Libya Tour Guide: Tripoli - The Modern City

Libya Tour Guide: Tripoli - The Modern City Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

During the 18th century, or perhaps a little earlier, the city of Tripoli overspilled its original walls. This outer area was redeveloped in the early 20th century by the Italians, who created a set of administrative buildings, official residences and general residential areas for the Italian colonial population.

The street plan consisted of straight thoroughfares, radiating from Green Square in front of the castle. A cathedral and financial district adjoined the main souq, and the 'garden city' thus formed was affluent and pleasant.

With the 1969 revolution, dramatic changes took place in the city of Tripoli. Colonial influence and European heritage were now seen as less than desirable. Street names were changed, all signs were written in Arabic only and the cathedral was closed. An enormous influx of the Libyan populace into the city resulted in a five-fold increase in Tripoli's population during the seventies and eighties. To accommodate this huge increase, many new suburbs sprang up all around, and a lack of planning resulted in a sprawling metropolitan area with severe traffic congestion at peak times.

In the late 1980s some civil service personnel were removed from the capital to other sites, and this eased the traffic problem slightly. City expansion continues, however, and many people commute into its centre from outlying towns, many travelling between 60 and 80 kilometres to and from work each day.

Traffic congestion is still a major problem and extra travelling time should therefore be allowed by those intending to keep business appointments.

The city centre is still Green Square in front of the castle, and most of the major commercial streets lead off from it. The former palace of the late King Idris is situated at the southern end of Sharah Mohammed Magarief, one of Tripoli's two main streets, about 500m south of the former cathedral. It is now known as the People's Palace, and is used by Colonel Qaddifi's political activists. The former cathedral is now used as a mosque.

The coast road, which traverses the old harbour area, has no buildings and is chiefly used by traffic travelling eastward.

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