Things To Do In Tripoli
The city of Tripoli is a North African travel destination full of mystical charm and history. It earned its reputation from its prominent position as one of the oldest intersection of African and Middle East culture and civilizations. This mixture of cultures and influences has made Tripoli one of the most intriguing places to learn the history of its early Roman and Greek colonization. Tripoli has preserved and shared its ancient Roman ruins so that the public can understand its once colorful past. The semi-desert regions of Tripoli provide sparse grazing for sheep, goats, and cattle while the only natural farmland is located along the Mediterranean coast. On the northwestern plains and the northeastern highlands of Tripoli, farmers use mainly traditional methods to grow oranges, wheat, olives, almonds, and grapes.
The recent change brought about by Libya's revolution (2011- 2012) to its political system and government has left the city in a process of rehabilitation. The city is now picking up the pieces of what’s left after a struggling democratic revolution. Tourism and transportation within the capital city remains steady and the city is completely on its way to rebuilding a once broken nation. The future looks bright and the people believe that once peace returns, Tripoli will be one of the most exciting travel destinations in Libya.
When To Go:
The city of Tripoli can get extremely hot. The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, 136° F (58° C) in the shade, was reached in Tripoli in 1922. The main reason for this arid temperature is that almost 90% of the nation is made up of the scorching dunes of the Sahara Desert. The eastern section of the Sahara, which crosses into Egypt and Sudan, is called the Libyan Desert. There are oases here, such as the oasis of Al Kufrah, and there is also a huge underground supply beneath the desert rock that is an essential source of water during the summer season.
The summer season (June – September) here is sweltering and dry while the winter season (November – March) is gentle with cooler nights. The desert portion of the country always has hot days and chilly nights. The spring, (March – April) and fall/ harvest (October – November) are the ideal months to visit, when the humid air of the Sahara meets cold Mediterranean breezes.
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For a comfortable stay, even during hot weather, choose loose, long garments in regular fabrics. Wearing thick and modest clothes for the cooler months is also a good idea. Warm attire is required if you will be spending a lot of time in the desert. A complete attire of modest and concealed garments is advisable, particularly for ladies, and must not show upper legs and arms, shoulders or cleavage. A headscarf can be valuable as additional cover, and is crucial when making a tour of the mosques, cemeteries, or sacred destinations that bear religious importance.
These are the things to do in the city of Tripoli:
The Arch of Marcus Aurelius
The Arch of Marcus Aurelius shows its entire magical splendor, alongside the other main attractions in Tripoli. It is located on the outside of the Medina, close to the sea. The night view of the monument, when it is well lit, is very impressive. It is worth a visit to learn about the Roman influence on the city, although the bow shows obvious signs of wear and tear. Take the opportunity to go to nearby Medina and Martyrs Square, which are both close to the arc. There are also bars and restaurants around. Be sure to hire a guide who knows the best way to access and has information about the preservation of the arc in the current context of civil war in Libya. The Roman arch looks well preserved and impressive, if you think about the challenge of transporting it to Tripoli. Children in Tripoli love to play in the small garden located right where the arc and the rays of the sun meet. There is also an outdoor restaurant near the bow that has delicious food and a relaxing ambiance.
If you face the arch with your back to the waterfront, you’ll notice an old caravanserai with a patio on the right side. Here is where you can smoke shisha and have tea or coffee.Although there are sometimes young people who play twist football in front of the shop, there is always a quiet corner to be found. The best table is near the entrance. If you go a little further, you will find one of the few restaurants in the city serving authentic Moroccan cuisine. It is a tourist spot that is perfect for photos, especially if there are camels resting for their "siesta" (an afternoon nap). This ancient site is well cared for, with impeccable decor, and conveniently shaded by palm trees. It is also close to the row of hotels where most tourists stay.
Tripoli’s Medina has the advantage of having very few "hawkers" following tourists around. Instead, the traders are contained in one section of the market. This is a great place to view the overlapping Roman, Arab, Turkish and Italian architectures. For the best experience, go with a local that knows how to navigate the internal streets of Medina and can fluently speak Arabic with vendors (most of them only know the rudiments of English). For women, it is important to wear clothing that is considered "modest" by local standards, and avoid too much exposure of the neck, legs or arms. What kind of items should you buy? You can purchase a great variety of prayer carpets, handicrafts, jewelry, textiles, and hookahs.
What many tourists enjoy about Tripoli is the fact that it was able to retain the charm of an ancient medina without falling victim to commercialized tourism. The medina of Tripoli City is located on the side of the green square, which is also known as martyrs square. It is characterized by several alleys, ancient mosques, (which are all very small) and a large souk where there are traders of textiles, clothing, silver, and gold. There are also several small bazaars where you can easily find precious antiques. The medina is very colorful and animated, and can be a fascinating scene for anyone who has the time to stroll through the long, wide walkways of souks and Libyan crafts. It is a unique place where you are catapulted into a timeless location of shops and dining places. It's as if you were taking a glimpse into another era! From the tailors to the sellers of gold bars serving mint tea with pastries; here, the best of Libyan culture is at your feet!
Tripoli's Jamahiriya Museum
The exhibition hall at Tripoli’s Jamahiriya Museum is always closed on Fridays just like many other attractions in Libya. You can enter for free, but there is a cost to take pictures. When you enter, you’ll be required to leave your personal belongings with the staff at the guard’s admission lobby, but you may keep your camera if you pay the fee. The museum is well guarded, with staff at every section of the vast museum. While there, a historical center aide will follow you during the entire 4 and a half hour visit. This museum is large and you can feel overwhelmed and rushed, but don't lose hope; you will be left on the top floor and permitted to ponder around at your own pace near the end.
