- Updated On:
- February 24, 2022
- Year Built: 1900
Not so long ago, all I used to know about Tripoli was from the history and geography books that we studied at school. It is the second largest city in Lebanon, and the capital of the North Governorate. It has offshore islands known as Palm Island and Rabbit Island that are considered protected areas due to their rich marine wildlife and the migratory birds that constantly fly in their space.
“Tarabulus”, as we call it in Arabic, dates to the 14th century BC since the Bronze Age. Many civilizations left their marks all over the city, from the Phoenicians, to the Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Arabs, Mamelukes, Ottomans …
I headed north from Beirut on a sunny morning with no specific schedule for my journey. I had few well-known places in mind that I wanted to visit and the name of the hotel where I had planned to stay. Away from books and research, I thought that the most interesting way to discover Tripoli was to mingle with the locals and let them show me their city the way they see it.
Hotel Via Mina is an old traditional Lebanese House , with spacious and clean rooms. Its front garden is a comfortable space where I enjoyed my morning coffee while watching the world go by slowly. The place is well located in the beautiful seaside aspect of Tripoli, known as El-Mina.
I left the hotel on foot with the purpose to explore the area. The abandoned train station is a must see and I am sure you will be able to take many beautiful photos. As for lunch, there is only one place to have the perfect fish sandwich, Abou Fadi “Malek El Samkeh El Harra” (the king of the spicy fish sandwich). El-Mina (the harbor) occupies the location of the old Phoenician city of Tripoli and is now an independent town. I spent my whole afternoon there wandering in the streets and exploring the numerous historical sites. The “Lion Tower” (Burj El-Sbaa’) is the only remaining tower out of five protective towers built around the city during the Mameouk period to protect it from foreign invasions. I also visited the corniche, Khan El-Tamasili (Ottoman style building), the Cathedral of Saint-Georges and El-Fakhourat, known also as “Fakhouret Abou Georges”, where since more than 300 years, the Arairo family has been working in the pottery tradition. It offers an educational and entertainment experience, and a prehistoric tradition that refuses to vanish.
Right before sunset, I returned to El-Mina Corniche to watch Tripoli’s sunset behind the Mediterranean Sea.
If you are into Lebanese food, I would recommend you El Hajj Ali for dinner. I simply loved the place where great food is offered in a very nice atmosphere. Whatever you order, try not to miss their Tabbouleh-Quinoa salad.
One of the most important facts about Tripoli is that it is the capital of street food and traditional sweets. I knew I was going to eat a lot so I planned to walk a lot as well. The day started with some Foul, Hummus, Balila and Fatteh at El-Dannoun restaurant. Then I parked my car near Hadikat El Baladiyeh (Municipality garden) close to “Sultan AbdulHamid Clocktower” and headed towards the old souks named “El-Khan”. I barely stopped to rest that day as I first visited the great Mosque of El-Mansouri built in the 13th century during the Mameluk period, Khan El-Askar (the “Soldiers’ Souk” that was lately renovated), Khan El-Saboun (the “Soap Souk”). When in Tripoli old souks, do not miss El-Sharkass factory, producing soap since 1803, Khan El-Khiyatin (the “Sewers Souk”), Hamam El-Abed (a Turkish bath and still functional) and Hamam El-Nouri (it is open for free for all visitors).
While wandering in the streets and taking photos, I tried the “Kaake Traboulsiyeh” (traditional bread covered with sesame and filled with white cheese and charcoal grilled) and the “Moghrabiyeh” Sandwich from the famous Dabbousi. As for dinner, I decided to try “El-Shater Hassan”. The place is well known and is referred to as the “Palace” but to be honest the food could have been much better.
It was a very long day in the narrow streets of this ancient city and the road lead me to the Citadel of Raymond De Saint-Giles. Watching the sunset from that 12th century crusaders fortress overlooking the old town was all I needed.
That night I had a drink and I enjoyed some good music at Timmy’s pub in El-Mina
One of the most pleasant times I spent was while sitting at 8h30 am in the morning at El-Hallab sweets,“Kaser El-Helou” (Sweets’ Palace), having some Lahem Bi Ajin / Sfiha with Debs El Remmen, a platter of Mafroukeh and, of course, some “Kneffeh”.
After breakfast I headed to the seaside again and rented a small boat that took me on a ride between the several islands facing the shore. I stopped for few hours where I had a swim and some relaxation with a beautiful view before returning to the mainland.
Right before leaving, I grabbed a Falafel Sandwich from El-Soufi Snack and drove back home with few more kilograms in my weight but with the determination to come back soon and try to explore more of this splendid and full of surprises city.
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