The largest city and capital of Libya, Tripoli is also the country’s main harbor and commercial hub. The city lies on the north-west coast of Libya, on the Mediterranean Sea, and combines Mediterranean and Arabic influences. It was founded around the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians. The cosmopolitan city has a wealth of attractions, from Roman ruins to Ottoman architecture. Sites to be seen are the old walled medina, Al Saray Al Hamra Castle, colorful bazaars and souks, museums and mosques.
The origins of the city go back to ancient Roman times, when the heart of the town, the old Medina, was built. The walled city is a fascinating maze of narrow streets, souks, and mosques where the aromas of spice fill the air. The city spilled over the wall confines only in the 19th century.
The city provides a great base to explore the rest of this fascinating country. Not far from Tripoli are the stunning sites of ancient Sabratha and Leptis Magna. Leptis Magna, 120km east of Tripoli, was a Phoenician trading post and is extremely well-preserved.
Tripoli has a Mediterranean climate, influenced by the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. It and has hot dry summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures range between 22° to 29° C. Winter temperatures are between 9° and 18° C, although can occasionally dip to around 1° C. Rainfall is sparse and erratic.
January average temperature 12 deg Celsius 69 mm rainfall February average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 41 mm rainfall March average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 25 mm rainfall April average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall May average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 5 mm rainfall June average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 3 mm rainfall July average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall August average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall September average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 1 mm rainfall October average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 38 mm rainfall November average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 61 mm rainfall December average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 81 mm rainfall
Tripoli is served by the Tripoli International Airport, the nation’s largest airport and the hub for Libyan Airlines. It is also served by several international carriers. The airport lies in Ben Ghashir, some 30 km south of Tripoli. Please note that an entry visa is required. You will need stamps in your passport for leaving Libya as well. An official Arabic translation of personal details in your passport is also a must.
A taxi to or from the airport costs around US$8.
Walking is the best way of getting around the city. Get a good guidebook. Do not walk around alone at night.
Taxi rides within the city usually cost around US$1.60.
Tripoli is blessed with excellent beaches, located just outside the city.
Although Tripoli is not equipped with modern shopping malls, visitors can find interesting shopping sites at Green Square for clothing and at Galgarish Roads for electronics.
Of the four golf courses in Libya, two are located in the vicinity of Tripoli. The Tripoli Golf Course is conveniently near the city and the oldest and longest course in Libya, boasting over 6,000 yards of terrain.
The Medina of Tripoli is a fascinating maze of narrow alleys, ornate doorways, elaborate mosques, and souks. Originating from ancient Roman times, the first walls were erected to ward off attacks from over land. In the 8th century the Muslim rulers constructed the wall for protection from the sea. Tripoli remained contained within the walls of the old town until the 19th century when the population grew so much that the city spilled over. The medina has three gates as points of entry: Bab Zanata on the west, Bab Hawara on the southeast and Bab Al-Bahr in the north wall. The main entry, however, is from the Green Square. The latter boasts 16th century Ottoman architecture, and 2nd century Roman Triumphal Arch erected in honor Emperor Marcus Aurelius. On the other side are the colonnaded streets built by the Italians.
As-Sarraya al-Hamra / The Red Castle & Jamahiriya Museum
Address: The Green Square
The Red Castle dominates central Tripoli. It was built in the 16th century on the site of a Roman fortified camp, by the Knights of St John of Malta. It then became the official residence of the Turkish governors. The castle complex is open on weekdays and features a good library and the excellent Jamahiriya Museum. This is Libya’s largest museum and holds a rich archaeological collection of items from the Neolithic period up to the present. Among its highlights is Saharan rock art from the Acacus Mountains and Roman sculptures and mosaics from Leptis Magna. Visitors can explore the intricate alleys and courtyards within the castle, and enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the entire city.
Address: Shari Hara Kebir
The mosque lies in the very heart of Tripoli, right next to the Arch of Marcus Aurelius and is considered one of the city’s most elegant. It boasts a splendid interior, decorated with Turkish tile-work, Italian marble columns and Moroccan carved stucco, and represents outstanding examples of the artistic skills of local craftsmen. It was built in 1834 and was commissioned by Mustafa Gurgi.
