieh (straw workers') market, Kawwafeen (makers of a special kind of shoes) market (near Roummaneh narrow street), Taweel (long) market (near Aattar mosque), Bazerkan market, Oulabieh (box makers') market (in Tarbiaa), Nashareen (sawers') market, Sakkayin (water carriers') market (in Himrawi ascent), Samak (fish) market, Khoudra (vegetable) market, Silsila (chains) market, the narrow street of Hajjareen (stoneworkers), Ouwairatieh street (near the cemetery outside Tripoli), Hommous (chick peas) narrow street, Molokhia (in Haddadeen), Lahhama (butchers') bridge, Hasarineh district (name derived from Hasroun town), Nasara (Christians) district, Yaakobieh (Jacobeans) district, Yahoud (Jewish) district, the Crusaders Kisaria, Tujjar (traders') Kisaria, Asandamor Kisaria, the old Wakala house, the Khayyateen (tailors') khan, the Egyptian Khan, Saboun (soap) Khan, Khashab (wood) khan, Ma'a (water) khan, Rouz (rice) khan, Batteekh (melon) khan, Kamh (wheat) khan, Zayt (oil) khan, Loubia (peas) khan, Koton (cotton) khan, Banadika market, Moubayideen (bleachers') market, Kazzazeen (glass merchants') market, Kassabeen (butchers') market, Fakhaniyeen (fruiterers') market, Khabbazeen (bakers') market, Shammayiin (wax merchants') market, Ballan (kind of thorns) market, Hibal (ropes) market, Samarjiyeen (saddler) market, Khaitilkirab (waterskin tailors') market, Haleeb (milk) market, and others.

The names of the markets, khans and shops show us the large number of available crafts and various products which were displayed or manufactured and sold in Tripoli. Besides, there were oil presses, soapworks, and grinders which were considered as heavy factories. The defensive characteristics in the Mamluk architecture of Tripoli are clearly visible in the minarets of the mosques which are similar to towers and high strong lighthouses as in the minaret of the Mansouri great mosque, which has two big rooms in the first floor. This mark, i.e. the tower, can be seen also in the minaret of Aattar, Tawbeh, Bourtasi, and Houjeijieh mosques. The school of Prince Kartay, next to the Mansouri great mosque, has a two meters high cellar. the Prince used it as a store for weapons and supplies which he had for himself. He was fond of weapons and he was a famous warrior. The different Mamluk Princes and Vice Sultans built similar cellars when they constructed the military towers on the coast instead of drawing a wall around the city. Because the Mamluk Tripoli was built on both banks of its river, known as Abou Ali river, several bridges were made over the river to cross from one bank to the other. Several grinders were also built in the middle of the river bed and on its both sides. The public slaughter house for sheep was built near the river too to use the running water in washing leathers and sweeping out blood and wastes. It can also be noticed that the number of floors of the buildings rarely exceeded three during the Mamluk Era. The plan was to allow a horizontal expansion of the city due to the presence of wide plains inside it. The surface area of the old city at the coast, however, was narrower because of its geographic limitations. That's why, the buildings in Mina district expand vertically. Therefore, we find buildings of four or five floors and some of them may reach six floors, as described by the Persian voyager Nasser Khesro during his visit to Tripoli in the Fatimid Era 438 H/ CE 1047. With the existence of Houjjaj hill, on top of which Tripoli castle stands, a rocky hill at the eastern bank of the river known as Dahr Mogher, and Kobbet Naser (dome of victory) hill that rises up more than fifty meters above the sea level, the water which flows from Kadisha valley at the bottom of the Cedar mountains reaches all high storeys by well sealed canals. In the different streets, shops and markets of Tripoli, water dams (Manfis) were constructed to distribute drinking water for all places. This had arisen the interest of the historian and the voyager Ibn Fadlallah Omari. So he said while describing Tripoli: "It has a river that surrounds its houses and storeys and water flows in multiple storey houses unreachable without stairs". Sheikh Rabwa Demashki described the water canals by saying: "Tripoli was built at a riverside that flows to the sea. It is plainy and mountainous, having part next to the sea and another inland. Water goes through its sides, it has an arcade on a valley between two mountains, water flow over it from its spring up to it, and rises for about seventy yards. The arcade is about 200 yards, and the river flows under it reaching the Saki lands. It pours out in the Roomi (Roman) Sea. You can hardly see a house without trees, because of the excess availability of water".

