Lebanon - Tripoli souk

Tripoli (Arabic: طرابلس‎ / ALA-LC: Ṭarābulus;Lebanese Arabic: Ṭrāblos; Greek: Τρίπολις / Tripolis) is the largest city in northern Lebanon and the second-largest city in the country. Situated 85 kilometres (53 miles) north of the capital Beirut, it is the capital of the North Governorate and the Tripoli District. Tripoli overlooks the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and it is the easternmost seaport in Lebanon. It holds offshore a string of four small islands, the only surviving islands of Lebanon. The largest of these islands, the Island of Palm Trees, was declared a protected reserve by UNESCO in 1992 for its rich ecosystem of trees, green sea turtles, and exotic birds.

With the history of Tripoli dating back to the 14th century BCE, it is home to the largest fortress in Lebanon (the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles), and continues to be the second largest city (behind Cairo) in Mamluk architectural heritage. In ancient times, it was the center of a Phoenician confederation which included Tyre, Sidon and Arados, hence the name Tripoli, meaning "triple city" in Greek. Later, it was controlled successively by the Assyrian Empire, Persian Empire, Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Caliphate, the Seljuk Empire, Crusader States, the Mamluks, the Ottoman Empire and France. The Crusaders established the County of Tripoli there in the 12th century.

With the formation of Lebanon, Tripoli, once equal in economic and commercial importance to Beirut, was cut off from its traditional trade relations with the Syrian interior and declined in relative prosperity.

Tripoli had a number of different names as far back as the Phoenician age. In the Amarna letters the name "Derbly" was mentioned, and in other places "Ahlia" or "Wahlia" are mentioned (14th century BCE). In an engraving concerning the invasion of Tripoli by the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II (888-859 BCE), it is called Mahallata or Mahlata, Mayza, and Kayza.

Under the Phoenicians, the name Athar was used to refer to Tripoli. When the Greeks settled in the city they called it "Tripoli", meaning "three cities" and perhaps a folk-etymological approximation of the earlier "Derbly" name. The Arabs called it a variety of names, including the Princedom of Tripoli, the State of Tripoli, and the Eastern Tripoli Kingdom. In addition, the names Tarabulus, or Atrabulus, and Tarablus al-Sham, were used. The Crusaders settled in Tripoli for about 180 years and made it the capital of the County of Tripoli. The city was also simply named "Triple". The city shares the same etymology "Tripolis" as its younger sister city, the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Today, Tripoli is also known as al-Fayha'a, derived from the Arabic verb Faha which is used to indicate the diffusion of a scent or smell. Tripoli was best known for its vast orange orchards. During the season of blooming, the pollen of orange flowers is carried on the air, creating a splendid perfume which fills the city and suburbs, hence the name al-Fayha'a.

There is evidence of settlement in Tripoli that dates back as early as 1400 BCE. In the 9th century BCE, the Phoenicians established a trading station in Tripoli and later, under Persian rule, the city became the center of a confederation of the Phoenician city states of Sidon, Tyre, and Arados Island. Under Hellenistic rule, Tripoli was used as a naval shipyard and the city enjoyed a period of autonomy. It came under Roman rule around 64 BCE. In 551, an earthquake and tidal wave destroyed the Byzantine city of Tripoli along with other Mediterranean coastal cities.

During Umayyad rule, Tripoli became a commercial and shipbuilding center. It achieved semi-independence under Fatimid rule, when it developed into a center of learning. The Crusaders laid siege to the city at the beginning of the 12th century and were able finally to enter it in 1109. This caused extensive destruction, including the burning of Tripoli's famous library, Dar al-Ilm (House of Knowledge), with its thousands of volumes. During the Crusaders' rule the city became the capital of the County of Tripoli. In 1289, it fell to the Mamluks and the old port part of the city was destroyed. A new inland city was then built near the old castle. During Ottoman rule from 1516 to 1918, it retained its prosperity and commercial importance. Tripoli and all of Lebanon was under French mandate from 1920 until 1943, when Lebanon achieved independence.

 

THE SOAP KHAN

 

At the end of the 15th century, the governor of Tripoli (Lebanon) Youssef Bek Sayfa established Khan Al Saboun (the hotel of soap traders). This market was finished at the beginning of the 16th century, the last days of the Mamlouks ruling. The manufacture of soap was very popular in Tripoli. There, the market became a trade center where soap was produced and sold. Afterwards, traders of Tripoli began to export their soap to Europe.

At first, those perfumed soaps were offered as gifts in Europe. Therefore, handiwork developed in Tripoli. Due to the ongoing increase of the demand, craftsmen started to consider this job as a real art and wanted to satisfy their customers by manufacturing various forms of more effective good-quality soap. That's how the Arab and occidental countries began to import the soap of Tripoli. Nowadays, we find all kinds of soaps in Tripoli: slimming soaps, anti-acne soaps, moisturizing soaps, etc. Some producers are even turning to exportation more than ever.

The raw material used for these kinds of soap is olive oil. The Tripoli soap is also composed of: honey, essential oils, and natural aromatic raw materials like flowers, petals, and herbs. The soaps are dried in the sun, in a dry atmosphere, allowing the evaporation of the water that served to mix the different ingredients. The drying operation lasts for almost three months. As the water evaporates, a thin white layer appears on the soap surface, from the soda that comes from the sea salts. The craftsman brushes the soap very carefully with his hand until the powder trace is entirely eliminated.


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