Tripoli, North Africa (Capital) - Encyclopedia

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TRIPOLI (Tarabulus el-Gharb, i.e. Tripoli of the West), capital of the Turkish vilayet of Tripoli, North Africa, situated in 3 2 ° 53' 40" N. and 13° II' 32" E. on a promontory stretching out into the Mediterranean and forming a small crescent-shaped bay which shelters the harbour from the north winds. Its crenellated enceinte wall has the form of an irregular pentagon. A line of small ancient forts is supposed to protect one side of the harbour, and the citadel the other. This citadel, dating from the time of the Spanish occupation, now serves as the residence of the governor. The harbour has a depth of water varying from 15 to 24 ft.; steamers drawing 21 ft. can anchor inside, but shoals render the entry difficult. At the quayside the depth of water is from 2 to 5 ft. only. The desert almost touches the western side of the city, while on the east is the verdant oasis of Meshia, where are still to be seen the tombs of the Caramanlian sultanas and the twelve-domed k ubba of Sidi Hamonda. The aspect of the city is picturesque; the houses (many possessing beautiful gardens) rise in terraces from the seashore. The Turkish quarter contains numerous mosques whose minarets and cupolas break the monotony of the flat-roofed and whitewashed houses. The Grand mosque and the Pasha mosque (originally a church built by the Spaniards) both have octagonal minarets. By the harbour are several houses built in European style, but the general aspect of the city is Oriental. Many of the streets are arcaded; the suks or markets are the scene of much animation. Near the port stands a Roman triumphal arch. This arch, quadrifrontal in form, is made entirely of white marble, the blocks being held together with cramps, and is richly embellished with sculpture. It was begun in the reign of the emperor Antoninus, according to a still unmutilated dedicatory inscription, and finished in that of Marcus Aurelius. In the arch, now partly buried in debris, a cabaret has been installed.

A few small manufactures of carpets and silks as well as " Cordova leather " are carried on, but Tripoli is essentially a trading town, being the chief Mediterranean gateway to the Sahara. The population, about 60,000, is very mixed - Berber, Arab, Turk, Jew, Maltese, Italian and Negro. The Maltese inhabitants number about 4000, the Italians 1000 and the Jews 8000. The local trade is almost entirely in the hands of the Jews and Maltese; the shipping in the port is largely Italian.

See H. M. de Mathuisieulx, A travers la Tripolitaine (Paris, 1903).

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