Ibn Fadlallah Omari mentioned that all buildings of the city were made from stone and lime. They are whited externally and internally. The trend of bleaching the buildings internally and externally is mostly practiced in the cities of the Arabic Maghreb (Moroccan) countries. This assures the Moroccan influence on the architecture of Tripoli. The careful wanderer in the old markets may easily notice the accurate system that had been followed when planning the city. The chief trading line which splits the city from the south (Haddadeen district) to the far north (Dabbaghah district) is not completely straight, but smoothly turns at different places. This is a design that was put mainly for defensive necessities as mentioned before. When the new fashioned Mamluk city was under construction, the security, political, and military conditions were not completely settled. The city was newly liberated from the rule of the Crusaders (Europeans), who kept on attacking it whenever possible. Hence it was necessary that the city must be well fortressed. That's why most of its markets and roads were ceiled and narrow streets were numerous. So, if any army enters the city, it had to scatter its troops, that can easily get lost among the similar and branched roads. Then, it would be easy for the protectors to hunt and capture them. The architectural system had interfered in designing the buildings in all details, even for the small windows. The big wooden views which appear over the roads were usually based on huge pillars. These wooden views go beyond the facade of the building to its outerside (balcony). It is noticed that the remaining of these buildings still exist at chief points of the markets, and especially at both banks of the river. They were mostly houses occupied by the great men of the state who had the high posts, or they were Princes or wealthy people.

The Characteristics of the Mamluk Architecture of Tripoli

The Mamluk characteristics of architecture in Tripoli had passed through two peculiar stages. The best example to study the development of the Mamluk building in the city of Tripoli goes by investigating the mosques and schools they designed. That's in addition to its gates, minarets, domes, lobbies, halls and yards, where we can notice the artistic aspects of the buildings. The first architectural stage is characterized by the dependence on fortifying the buildings with extreme simplicity in arcades, arcs, pillars, supports, gates, and ablution pools. All these are free of decorations and artistic touches that attract the attention of anyone who looks at them. This stage is limited between years 689-725 H/ CE 1290-1325, and it's effect is obvious in a collection of buildings constructed at that stage. Examples of these are: the Mansouri great mosque, Tawbeh mosque, Sayyed AbdelWahed Miknasee mosque, Shamsieh school, Mardanieh, Zouraykieh, Khayrieh Hossen, and others. These buildings were free of architectural decorations. Marble was not used in building their walls or floors, only sandy stones were used as in the castle and the military towers. No elements of beauty can be noticed, except few touches influenced by architectural types and characteristics that preceded the art of Mamluk architecture. This can be seen in the arc that is over the Shamsieh school gate, which is thought to date back to the Crusaders or even Latin Era. In this stage we knew two masters of the architectural school. They wrote down their names on their deeds.

Undoubtedly, this period which directly followed the conquest of Tripoli required the interest in building the desired construction, as it leads to the aim of its construction. The situation of the region and AlSham Coast, in addition to the atmosphere of the war, were still reflected on the inhabitants and their life style. It also forced saving and thrift of wasting money, effort, and time on unnecessary positions. The milestones of the second stage of the Mamluk architecture in Tripoli cleared and appeared in the second quarter of the 8th century Hegira/ AD 14th century They came out with the colorful elements of beauty, in decorations and architectural forms, and in numerous graceful writings, harmony in colors, especially in the marble pieces of smooth surface, harmony in the polished stones, alternation of black and white, the dovetailed sinjat (weights or bayonets), the successive hollowings and Moukarnasat, the falling of the suspenders, and the exaggeration in magnificence, and luxury in decorating the gates, mihrabs, walls of prayer houses, domes, and ablution pools. Building of Taynal mosque, the Bourtasi mosque, the Aattar mosque, the school of Prince Karatay, the Nourrieh school, the Sheikh Hindi, the Nassirieh, the Tawashieh and the Namel belongs to this architectural stage. All these included elements of engineering and art of wonderful beauty that resembles the beauty and artistic fortune which we see in the mosques of Cairo, Damascus, and Aleppo. This luxury in architecture reflects the civilized, social and economic life that the city began to live, as well as the spiritual comfort, feeling of safety, and quietness which prevailed its regions after the plans of the city had been fortified. This feeling was also strengthened by the withdrawal of the European Crusaders danger and the settlement of the political life of the Mamluks in Sham countries as a whole, and especially in Tripoli, the capital of the Vice Sultanate. In the second stage, we encountered several names of the masters of the architectural school. Of these, are: Abou Baker Ben Bousays Baalbaki, the builder of Aattar mosque, Mohammed Ben Ibrahim Mouhandes, who made the eastern gate and the marble platform of the same mosque, and Mohammed Ben AbdelHameed, the architect of Prince Tountash castle. All these mentioned names of architects and manufacturers belong to the Shamieh school. Nevertheless, the effects of the Andalusian and Moroccan engineers, architects, and builders, appeared obviously in many buildings of Tripoli, like the Mansouri great mosque's minaret, of semi-squared sides, and the Bourtasi mosque minaret, in the upper hall of Prince Ezzedin Aybek Mousseli castle, which is similar to the arcade of Hamra castle in Grenade. The effects also appeared in the small window that is on top of the eastern side of the Tawashieh school, where a twisted rope of Andalusian fashion suspends from its middle. They are also in the marble pillar on which twisted rope shapes were carved inside Houjeyjieh mosque. The mosque of Sayyed AbdelWahed Mouknasi is one of the Moroccan milestones and traces in building, especially in its small minaret and simple Mihrab and the peculiar Moroccan handwriting. Cairo was the capital of the Mamluk state and has their Sultans castles, so their architecture is distributed and mixed with the Ayyoubee, Fatimid, Akhsheedi, and Toloni architectures, but Tripoli enjoys its own peculiarity, as it is a mere Mamluk city whose architecture is considered as the largest inhabited unit on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and it competes with Cairo in this aspect. The buildings of Tripoli are more fortified than those of Cairo, for the characteristics of their solid and tight sandy stones. The huge wooden boards were used only in the ceiling of the houses, in the wooden attics (Suddah) on which the Moazzen (who calls people for prayer) stands inside the mosques, and in the wooden platforms. The big mosques, schools, Zawaya, Khankas, baths, Khans, military towers, arcades, bridges, castles, water tanks, and others were built from heavy rocky or sandy stones and were plastered from inner or outer sides. Some of their walls were covered with colorful marble, while the stones of the castle and the towers and the mosques minarets remained without plaster or lime.

