I haven’t written articles about the Old City of Tripoli in a long time. I managed this year to focus on personal experiences/Libyan talents/Movie reviews/Life in Paris and so on. I tried to be as diverse as possible and deliver a variety of topics that can spread positivity and teach lessons to readers but also, I kept the historical aspect to cover as many places as possible around my home country, Libya.
In this article, I decided to highlight the American consulate which is located in the Old City of Tripoli. It is located precisely in the small Hammam alley (Hammam Darghout) at Bab Elbhar Huma or as many call it the diplomatic European district. In this neighborhood, many consulates are located and counselors lived in it. There have been contradictions about whether the building is the American consulate and it has been confirmed by the diaries of doctor Jonathan Cowdery who was among the American captives. The building was used as a consulate throughout the years from 1798 to 1805 and until 1829.
The entrances of the consulate are opposite to the small hammam alley which is located between Darghout mosque street and the crossroad of El-Reah alley (Albasha previously) and with Truk Souq and Suk Elhrara alley at Bab Elbhar region. It is similar in terms of architectural style with the Danish consulate in Al-Reah alley and Alkarmanli house in the four pillars street. It was built in Alkarmanli era and even with the poor status of the building now, it still preserves the uniqueness of these buildings which sets them apart from other buildings in the Old City. Bab Elbhar area is famous for having the same style in archeticture.
The building has had numerous names, it was called AlMalkian because it was used as a consulate. Also, as a prison for American captives, and it was also called Al-Ghidamsi house and Al-Ghidamsi hotel according to the origin of its owners – Atheni family. It was also named the treehouse because of a palm tree in the middle of the courtyard. In addition, Asseri hotel according to Mohamed Asseri who rented the house from Atheni family in the 1960s.
When Atheni family bought the house in an auction, they never used it for accommodation, in fact, they rented the house to some families. Bashir Atheni mentioned the mistake of calling the building as AL-Ghidamsi hotel and it was only known as a hotel when Mohamed Asseri rented it.
According to resources, the reasons behind using it as a hotel was for storing goods. The building was rented to a Jewish man named Akbalay Bebi and he was a businessman who used the building for two reasons, one was for living in the first floor and ground floor was mainly used for storing his goods during 1927/1926. It was rented to Mohamed Asseri in 1963 for about 10 years and he changed to style in order to have many rooms for renting and he rented the rooms to families and individuals until 1978 when the former regime took the building from Asseri and then the building was closed by municipal guardians because of continuous problems and incidents.
Pictures of the current status of the building now and they are taken by the photographer Hiba Shalabi:
You can follow her on Twitter for more information about the current status of the old city in Tripoli. She is the one who started Save the Old City of Tripoli Campaign: Hiba76Sh
Source of information: The American Consulate Building book by Ahlam Zubeida and Abulrazaq Kurera in 2004.