Tripoli contrasts — the Old City & the King’s Palace

Americans and British were often involved in helping the local populace. As part of a church youth fellowship group, I visited the North African Mission in the heart of Tripoli’s old city. We went there to help sort old clothing  collected from the Americans to aid unfortunate Libyans.

Any trip into the old city brought up the contrasts between affluence and typical Libyan life at that time. Streets were dark and narrow, in some places no more than three feet wide, and had no gutters or sewage system. Meat shops advertised their wares by hanging raw meat on a hook outside the door, which attracted flies and added to the already pungent odors of the area. The two-story Mission, one of the largest buildings in this part of town, was styled with rooms situated around a paved courtyard. The director of the place was an English doctor, who had been there for nearly twenty years, and his staff included several older English and American couples. Besides medical aid, the Mission provided a small school for Libyan children.

Before Gadhafi deposed him and became dictator, King Idris sat on the throne, rotating his rule between his co-capitals, Benghazi in the east near Egypt, and Tripoli in the west. His golden-domed palace, which was lit up at night, was less than half a mile from Garden City, and was available for tours when he wasn’t in residence. I joined my mother’s ladies club for a tour one day and marveled at the huge gardens: a patchwork of ice plant, pools, fountains and palm trees intersected with pathways. In this garden, grass was a weed. Inside, we were greeted with a mosaic-tiled entryway and treated to a red-carpeted throne room accented with gilt mirrors and chairs. A formal dining room hung with rich tapestries was highlighted with an elaborate chandelier. His countrymen were living simply for the most part (some of them in makeshift homes of cardboard and tin), but the king had radio, television, air-conditioning and several cars, a Cadillac among them.

The King’s Palace serves a different purpose in modern times: it’s a very large library.

The Tripoli Palace of King Idris


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  2. Karla Young says:

    We lived just fa few blocks away. We walked around the palace many times. But our house guard and his family lived in a small hut

  3. Kathie says:

    I loved to walk around the Palace. Branches of jasmine and pomegranate hung gracefully over the walls that surrounded the grounds. It was so beautiful. But, as you pointed out, it was a stark contrast with the life lead by the everyday Libyan.

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