The most important characteristics which distinguish the religious buildings in Tripoli from those of the Mamluk Cairo are: the middle hall (Ewan) inside the immense mosques and inside some schools were ablution pools exist, and the water pool which is in the middle Ewan that is about a mater lower than the rest of the mosque's sides to drain water. The nature and the climate necessitated the addition of the pool inside the mosque or the school, to enable the prayer of doing the ablution inside the mosque to protect him from rain in winter and from sunshine in the summer. The pool also adds beauty to the other elements of the mosque. It's water cools down the heat and humidity of summer time. We find ablution pools in the Mansouri great mosque, Tawbeh, Bourtasi, Karatay school, Sayyed AbdelWahed, and others, which assures the plentiful of water in the city.

The Artistic and Gracious Traces

The Moslem architects did not hesitate to use the stones and pillars that existed before, in the heathen temples or in the Christian churches. They put them together in a wonderful harmony as they are now, in the northern part (the first part) of Taynal mosque. It is probable that the architects of Taynal mosque, Bourtasi mosque, Aattar mosque, Kartay's school, Nourieh school, Nassirieh school, Sheikh Hindi, Tawashieh, Kadirieh, and others, belonged to one architectural school, or they belonged to one period. They imitated each other in the art of hollowing, Moukarnasat, suspenders, decorating in mosaic work. They played with pieces of purple, gray, black, white and colorful marble and made of it wonderful architectural squares and circles. Anyone who looks carefully at these milestone's gates feels at first that they have one soul in the general architectural form in spite of the difference in their decorative details. The unified feeling appears also when we look carefully at the Nourieh school Mihrab (Chancel), Karatay chancel, Sheikh Hindi chancel, and Bourtasi mosque chancel, where the colorful marble forms the essential element in decorating them. After that element, the mosaic work pieces and the accurate and colorful drawings over the hollowing of the chancels follow.

The research will last long if I wish to talk about the other beautiful things and points that we see in the intensive decorations curved inside Sheikh Hindi's school, and in the shells that we see on the gate of Tawashieh school, and in the Andalusian decorations in Prince Ezzedeen's palace, and in the Mamluk hand writings inside the room of the Sakrakieh school grave with the accompanied decorations, and with writings on its external frontage. That's in addition to the lot of curved writings on most of the Mamluk mosques and schools. Another artistic event is represented in the Ranks (symbols) which were curved by the Vice Sultans and the Sultans and the Princes of the Mamluks on the graves they built. Some of them are the: Rank of Prince Akhour (the Prince of the Stable). It is the sword and the horse-shoe curved in Tripoli castle, Rank Sakee (the cup) curved inside Prince Boursbey tower which is known wrongly as Sebaa. Also, we see the cup symbol on Taynal mosque minaret, and on the Khatounieh school, and on the gate of Prince Karatay narrow street and others. We also see mottoes: Joukindar, Aalamdar, Dawadar, and others in different districts. I still need to point to a final peculiarity in constructing the Islamic city. It expresses a human touch and cooperative soul between the architect, the builder, and the building owner in addition to dealing in design and architecture with the public people, by softening the corner of every building that lies at the beginning or at the end of each market, or at any turn. The sharpened corner of the building is broken and polished to smooth its sharpness, so that it will never cut if anyone touches it or knocks into. The peculiarity of this pretty art can never be hidden. The architect did not only break the sharpness of the corner, but he added a beautiful touch as well. He made the end of the broken and polished corner similar to chancel bend. He decorated it with some harmonical hollowings which relieve the eye. This artistic and human side is missing nowadays in modern buildings.


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