The old city of Tripoli is one of the essential landmarks in Libya. It was first called “The White City” for the shiny white buildings that made it glitter by the Mediterranean. It holds up most of the city’s rich history with a traditional twist. It has gone through changing events for years but it is still standing still and there is a story within every alley or as we call it “Zanga زنقة”.
Throughout the years, it has been through lack of protection and preservation which allowed violations to take place in terms of random construction work and buildings. These are now considered a big threat to life in the old city. Residents are suffering from the situation daily. It creates visual pollution that is hiding away the city’s beauty and simplicity.
There was one woman that has shown great dedication and love in the picture she took for the old city. The love she has for it is contagious. Hiba Shalabi is a Libyan photographer and the leader of Tripoli Walk that took place last year in the old city. She started a campaign on social media with the hashtag “SaveTheOldCityofTripoli” as a way to let the world and mostly, Libyans, about the destruction of their heritage.
In one of the recent conversations I had with her, she said and I quote “The reason why I love the Old City this much is because of my dear father. He used to take me with him when I was little to tour around and he told me stories about the history and memories he made in it. She also added when I asked her about her prediction of the outcome of the campaign “I predict a good response from people here in Libya and outside as well, the impacts and results so far are good.” This shows how dedicated she is towards every part of it. She will never lose hope, in fact, she is spreading hope at the darkest times.
One of the questions I ask was what is your future vision for the Old City? And what piece of advice would you give to people here? Her answer was straightforward “I am afraid that the vision I have would turn out to be blurry and dark because the future is so close and day by day, I see it worse than the day before. However, my advice to people is to care about their history and architecture. They must protect them from destruction, deformation, and disappearance. People need to be more aware of the consequences of their actions and enlighten the new generation of its importance.
Pictures below, taken by Hiba, can show plenty and this campaign is a wake-up call for us, before anyone else, to do something and correct the mistakes of others. The simplest thing that you can do is to let more people know of this campaign and this will put it under the spotlight. The Old City is aching and we must heal its wounds and witness it glitter just like the good old days.