Lines of traffic are unavoidable nowadays. If you drive the coastway from Beirut up north, there´re fortunately not that many fuel-stations, so that the traffic is not too bad. Only a bit. And so I was able to avoid hours of sitting in a minibus and could explore Tripolis once again, the first city of the country I had the pleasure to meet.
Tripolis is more conservative than most other cities of the country, including Hezbollah strongholds Saida and Sur in the south. Most people here define themselves as Sunni muslims, the city is a stronghold for prime minister Hariri as for supporters of Erdogans Turkey. Posters of him can be seen frequently in some quarters. Many Christs were living here, it´s not that long ago, the main area for trade was once flanked by an armenian neighborhood. Today the churches are still in place, and sometimes they are visited, but apart from that you wouldn´t think that there´re any Christians left in the city.
Tripolis, from Greek for „three cities“, still lives up to this name. In the west lies Mina, the most modern and wealthy, also the most liberal area. It is essentially a peninsula, enclosed from three sides by the Mediterranean, and here is the harbour and a little island, which is to be reached by boat in a short matter of time. In conservative Tripolis it provides the only opportunity to take a bath in the sea. The highlights of Mina are the bars, liberal oases for open minded people, and of course the fish, which is to be found in many restaurants.
In the quarters of Remmaneh and Azmi, at the left side of the Abou Ali river, beats the heard of the city. Azmi Beek is the strip mall, fashion boutiques everywhere, and in the old city around Remmaneh are the landmarks of Tripolis. The giant souk, where every field of profession has it´s own district. There are jewelers, an alley for mead and fish, one for vegetables, for bakeries, craftsmen, a big yard for soap and parfums. The great mosque as well as the bathhouse from the Ottomans can here be find, on the southern border of the old city guards Mons Peregrinus, the old crusaders fortress, at the river. Of all epochs and rulers who put their marks, the Mamelukes were the most influential ones. From 1289 until the conquest by the Ottomans 1516, the city was under control of these former military slaves from Central Asia, who were able to gain power in Egypt and conquered wide parts of the Arab world.
In the east eventually lies the third city, Tabbaneh. She pushes herself up the mountains east of Abou Ali in ever new heights and is considered to be the poorhouse of the city. And by that, of the whole country. At the shores of the river are wide stretching markets, with goods, cheap even in relation to the rest of Tripolis. Even if not as bad as often claimed, poverty can be seen everywhere. Also the military is present at all times, the streets to the hills are guarded by checkpoints, the whole city can be blocked with relatively little effort. Eventually, the infamous Syria Street is here, were Sunnis and Alawites, the religion of the Assad clan from Syria, living close to each other. Time and again there were riots and shootings, and by the time of this years elections in Syria, the atmosphere was tense. But in the end, nothing happened, as usually in the last couple of years, and careful optimism is appropriate in sight of mutual understanding and cooperation between members of both confessions.
The image of Tripolis changed rapidly during the last years. Known not only as the poorest city of Tripolis, but of the whole Mediterrean, including Gaza and war troubled cities in Libya, she accomplished a phase of economic growth and social stabilisation until the revolution of 2019. And even as the revolution began, the city was able to surprise many people, as it was the centre of insurgency, in a city whose population was largely considered to be apolitical and, for many Lebanese, pretty backward. That this raise was stopped by the many crises of the country, to which the city didn´t contributed, is one of the saddest of all sad stories of Lebanon today.