Tripoli is the capital city of Libya with a population of approximately 1.68 million. It is located at 32°54'8"North, 13°11'9"East. The city lies in the northwest of the country on the edge of the desert, on a point of rocky land projecting into the Mediterranean Sea and forming a bay.
In the ancient times Tripoli was known as Oea and was one of the original cities that formed the African Tripolis, or Tripolitania. It was founded by the Phoenicians and later controlled by the Romans (146 BC until about AD 450) who included it within their province of Africa, and gave it the name of Regio Syrtica. Around the beginning of the 3rd century AD, it became known as the Regio Tripolitana (region of the three cities, namely Oea, Sabrata and Leptis). The city was then controlled by the Vandals (5th century) and the Byzantines (6th century).
During the Vandals invasion, the walls of Sabratha and Leptis were destroyed, and this resulted in the growth of Tripoli. The city was then conquered by Arab warriors of the Prophet Muhammad in 645, hence remaining under Arab control (except from 1146 to 1158, when it was taken by Sicilian Normans). In 1510 it was stormed by the Spanish and conquered by the Turks in 1551. It was then made a colonial capital of the Ottoman Empire. Tripoli was in the hands of Italians from 1911 until 1943 when the British took over until Libya's independence in 1951.
The city is divided into old and new quarters. The ancient walled city also called medina, lies along the harbor and is dominated by a 16th-century Spanish castle while the old quarter contains: marble Marcus Aurelius triumphal arch, mosques of Gurgi and Karamanli, with its distinctive octagonal minaret. The En-Naqah Mosque, often called the camel mosque, dates from the Middle Ages to the 17th century.
The modern city houses many of the official buildings, theatres, and hotels, as well as the former royal palace. Al-Fateh University which was founded in 1973, replaced the former University of Libya.
Today Tripoli is prosperous with agriculture and small industries playing a big role in its economy. Presses extract oil from the olives harvested from the groves surrounding the city, and small factories make soap for export from the extracted oil. Sugar refining has continued uninterrupted from the first Arab occupation till today.
Tripoli is a major coastal oasis serving a region growing olives, vegetables, citrus fruit, tobacco, and grains. Tripoli's industries include tanning and the manufacture of cigarettes and carpets. An oil depot and a gas-bottling plant are also located there. With its port, nearby international airport, and road connections, it is a busy transshipment centre. Tripoli has some good museums and archives, including the National Archives, the Government Library, the Ethnographic, Archaeological Museum, Epigraphy and the Islamic Museums.
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
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