Introduction to war tours in El-Mina

The history of war tours was associated to El-Mina, until they became the most important characteristics in the city. These tours constituted an essential aspect in the writings of all the European travellers who visited the city and described it; they cannot talk about El-Mina without mentioning, describing, enumerating and defining the tours. It is remarkable that these tours are extended all along the north coast of El-Mina, while the South coast remained empty. This is due to the fact that the nature could procure a natural defence line constituted of rocks in the middle of the sea, which hinders the boats’ arrival at the coast side, and which is known by "ra’s aşşaħr" (The Rock’s Head).


Merchants used to transport merchandises on the carrier’s backs from the ships to the coast and vice versa. The work movement depended of the sea situation (quiet or agitated), the fact that pushed merchants to ask the El-Mina Municipality for building a simple scaffold, in condition that a conventional amount of money should be paid for emptying and shipping. Then, a scaffold was built in order to transport the merchandises. Because this scaffold witnessed an active movement, the merchants asked the Municipality for building more scaffolds. Effectively, more than 7 scaffolds were built, such as:


Sheikh Affan Scaffold:

·          It was established upon the request of orange and lemon's merchants, who used to export their products through the sea.

It was known by "orange scaffold" and it was close to Sheikh Affan tour.


Coal Oil Scaffold:

·          It is between " ra’s annahr " tour (the head of river) and "assibā‘" tour (the beast).

It is consecrated for the importation of coal oil.


Alameddine Scaffold:

·          It is on the street of the station between "alfāħūra " tour and Sheikh Affan's one.

·          It is also known "Zok and Alameddine" scaffold.

Ezzeddine Scaffold:

·          It belongs to Mustafa Ezzeddine.

·          It is in front of its owner's land, between "alfāħūra " tour and Sheikh Affan's one, and next to the land currently occupied by Qadisha Company.

Onion Scaffold:

·          As its name indicates, this scaffold was build in order to import the onions.

It is located near to Ezzeddine scaffold.


Customs Scaffold:

·          Being consecrated for importation and exportation, it was one of the most ancient scaffolds and was 100 meters away from Grimblate Scaffold.

·          In winter 1929, a strong wind was triggered in El-Mina shore and destroyed all the scaffolds, from which was the Customs Scaffold, the fact that pushed the Municipality to rebuild it.

General Security Scaffold:

·          It is a small scaffold and it was established in the customs in order to facilitate the security supervision on the passengers’ papers.  

Batash scaffold:

·          According to its name, it seems to be a private scaffold; it was established by Nicolas Batash and his brothers, in order to receive their merchandises, especially the wood.

·          It was between Grimblate Scaffold and English’s one, facing the building currently occupied by Batash family.

Karam Scaffold:

·          It was also known by salt or salinity scaffold, because it was consecrated for salt transportation.

English’s Scaffold:

·          It is a modern scaffold and is not related to the commerce.

·          It was built in 1950 by an English group who was working in the Iraqi Petrol Company and who were living in El-Mina.

·          They were using this scaffold when they were getting down to their boats and their sailing boats for sea racing which was attracting the citizens to attend with pleasure.

·          After the English had left the Iraqi Petrol Company (in the middle of 1960s), the scaffold was neglected and then it was totally destroyed.

In addition to that, there were also many scaffolds not mentioned in details because they were not very important, such as:

-           A scaffold next to Deguise Mosque (currently known by Omar Ben Al-Khattab Mosque),

Two scaffolds that have become kiosks used as cafeterias in order to watch KarKoz (a play depending of different cartoon forms exposed by a narrator who relates the story behind a white sheet through the candle light). The first scaffold was at half road between Sheikh Affan scaffold and the Serail Tour. The second was in the place of picking lemons, at the entrance of El-Mina (Al-Bawaba).


Grimblate Scaffold:

·          In 1922, the French Jean Grimblate asked for a permission of building a metallic scaffold, and he committed himself to provide it with mechanical charge-lifters functioning on the asbestos (there are still two charge-lifters in front of Cleopatra cinema), to install the railroad lines, and to connect them to the customs’ kiosks, in condition to empty out strictly the exported and imported products through the sea in this scaffold.

·          In 1924, the scaffold started functioning under the supervision of Grimblate’s representatives, Octave Abwar and the Greek engineer Jacques Tataraki.

It was known later by The Company of Sea and Land Engagements – Grimblate’s Company.

Hammams (traditional bathhouses)

ĥammām al-‘az̨m:

·         It is known by the old bathhouse.

·         It was built around 1740 by the Tripoli governor Asaad Pasha Al-Azem who built also the bathhouse known as the new one in internal region of the Tripoli.

It is under the Big High Mosque.

ħān al-tamasīli (Khan Al-Tamasili – Al-Tamasili Inn)

·          The khan is where the visitors of the old city used to reside with their transporting animals, having the ground floor for animals and the first for the visitors.

·          Probably this Khan was originally built by the Mamluk, and then restored by the Turkish minister Mohamed Al-Daftardar Al-Tamasili in the time of Sultan Salim.

