This post is part of a series called Lebanon July 2018
Show More Posts

Tripoli Lebanon

After the previous day’s drive, plan for today was to explore Tripoli. We got up and checked the American Express credit card situation; still no unknown charges, and still no bill presented from Babar restaurant. At this point, we decided to keep monitoring regularly.

We then went off to check out Tripoli. We drove to the old town to the place that was supposed to be a Tourist info office (from Google), to see if we could get info that we could not get in Beirut because the Beirut Tourist Info office was closed on Friday. Followed the GPS to where this place should have been, but instead got to a School that appeared to teach English; so I parked outside and asked a couple of students where the Tourist info office was. They did not understand English :(, but instead took me to the office where a lady inside spoke English, & informed me that it was close by, at the large roundabout. So I walked there, while Dilshad stayed in the car as we had parked in front of a parking meter, but had not put in any coins, and there was a lot of traffic on the roads. I found the Tourist office, but it was closed. There was a guy nearby, who realized what I needed and called out to a lady who was walking away, and she walked back, and opened the office; and she spoke some English. I guess they don’t get many tourists here. I asked for Tripoli tourist info and the place was quite threadbare of information. I got a few pamphlets, but she had no detailed maps or anything else to offer. Seems like the main attraction of Tripoli was its old souks (markets), located in a dense area in the center of the old town; perfect for us 🙂

Since we were heading to Qadisha Valley next, I asked her where we should stay, and she recommended Bauhaus hotel, and gave me a number to call Tony, the owner. She said it should cost $50 per night. I asked her where we should park, while we visited the Souk, and she told me to park right in front of her office, in the large roundabout. But the place was filled with parked cars; so she told the same guy who had called her for me, to clear one space for me in front of her office, which she said would be safe while we checked out the area. The man who had called her for me was taking care of parking in this area, and looking after the cars. So I walked back to our parked car nearby, after stopping at an ATM nearby. When I got to the car, there was a parking ticket attendant who was talking to Dilshad in the car. Apparently, he had told her that we were parked in front of a meter that had run out, so technically liable for a ticket; but since the meter was not working, he said it was OK to park there; phew. Dodged another bullet.

We drove over to the roundabout; which was very very busy, and made our way to where the parking attendant was. He saw us and cleared a space for us, and we parked. He gestured for money, and I asked how much, and told him I would pay him upon returning; he was fine with that.

Armed with our local phone GPS and the simple map on the Tripoli tourist info brochure, we made our way towards the old souk areas of Tripoli. Some images along the way below

Tripoli Lebanon Gas station in downtown; I worried that if someone lost control of their vehicle, they could easily run into these gas pumps.
Gas station in downtown; I worried that if someone lost control of their vehicle, they could easily run into these gas pumps.
Tripoli Lebanon Sultan Abdul Hamid clock tower in the back in a large green park in the center of old Tripoli; is a landmark here. People like their Mercedes Benz’s here; lot of older MB’s here
Sultan Abdul Hamid clock tower in the back in a large green park in the center of old Tripoli; is a landmark here. People like their Mercedes Benz’s here; lot of older MB’s here

We stopped at Café Fahim, a nice café for a small breakfast of the local egg wrap as recommended by the owner, fresh orange juice and delicious coffee.

Tripoli Lebanon Breakfast in nice outdoor patio; note the menu which was in Arabic, and all backwards :)
Breakfast in nice outdoor patio; note the menu which was in Arabic, and all backwards 🙂

After this nice breakfast, we started walking towards AlNajmeh square, which was close to the old souks. We came across a famous Arabic sweet shop we had read about, and picked up some tastings

Tripoli Lebanon Arabic sweets
Arabic sweets
Tripoli Lebanon At AlNajmeh square (which was actually a small roundabout with a lot of traffic), this man gestured for me to take his picture; very friendly locals
At AlNajmeh square (which was actually a small roundabout with a lot of traffic), this jolly man gestured for me to take his picture; very friendly locals; love it 🙂

