Newsgroups: soc.culture.lebanon
From: (FAHS Samir M)
Subject: Mamluk Remnants in Tripoli
Organization: University of Toronto, Engineering Computing Facility
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1993 18:43:17 GMT
Lines: 81

Recently on SCL, there was a mention of the remnants of the Mamluks in Tripoli. 
Some excerpts from a book by John Gulick, Tripoli: A Modern Arab City, are
included below.  The book dates back to 1967, and as the title indicates
it is not totally devoted to the history of the city, but it addresses the
different aspects of it at the time the book was written. 

The author mentions that "As early as 1294, the town was linked up with the 
network of fire-signal towers the Mamluks had been developing through out 
the Levant.  There are still several of these towers along the coast between
beirut and Tripoli.....Mamluks Defences of tripoli itself consisted of the
inland citadel and seven towers along the shore, but no walls.  One of the
towers still stands near the railroad station at the port and is admired
by experts for its architectural features."

The remnants of the Mamluks in 1961-62 were summaized by Gulick by the

"In 1954, there were 35 structures in Tripoli dating from the Mamluk Period.
In 1961-62, most of them were still there, but two or three small ones have
benn sacrificed to street widening.....Most of these are in the Old City
(al-madini al-'adimi), the part of Tripoli in existence before about 1900.
......An appreciative desription of them, with photographs, can be found
in the cited UNESCO report..."

"Three of these buildings demonstrate that the Mamluks did not indulge in Total
destruction of the Crusaders' work. Some of the walls of the citadel are 
pre-Mamluk; the main portion of the minaret of the Mansuri Mosque (the grand
mosque) was the belfry of a cathedral, and the main hall of the Taylan mosque
was originally the nave of a church.  Sixteen of the Mamluk buildings
were originally madrasahs (Koranic schools), but none is now used as such.
Some are used as mosques, others as storerooms, and the remainder are deserted.
The seven Mamluk mosques are all in use, as are the four khans, two of the
three hamams (turkish baths, of which the only one that still survives 
in Beirut until these days is Hamam l-nazha, near the bridge of Fouad chehab),
and two small covered souks (streets of small shops).  The khans are
large rectangular buildings with arcaded courts. They were originally built 
to serve caravans as combinations of inn, stable, and warehouse.  Three are
now used as warehouses, and one (Khan al-Askar) is the very much overcrowded
tenement of families made homeless by the 1955 flood.....These buildings
go back to tripoli's beginnings as a sSunni Muslim vity, and the latter is
an identification very important at present.  Yet most of the structures
themselves are in bad repair, and the only spontaneous sentiment likely to 
save at least some of them is unwillingness to demolish religious
edifices.  There are also legal deterants. Not many Tripolitans seem to care
anything about them architecturally or historically...."

Below is a brief history of the city, since we did go into mentioning
some historic sites in the city.

Gulick in his books says "The present city with its seperate port, dates from 
the year 1289 A.D.  However, the site had been occupied for at least 1500 
years previously, and there are some continuities between the earlier 
settlements and the present one."  In Regards to Tripoli's beginnings, Hitti
says " Originally consisiting of three seperate settlemets of Sidonians, 
Tyrians and Aradians, this triple city coalesced into one in the first year of
the reign of Artaxerxes III Ochus (359-338 B.C.) and was given a semitic name,
"Athar" or the like, as the name appears on a native coin of 189-188 B.C....."

Gulik discusses the different eras, The muslims, The crusaders, and again the
Mamluk's.  He mentions that it was one of the last to hold out.  But in 1289 it was captured by the Egyptian Mumluk sultan, Qalawun, and again destroyed. But
to be rebuilt and centered around the inland citadel.  The successive occupants
of the place have obliterated almost all evidence of previous settlements.
He adds to say that today there is no trace even of the massive Fatimid and 
Crusaders fortifications mentioned by contemporary travelers.  "In fact,
some granite column drums  dumped in shallow water are th eonly visible
remains of pre-Mamluk occupations, nor are there  in the Mina any structures
belonging to the mamluk Period, although in Tripoli there are. 

The book goes on and treats the city in its 60's days, where some of what 
he mentions still applies very much so today.


Gulick, John, Tripoli, A Modern Arab City. Harvard University Press, 1967.

Hitti, Philip K., Lebanon in History. New York: McMillan Co 1957.

UNESCO, Lebanon: Suggestions for the Plan of Tripoli and for the Surroundings
                 of Baalbek Acropolis, Paris 1954.