·          This khan preserved its architectural features that are specific to Mamluk and characterized by circles and hollows surrounding the khan’s four corners of the superior corridors.

·          The khan’s building is built on a land of 2794 m2, and it occupies 2202 m2 (the ground floor’s area), and the first floor occupies 2184 m2.

·          Ottomans restored the building in the time of Sultan Salim.

·          The ground floor is a store for merchandises, a cowshed for horses, a manger for livestock, and shops for selling and buying surrounding a wide and overcrowded plaza that has a small water pond in the middle. The first floor contains large successive rooms consecrated for merchants and the travellers such as sailors and foreign visitors.

·          The khan was used by different armed forces during the World War I and II (Turkish, German, English and French).

On April 4, 1979, the executive committee of the Municipal Council in El-Mina decree d the decision number 81 consisting of transforming the khan to a folkloric and artisanal hotel.



·          In 1908, the Turkish Wali (governor), Azmi Bek, decreed a firman (sultan decision) in order to establish a railway.

·          In 1912, this huge project was achieved and a big celebration was organized in the occasion of the trains’ functioning.

·          The railway station had a very important role, especially during the World War I, when it was used, at the end of the war, as a general store for the English soldiers in El-Mina.

·          This station was an essential economic source because it had a lot of employees and workers.

·          At the same time, it was a touristic point that El-Mina had lost long time ago.

Perhaps El-Mina citizens will wake up one day on the train whistling arriving from Homs and going to Beirut.


Marine airport

·          The Phoenicians built a protection wall in front of El-Mina port, known as "al-sans ūl".

·          On September 4, 1929, in the time of French mandate, we started establishing a marine base for seaplanes (next to Sheikh Affan Scaffold). Later on, another protection wall (break water) was built of 1005 m length towards the North behind the Phoenician "al-sans ū l". This wall was built in order to keep a flat-water area without waves for the planes’ splashdown.

·          During the French era and especially after the Iraqi Company of Petrol had chosen Tripoli as an embouchure for the petrol, the French government embedded the shore going from Sheikh Affan area (keeping the same name), bordering the shore till the port, and established a station of marine flight.

·          This station was used for a short period; it was procuring a communication between Algeria and France through marine planes for passengers, which were arriving every 15 days.

The airport remained opened until the World War II. It was closed due to many reasons. Some people said that the station was established according to standards not conform to the required ones, while others said that the seaplanes were replaced by air planes, having so El-Mina beneficiating from some kilometres of the sea surface used currently for repairing and maintaining of ships.



Marine islands

The famous geographer Al-Sharif Al-Idrissi was the first to name these islands in 1166. When he described the ancient city of Tripoli, he said: "In front of Tripoli, there are four islands at the same line: "annarjes" (small and abandoned), "al-‘amd", "arrāheb", "arzaqūn" ". As for the traveller Corneille le Bruyn, he described the islands, in his book "A Trip to the East", saying: "In front of Tripoli, there are two small islands, one with a big number of pigeons and the other with lots of rabbits that are reproducing and increasing since the Holland merchant had brought some of them to the island". These islands encouraged El-Mina citizens to gather and meet there in the summer. They organize festivals with Arguileh, especially when families spend all the night awaken on the light of lanterns.

Among the most important islands:

-           "maqātī‘ " islands or long islands or "arrmayla" (related to the sand) because of the existence of sand.

The second island (for lovers), the third island, the island fourth and Torus island: they are rocky islands that El-Mina citizens visit during summer.

Al-Baqar Islands (cows):

The French named it as "St. Thomas Island": The Crusades came to it escaping from the Mamluk attacks. The French built there St. Thomas church. The historian Abulfida said: "The citizens came to the port, and some escaped to a small island near the coast. The city was completely destroyed, and then Mamluk soldiers went swimming on their horses to this island and killed everyone living there. People spent days without being able to visit it because of the strong smell of dead bodies there". This incident was on April 26, 1289, when the Sultan Qalawun conquered Tripoli.

This island was known, in the French mandate time, by Abdulwahab Island, according to Abdulwahab family who had occupied and is still occupying the western area of it.

In 1995, it was connected to the Cornish with a concrete bridge in the time of Omar Mesqawi, the Minister of Transportation and Communication.


The Reserve of Palms Islands

El-Mina is characterized by three medium and abandoned islands with a belt of 500 m of water. A reserve was established for these three islands under the name of "Reserve of Palm Islands", under the decree 121 of March 19, 1992. This reserve is ruled by the Committee of Natural Reserve under the supervision of the ministry of environment. These islands are:
Palms Island or Rabbits Island or Daffodils Island:

·          In the era of crusaders, it was known by "St. Nicolas", because there was a church having the name of this saint.

·          The island is 560 m of length and 2 60 m of width.

·          Its surface is divided into three sections: the Western section is rocky and elevated 6m from the sea level, the middle section is earthy and the Eastern section is characterised by the white fine sand that is much demanded by the merchants because it's very rare.

·          We can see also in this island the remaining roots of palms and a well. The Environment Care Committee in the North has insisted on cultivating palms in this island in order to get back its name.