We walked another 200ft, and came to the entrance of the old souk area at the Grand Mosque which was closed at this non-prayer time. Here, a nice gentleman approached us and spoke in decent English. His name was Ali Khawaja, and he was a tour guide, having lived overseas, and would take us to the best areas of the old souk for a few hours for $10 if we wanted. Since we were having a issues finding anything on the Tourist pamphlet map, poor to non-existent signage, not many people speaking English, and since Google maps did not have much local info, we decide to take up Ali’s offer. Cant beat the price either 🙂

The old souk area is a traditional working souk, used by locals daily. So it is very real and authentic; no tourist trinkets here. And no tourists except us. The gulley’s are narrow, with shops on both sides and many locals around. There were specialized areas of the souk e.g. vegetable and fruit souk, clothes souk, the soap souk (Khan Al-Saboun) etc. The multiple Khans here were all Caravanserai’s of the old times, now used as shops. Caravanserai’s were where weary caravan travelers could rest the night; with safe space and food for their camels etc below, and living quarters on the floor above, in an square enclosure with a courtyard in the middle, and only 1 guarded entrance.

Below are scenes from our tour with Ali through the souks in old Tripoli

Tripoli Lebanon Disused old Hamam Al-Nouri. We would never have found this Hamam, as its entrance was not easy to spot and it was not signposted clearly
Disused old Hamam Al-Nouri. We would never have found this Hamam, as its entrance was not easy to spot and it was not signposted clearly
Tripoli Lebanon Vegetable souk
Vegetable souk
Tripoli Lebanon Olives of all kinds
Olives of all kinds, pickles and grape leaves
Tripoli Lebanon Vegetable stall
Lonely vegetable stall
Tripoli Lebanon Busy souk with lots of food
Busy souk with lots of food and chicken
Tripoli Lebanon Busy souk with lots of food
Fresh vegetables
Tripoli Lebanon Busy souk with lots of food
More vegetables
Tripoli Lebanon Busy souk with lots of food
Fruits and vegetables
Tripoli Lebanon Fish and more vegetables
Fish and more
Tripoli Lebanon Nuts and dried fruits, and of course, vegetables
Nuts and dried fruits, and of course, vegetables
Tripoli Lebanon More nuts etc. Ali Khawaja, our guide, is on the left in the Hawaiian shirt
Pistachios, cashews, almonds, raisins, dates etc. Ali Khawaja, our guide, is on the left in the Hawaiian shirt
Tripoli Lebanon Checking out the spices; I think they passed the quality test
Checking out the spices; I think they passed Dilshad’s quality test
Tripoli Lebanon Local watering hole
Local watering hole, literally. We never saw any alcohol for sale or being consumed while in Tripoli
Tripoli Lebanon Hookah (Sheesha) repair shop and client; note the pictures of the owner, when younger
Hookah (Sheesha) repair shop and friendly client; note the pictures of the owner, when younger
Tripoli Lebanon Tasting local snacks; cost was between 33 and 66 cents
Tasting local snacks; cost was between 33 and 66 cents
Tripoli Lebanon Some of the mosques we visited were quite strict on dress code; varied by Imam’s beliefs. In the Al-Bourtasi mosque, women had to be completely covered, and men had to have knees covered; my shorts caused some consternation but I was not restricted
Some of the mosques we visited were quite strict on dress code; varying based on the Imam’s beliefs. In the Al-Bourtasi mosque, women had to be completely covered, and men had to have knees covered at minimum; my shorts caused some consternation but I was not restricted
Tripoli Lebanon Clothes Hamam; note the shopkeeper center-left, leaning on the old Roman Column
Clothes Souk; note the street-vendor center-left, leaning on an old Roman Column; history everywhere
Tripoli Lebanon One soap factory in Khan El Saboun, where soaps are made entirely by hand, into many different shapes
One soap factory in Khan Al-Saboun, where soaps are made entirely by hand, into many different shapes and flavors
Tripoli Lebanon Getting covered properly with help from a complete stranger passing by, before visiting the Grand Mosque. Ali Khawaja in the Hawaiian shirt, is enjoying the scene
Getting covered properly with help from a complete stranger passing by, before visiting the Grand Mosque. Ali Khawaja in the Hawaiian shirt, is enjoying the scene
Tripoli Lebanon Courtyard inside the Grand Mosque, the quiet before prayer time
The quiet before prayer time, Courtyard inside the Grand Mosque
Tripoli Lebanon Another interesting mosque
Another interesting mosque

