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[al-Qayrawān; Qairouan]

City in Tunisia. It was founded in ad 670 by ‛Uqba ibn Nafi‛, the Arab conqueror of North Africa, on the site of a ruined Roman or Byzantine town; the site, slightly elevated above the great interior plain, afforded protection from surprise attacks and floods. In the 9th century Kairouan was the capital of the semi-independent Aghlabid dynasty (reg 800–909) and the most important city between the Nile and the Atlantic. Under the Fatimids (reg 909–72) the capital was shifted first to Mahdia on the coast and then in 947–8 back to the suburb of Sabra–al-Mansuriyya.

In 1054–5 the city was sacked by the Hilali tribe of Bedouin and the town reduced to ruins. Its decline was further exacerbated by the growing importance of Tunis in Mediterranean maritime trade. Under the relative peace established by the Hafsids, the city recovered somewhat, and many hospices (Arab. zāwiya) were built to accommodate the growing number of local Sufi saints (marabouts). The ...

Article

Margaret Graves

[Ṭarābulus]

Capital city and principal seaport on the North African coast of Libya. Founded in the 7th century bce by the Phoenicians, the site was occupied successively by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Byzantines before being conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century. After many centuries of complex governance passing between various dynasties, Tripoli became almost independent for much of the 15th century. Taken briefly by the Spanish in the 16th century, the city was then occupied by the Ottomans in 1551. In 1771 the Ottoman governor of Tripoli established his own dynasty, the Qaramanli dynasty, which lasted until the Ottomans re-occupied the area in 1835. Following the oil boom of 1995, Tripoli has grown dramatically: it is the largest city in Libya, with a population of around 1.7 million. It is sometimes known in Arabic as Ṭarābulus al-gharb (Western Tripoli) to distinguish it from the city of the same name in present day Lebanon that is known as ...