Tripoli includes the Port of Tripoli and the country's largest commercial and manufacturing centre. It is also the site of the University of Tripoli. The vast Bab al-Azizia barracks, which includes the former family estate of Muammar Gaddafi, is also located in the city. Colonel Gaddafi largely ruled the country from his residence in this barracks.
Tripoli was founded in the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians, who named it Oea. Due to the city's long history, there are many sites of archaeological significance in Tripoli. "Tripoli" may also refer to the shabiyah (top-level administrative division in the current Libyan system), the Tripoli District.
Tripoli's Old City (El-Madina El-Kadima), situated in the city centre, is one of the classical sites of the Mediterranean and an important tourist attraction.
The city's old town, the Medina, is still unspoiled by mass-tourism, though it was increasingly exposed to more and more visitors from abroad, following the lifting of the UN embargo in 2003. However, the walled Medina retains much of its serene old-world ambiance.
The Red Castle Museum (Assaraya al-Hamra), a vast palace complex with numerous courtyards, dominates the city skyline and is located on the outskirts of the Medina. There are some classical statues and fountains from the Ottoman period scattered around the castle. An Ottoman serail now houses the Traveler's Library.
Three gates provided access to the old town: Bab Zanata in the west, Bab Hawara in the southeast and Bab Al-Bahr in the north wall. The city walls are still standing and can be climbed for good views of the city. The bazaar is also known for its traditional ware; fine jewellery and clothes can be found in the local markets.
There are a number of buildings that were constructed by the Italian colonial rulers and later demolished under Gaddafi. They included the Royal Miramare Theatre, next to the Red Castle, and Tripoli Railway Central Station. Tripoli Cathedral, constructed by the Italian colonial authorities during the 1920s, was converted into a mosque in the early 1970s. The building was extensively remodelled at this time.