Moreover, this island was called Rabbits Island because the French consul had brought on, in the middle of the XVIIIe century, some rabbits that began to reproduce later on.

"sn ā ni" Island:

·          It comes after the Rabbits Island and is far from it by around ½ km. It measures a length of 380 m, a width of 100 m width and a height of 2.5 m.

·          It was called "sn ā ni" because their prominent rocks have the shape of whale teeth ("asn ān" in Arabic means teeth) .

"al-fan ā r" or "arramk ī n" Island:

·          It is located near the two mentioned islands and measures around 16 thousands m2.

·          The minister of Public Works built a lighthouse for guiding the boats.

·          This island was equipped with artillery against the planes during the World War II, in order to block the German attacks on Tripoli and El-Mina.

The characteristics of the Palm Islands

The reserve is :

·            unique in Lebanon,

·            near El-Mina’s coast, around 5,5 km,

·            a refuge for 156 kinds of emigrating birds threatened by extinction.

·            rich in rare coastal vegetables in the Mediterranean.

rich in fishes, sea sponges and other marine creatures in the environment.

Kinds of birds in the reserve:

Snowy egrets or grey herons :

·          They emigrate in big number and only few stay in this reserve during wintertime.

Few of them come between the end of August and the end of May, and around 25 birds were found during winter staying on the rocks.


White wagtails :

·          It is a rare bird being regularly reproduced in the summer season it is reproduced (even if they are previously reproduced in the Palms Islands at the beginning of XXe century).

·          It is a normal emigrant and a winter visitor.

·          It can be found between the middle of September and the beginning of April in Palm Islands in appropriate places near the water.



·          They emigrate in big numbers in spring season, from the middle of February until the end of May.

Even though they emigrate in thousands, few stay in the reserve during winter season in addition to some summer non-reproductive birds that appear irregularly.

Kinds of reptiles in the reserve:

Green sea turtles :

·          It is globally threatened by extinction.

·          It spends the winter in the water of Palms Islands.

·          It eats herbs and spends most of the time eating carrageen and marine herbs that grow in a small amount of water.

The young turtles eat vegetables and other creatures such as jellyfishes, crabs, sea sponges, snails and sea worms.


Loggerhead sea turtles :

·          It is globally threatened by extinction.

·          It lives in a small quantity of cold continental water and often in places not more than 10 meters in depth.

·          The females lay their eggs on the sandy beaches, usually after the tide line between the end of May and August.

·          Many females lay their eggs on the same shore year after year while some of them lay their eggs on different shores between season and other.

·          The annual number of nests on Pal islands is around 20 and 35

·          This turtle mainly eats meat and spends most of the time beside or under the marine rocks in order to catch jellyfishes, sea sponges, quahogs, fishes and oysters.

As for the small loggerhead sea turtles that do not dive, they stay on the surface and often float with the marine herbs.


Wall lizards :

·          This kind of reptiles is common and spread in Lebanon and it can be found on the shore until the height of 1800 m2.

They exist in various forms on Palm Islands more then on the principal shore.

Kinds of butterflies:

Monarch butterflies :

·          This kind of butterflies immigrates to far countries, and its emigration is one of the most attracting emigrations in Lebanon.

·          They can be found in open and sunny areas in all Lebanese regions.

These butterflies reproduce in April and May, and then they appear in order to immigrate in autumn.

Kinds of plants:

Marine fennels :

·          This long-living plant is threatened of extinction, and it exists in Europe and along the Mediterranean.

·          People always ask for it because it is rich in Iodine: the green part is eaten either with vinegar or in salad.


Marine plants " mamīŧa" :

·          This annual plant is characterized by its yellow flowers and its silvered green leafs, and it is regionally threatened by extinction.

·          It exists beside the sea and its juice is used as eye drops for treating the conjunctivitis and other diseases related to the conjunctiva.

Moreover, it can be used as kohl (Arab eyeliner).


Marine daffodils or sand lilies :

·          This plant produces beautiful big white flowers in summer season and can be found in coastal dunes.

It can be commercially on the Palms Islands: it is previewed that they disappear from all over the shore because of the construction increase.

Touristic places:

On the Palms Islands, there are also remainders of a church from the Crusades era or of pools from the XIIIe century, in addition to ancient traditional Salinas destroyed in the island's corner.

Moreover, "arramk ī n" Islands have a big lighthouse (recently functioning on the clean solar energy).

The visitors can also see underground canals opened for the cannons of the French mandate.


"al ballān" Islands (Pimpernels)

Its name in Arabic "ball ā n" goes back to the French mandate when one of the soldiers compared it to a whale (named in French " baleine").

It is a big island after the Reserve's Islands, and is 2 ½ km away from the shore.

It is a rocky island, has a hill of 7 m height, and it is characterized by the pimpernel plant and the cavity.

El-Mina citizens visit it frequently the summer because it is located near the shore.

"arrmayle" Islands:
It is a chain of rocky ridges surrounded by fine sand, from which came its name in Arabic (sand = raml).