There are no cafes or restaurants in the museum, so be sure to dine at the row of shops and restaurants outside before you start the tour inside. Once inside, you’ll find collections of Greek and Roman mosaics, as well as rare items from the Villa Selene. These exhibits are fantastic, although the quantity of the pieces do not match the Bardo. There are five stories of treasures and gems, so there is something for everybody. There is even a regular history area as well as a peculiar arrangement of rooms dedicated to Gaddafi. In case you're not going to visit Saluntah (Slonta), you can see the duplicate of the sanctuary with its carvings of faces and other animals. One of Gaddafi’s official vehicles is even on display in one of the main exhibit halls.
The Martyrs Square (called "Green Square" in the era of Gaddafi) is located at the main center of Tripoli near the port. It is also near the Medina, the buildings of the Italian period, the restaurants, and the shops. It is more a point of reference than an attraction in itself, but it is a must when you go to Tripoli. It has been completely reconstructed and built in honor of the families and future generations who will bear the pain of Tripoli’s troubled past.
The former Green Square has been renamed" Martyrs Square "following the tragic events that have passed since the late dictator’s demise. The place stirs up a variety of emotions and an inspirational sense of patriotism for every Libyan who has witnessed the tragic part of their beloved nation’s history. This prominent square is the favorite hang out place of young Libyans and the perfect meeting place or landmark for nearly every expat.
Tripoli's Red Castle (Assai al-Hamra)
The Tripoli's Red Castle (Assai al-Hamra) is an exciting place to explore and observe in the capital city of Libya. The Red Castle in Tripoli is near the Medina and the port. As of now, this government building is currently closed to visitors but pictures can be taken from outside. This was the site where Gaddafi made one of his last public pronouncements before getting chased and killed.
In front of the famous castle, there is an artificial lake in the shape of the map of Libya. It also now serves as the best promenade area of Libya. If you come early, there are lots of locals engaged in varied physical activities or preparing to spend time having breakfast or daytime meal in the relaxing view of the busy harbor and the landmark red castle. You can do as most tourists and take pictures of this landmark castle.
Royal Palace Of Tripoli
The Royal Palace of Tripoli was the first home of the official Libyan ruler in the capital city since ancient times. An alternate home is the Al-Manar Palace, which is located in Benghazi. It was given by King Idris of Libya as the first branch of the University of Libya. There is another official palace at Bab Zaytun, which is situated along the eastern side of Tobruk. After the revolution, it was converted into an open public library for the people.
The Royal Palace was established during the 1930s and served as the home of the last King of Libya- King Idris I. Libya gained its independence in 1951 and Idris I became King. In 1959, newly discovered oil brought the country sudden wealth. However, this wealth was controlled by the ruling classes leading to widespread discontent. In 1969, King Idris was overthrown by the army, led by Colonel Muammar el Gadhafi. Gadhafi strengthened the economy, but he made many enemies since he opposed Arab peace with Israel and raised oil prices for Israel’s supporters in the west.
The Gurgi Mosque has been in the city of Tripoli since 1833. This sacred mosque was constructed by the efforts of Yussef, also known as Mustapha Gurgi. He was a ship captain that came from the city of Georgia. Inside the mosque, you are able to see his grave, or you can choose to simply peek through the window.
The Mosque is supported by nine columned sections and designed with sixteen little domes. The mosque's minaret rises above the skyline of old Tripoli and its location is easily accessible from the center of the city. It is also the last mosque that was heavily influenced by the Ottoman period with most of its walls and interiors covered in marble and imported from Italy. It includes special tiles from Tunisia and rare stone sculptures from Morocco.
There are revolutionary Street Murals are all over the city and they serve as a witness to the euphoria that happened with the fall of Gaddafi, evidence of a civil war within the country. There is also a book of photos of these murals on sale in bookstores throughout Tripoli. If you purchase one, you will have a better understanding of the purpose of these paintings and drawings after Gaddafi’s era. It is Libya’s latest history as well as an expression of the people’s new found freedom immortalized and depicted in art on a wall. This modern street art is full of variety of emotions, sympathy, and inspiration for courage and lasting freedom.
These are the road paintings that were carried out just after the unrest. Sadly, a considerable amount of these patriotic artworks have been losing the prominence they once had. Nonetheless, they are still worth visiting. They are everywhere throughout the city and the ones portraying Gaddafi as a rodent are alluding to a point during the Arab revolution when Gaddafi referred to anyone who opposed or fought his regime as rats. If you can’t understand the Arabic inscriptions written on the wall, just ask any local and they will gladly translate the wordings and messages for you.
Dar Adb al Khaliq al Nuwayji (Old British Consulate)
The previous British Consulate, now known as the Dar Adb al Khaliq al Nuwayji, was initially established in 1744 as a home for Ahmad al Karamanli, one of the first renowned leaders of Tripoli. He later donated the building to the British Consulate in 1940. It served its purpose until 1990 when it was converted into an investigative/science library.
The Almusher Market is a notable point of interest in Tripoli; situated in Bab Hawara, the south-eastern part of Libya. It also stands close to the clock tower in the northwest part of the old city. This trading sector sells all kinds of products unique to Tripoli such as; local handicrafts, textiles, rare fabrics, potteries, kitchen wares, spices, coffee grounds, and souvenirs. It is one of the most dynamic markets in the capital and it has served the local populace from the Ottoman period until modern times.
Tripoli is a perfect example of an Arab city. With its souks, or markets, standing next to the mosques, old palaces, and historic squares, it is definitely something to experience. One of the most noteworthy additions to its places of interest is the Street Murals where the local community expresses their feelings about the recent revolution. The murals are a reminder of the long and hard road to freedom that this struggling nation and its brave people must never endure again. While peace remains elusive until today, the prospect of seeing Libya as a once again progressive country is not impossible to achieve.