After the tour finished with Ali Khawaja, we paid him with a decent tip, since he had been good, and we continued wandering & exploring on our own. We went back into the souk area to check out places that had seemed interesting when we were there with Ali. However, the souk is a warren of gulley’s and it was not easy to find what we were looking for; especially when no-one spoke English to help us with directions. That is when we realized that if we had tried to do the souks and its multiple sights on our own, it would have taken us at least 3 times as long. Good call with Ali, the guide

Tripoli Lebanon Had to try this very thin flatbread, freshly baked by this young man, who informed us he was a refugee from Syria
Had to try this very thin flatbread, freshly baked on the convex “skillet” by this young man, who told us he was a refugee from Syria.
Tripoli Lebanon Lunch stop at bakery for Manouche and Zatar; patio dining. Note the bombed out building in the back that was not yet rebuilt
Late lunch stop at bakery for Man’oushe and Zatar; street patio dining. Note the bombed out building in the back that was not yet fully rebuilt

Since we had started early, and since we had used Ali Khawaja’s services, we had finished early. So we decided to leave for the Qadisha valley, since there was not much else interesting left in Tripoli that we would enjoy. We called Father Quirico and let him know we wanted to leave early, and he was fine with that. So we went back to where we had parked, paid the parking attendant his 3000 LP ($2), and drove back to the convent in El Mina, packed up, checked out and paid Father Quirico. Started driving eastwards towards the Quadisha Valley.

Quadisha Valley next

This entry was posted in Lebanon July 2018, Middle East

13 thoughts on “Tripoli Lebanon

  • AmirT October 7, 2018 at 11:06 am Reply

    Thanks again!

  • Ashraf Daredia October 13, 2018 at 4:08 pm Reply

    Looks like fun we need to do a trip together with u and Dilshad hope all is well

    • Ali Karim October 13, 2018 at 4:09 pm Reply

      Thanks Ashraf. All is well and good

  • Mohammed Jinnah October 13, 2018 at 4:10 pm Reply

    Hi Ali
    The souks and grand mosque look great. Glad you dodged a parking ticket. Dilshad looks great in the white covering at the grand mosque. The food looks yummy too.

    Keep the blogs coming-luv them. Give my regards to Dilshad

    • Ali Karim October 13, 2018 at 6:43 pm Reply

      Thanks Mohammed; appreciate the feedback

  • Nazneen Adatia October 13, 2018 at 6:44 pm Reply

    Hello Ali, beautiful pictures. I was eyeing the mithai dukan. Beautiful, keep on traveling and sending us pictures.

    Lots of Love.

    Naz.

    • Ali Karim October 13, 2018 at 6:45 pm Reply

      Thanks Naz

  • badru walji October 13, 2018 at 6:46 pm Reply

    Just beautiful and interesting.Thanks Ali.

    • Ali Karim October 13, 2018 at 6:47 pm Reply

      Thank you; appreciate the feedback

  • surka hyder October 13, 2018 at 6:49 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us ! I always look forward to your write ups.! Excellent

    • Ali Karim October 13, 2018 at 6:50 pm Reply

      Hi Suraya, Thanks for reading my blogs; I am so glad you are enjoying them.
      Appreciate the feedback

  • Zahir Dharsee November 30, 2018 at 2:46 pm Reply

    Hi Ali – this is an interesting read – your description of the Soap Souk (Khan Al Saboun) suddenly reminded me of the Swahili word for soap = Sabouni!! Thanks again.

    • Ali Karim December 1, 2018 at 11:29 pm Reply

      HI Zahir, thanks for the feedback. Yes, the swahili words we were used to have a lot of origins in Arabic and we did hear a lot of similarities while travelling in Lebanon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.