Tripoli, Libya: A Historic Marvel
My visit to Tripoli was before the current political unrest, which is why I remember it as a serene and beautiful place. It broke my heart when I saw on television what the civil war has done to the place. And so I would like to share my experiences in Tripoli as I remember it.
Tripoli has always been the center of Libyan politics, having seen the rise and fall of many dynasties and rulers. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century and was named Oea. It has also been called the “Mermaid of the Mediterranean” and “The Bride of the Sea” because of its clear blue water and white beaches.
The emerald waters of the Mediterranean against the crystal white sand will remind you of diamonds and emeralds set together. Even the buildings give an impression of purity and enigma – as if they have witnessed history passing by.
Before I visited Tripoli, my historical knowledge about Libya was limited to Omar Mukhtar, and that was only because of the movie “The Lion of the Desert” starring Anthony Quinn. But since my visit, I have learnt so much about the city’s Roman heritage and different dynasties. The tour was educational, but not boring. In fact it was very fascinating.
The People of Tripoli
The population is really scarce, and will seem even more so if you are coming from a crowded country. The people are generally friendly and welcoming to visitors. I was visiting a friend from college, Nadia, who was from Libya and all of her family and friends were very kind and hospitable. The best part about Tripoli is that there are no restrictions on women regarding clothing or driving.
You will find all kinds of cuisines here; Lebanese, Italian and Mediterranean etc. The restaurants are amazing and affordable. You will get the best hummus you have ever tasted and the Laham Mushakal is to die for. During my stay in Tripoli, Nadia and her family took me to many wonderful restaurants, but my favorite ones are Abdul Rahman Hallab and Sons, Punto Alto, Al Dannoun and Dar Al Amar – the food was divine!
Where to Stay in Tripoli
I was a guest at my friend’s place, so my stay was very comfortable and homely. But there are many hotels and apartments that will give you the best value for your money. Places like Plasma Hotel Tripoli, Tripoli Apartments, Bustan Urban Retreat, Awal Hotel and Safeer Hotel are very popular among tourists.
Things to Do in Tripoli
Some tourists and visitors find Tripoli too boring for an extended stay. There are not many fun activities in the city since there are no bars or pubs. Cinemas are also almost non-existent, but there are many historic places to visit and enjoy, such as Citadel Saint Gilles, Al-mina Port, Taynal Mosque, Ezzeddine Hammam etc. The list is endless and each and every place is worth visiting. Tripoli’s Roman heritage is all over the place and cities close by also have rich historic sites that should not be missed.
You cannot come to Tripoli and miss its beach – it is one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen. There are two outstanding resorts that provide top-notch services, The Palma Beach Resort and Miramar Resort, which should not be missed.
Where to Shop in Tripoli:
There are a few good malls where you can shop and buy international brands. Malls like Tripoli Mall, Zumurrud Shopping Center, the Holiday Shopping Center and Al Hayes Commercial Center were amazing and I let the shopaholic inside me off the leash for some time. I actually shopped till I dropped.
But I enjoyed the street markets more. I always shop at street markets because, while you can get high-end international brands anywhere, the street markets are full of the culture and life of the place you are visiting.
The best places to shop in Tripoli are the souks and flea markets. My favorite was the Khan Al Khayyatin. Just walking around makes you feel as if you are walking the path of history. The way it has been restored is amazing. You can find traditional oriental and Lebanese clothes, but even if you don’t buy anything, just walking around is a fascinating experience.
I also shopped at the Sharquiyat for gifts and breathtaking handmade household items. You won’t be able to stop yourself from drooling over the finesse of the crafts, and will ultimately end up buying unique and amazing decorative items like I did.
Tripoli as I Remember It
My stay in Tripoli was one that I will always cherish. Not only did I get to visit my best friend and see her world, but I also got to see this amazing, calm and historic place. The serene beauty of the sea, walking on the beach and shopping at the souks are a few of the memories I will hold in my heart forever. I can’t explain the effect the historic sites will have on you. It is pure wonderment and astonishment that will engulf you.
The city is not like that of other major cities, for the atmosphere is calm and stress-free. While some may call this boring, I found Tripoli’s environment to be relaxing and unwinding.
For more North African trip ideas, check out the following Morocco tours.