Karamanli is considered to be the city’s most splendid mosque. It is located in the main part of the medina, next to the Green Square and behind Tripoli Castle. It was built in built in 1738. The interior features some of Libya’s finest woodwork.
The Old French Consulate
The building, dating from 1630, is a restored double storey house with an interior courtyard surrounded by arches, colonnaded galleries, stained glass windows, ceramic tiles and intricate woodwork. The residence of French ambassadors for over 300 years, the building is now used as an exhibition space for works of art.
Location: 65km from Tripoli
Sabratha, located in the northwestern corner of the country, on the Mediterranean coast, roughly 65km from Tripoli is one of Libya’s most important ancient ruins.
Owing to its excellent natural harbor, the town was established as the Carthaginian trading post. Today the site features a magnificent 3rd century theatre with a three-storey freestanding, columned backdrop. There are several temples, baths, a Christian basilica, and several nice floor mosaics. There is an on-site museum featuring finds from Sabratha, however, most relics can be seen in the national museum located in Tripoli.
Location: 120 km from Tripoli
Leptis Magna, located 120 km east of Tripoli, was once a Phoenician trading post and a prominent city in ancient Roman times. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Leptis Magna is one of the most spectacular and best preserved Roman ruins in North Africa. Among its highlights is the theatre, measuring 70 meters in diameter and still featuring numerous sculptures, and offering splendid views of the area from its upper tiers. Also not to be missed are the impressive Hadrianic Baths, one of the largest to be built outside Rome. One of the pools, measuring 28x15 meters, is still intact.
Another highlight is the circus, about 1 km from the main site, which measures four and a half hectares (450x100 meters,) and was one of the largest in the ancient Roman world. It remains only partly excavated. Other finds from the site are found at the Leptis Magna museum.
Eating out is inexpensive by western standards, but Tripoli does not possess a huge number of restaurants. The predominant cuisine is Arabic, but one can also find other cuisines, such as Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and other international eateries. In recent years, the number of popular fast food chains is increasing.
The best restaurants can be found in the old town. Note that alcohol is not available anywhere in Libya, either in bars, hotels or stores.
26 Feb Prophet's Birthday 02 Mar Jamahiriya Day 28 Mar British Evacuation Day 11 Jun Evacuation day 09 Jul Ascension of the Prophet 01 Sep Revolution Day changing date Eid al Fitr - End of Ramadan 07 Oct Evacuation Italian Day 26 Oct Deportation Memorial Day 26 Nov Eid al Adha - Feast of Sacrifice 27 Nov Eid al Adha 24 Dec Independence Day 27 Dec Ashoura Day 07 Oct Evacuation Italian Day 17 Nov Eid al Adha - Feast of Sacrifice 07 Dec Islamic New Year 16 Dec Ashoura Day 18 Dec Islamic New Year
Libya is a Muslim country and therefore nightlife is almost non-existent and alcohol is unavailable in either in bars, hotels or stores. It is advisable for women to dress modestly and wear clothes with long sleeves, long skirts and pants, and no tight-fitting clothes and to show no cleavage. Even men should not walk around in shorts. Be especially observant on national holidays and other big celebrations.
Tripoli is generally a safe destination and attacks on tourists are rare. Respect local habits and note that alcohol consumption and nightlife are almost unheard-of and women are advised to dress modestly.
In Tripoli, English is widely understood. Visitors are most often faced with property crimes of opportunity, including vehicle burglaries, pick-pocketing and residential burglaries.
Women often face verbal harassment, but luckily, physical violence is not common. There have been reports on assault against women, including sexual groping or assault and battery to attempted rape, so it is advisable that women should not travel alone in the country.
The best time to visit Libya is from November to April. Outside these periods, the temperature can get too high for comfort. Visits to the desert should not be attempted between mid-May and October, when daytime temperatures can soar as high as 55°C.