The Tripoli Red Castle or Assaraya Al-Hamra (photos), is one of the most important landmarks of the city of Tripoli in Libya, it was so called because some of its parts were painted red. It is located in the northeastern corner of the old city of Tripoli and overlooks Omar Al-Mukhtar and Al-Fatah streets, Tripoli port and the Red Castle Lake, that was previously a sea before it was filled in the 1970s, which enabled it in the past to protect and defend the city by land and sea.
The castle has undergone major changes and additions to its architecture according to the style and requirements of each rule, its area is 1300 square meters, the lengths of its sides are: from the north-east 115 meters, the north-west 90 meters, the south-west 130 meters, and the south-east 140 meters. Its height is about 21 meters.
The Castle of Tripoli was built on the remains of a huge Roman building, perhaps one of the temples or the large baths, where some columns and huge marble crowns dating back to the first or second century AD were found beneath the road that ran through the castle from east to west.
The Tripoli Red Castle was a great fortress to defend the city of Tripoli in the Byzantine era, where it is narrated that when the Muslim Arabs under the leadership of Amr bin Al-Aas marched on Tripoli in 21 AH to 642 CE, they found the city surrounded by a strong wall, and they were not able to enter the city until after a siege that lasted a month.
The Arab rulers took care of the castle, as remnants of some tall towers resembling those that were known before the discovery of gunpowder, as well as the presence of some walls built by the Arabs before the Spanish entered Tripoli on July 25, 1510 AD. When the Spaniards occupied the city of Tripoli, they took special care to the defensive walls and castles, especially the castle of Tripoli, and it seems that most of the current external construction of the castle dates back to the period of Spanish rule and the period of the Knights of Saint John, whom the Spanish handed over to the city upon their departure from it in 1530 AD, the Spaniards built the castle’s two towers:
The southwestern tower and the southeastern tower, which is known as Saint George Fort, and between them there were openings for placing cannons according to the methods used in the sixteenth century AD. The Knights of Saint John added another tower to the castle in the northeastern corner, known as Santa Barbara Tower, and it was clear from the maps dating back to the seventeenth century. The Castle was surrounded by a water canal on all sides, and its entrance was at the southern wall.
Under the rule of the Turks
The Turks seized the castle in 1551 AD, they made several additions to it, and the church ‘Murad Agha’ that was inside the castle was turned into a mosque, and the Turkish governors took the castle as a headquarters to them and their families. And when Ahmed Pasha Karamanli took control of the country in 1711 AD, he and his family took special care to the defensive fortresses. During the Karamanli era, the castle included a special building for the ruler of Tripoli with a spacious hall in which he received delegations and consuls of foreign countries. The castle also had a coinage house, the judiciary office, a government pharmacy, and some warehouses, prisons and mills.
Under the rule of the Italians
Italy seized Tripoli in 1911, and the Castle became the Governor-General's residence, whereas some parts of it were also used as museums. During this period, many changes occurred to it, the most important of which was the removal of some of the external buildings that were adjacent to it, and the paving of the road that leads to the port of Tripoli.
In 1919 the castle became a museum for the first time in its history.
At first, they settled for an old building located next to the castle from the south, which was used during the second Ottoman era as a police station, and when the Italians landed in Tripoli they turned it into an ammunition store. Later on, the storehouse, which is 30 meters long and about ten meters wide, built on six columns, was modified to be the first museum in the history of Libya. In the early twenties of the twentieth century, all the castle's annexes, including the aforementioned store, were removed and all the castle was transformed into a museum inaugurated in 1930 by the Italian governor-general Balbo, who was soon dazzled by the castle and transferred his office to it, to take over the affairs of the country from a small part of it. He built the former classic museum, which is now replaced by the Assaraya Al-Hamrs Museum, and placed some old fountains in the castle squares dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD, which were brought from the old town houses.
Under the rule of the British
After the British took control of the country during the Second World War, they sought through UNESCO to save the archaeological artifacts that were invaluable, and in 1948 the whole castle was turned into the Libyan Museum complex, including Museum of Prehistory, Museum of Ancient Libyan Tribes, and Museum of Libyan Heritage in Punic era, Greek era, Roman era, and Byzantine era, in addition to the Museum of Natural History, which displays animal and plant fossils, various rocks, a group of stuffed animals, and sections for wildlife, insects and birds. From 1952 AD it was prepared to be the headquarters of the Antiquities Administration and its museums.
The Red Castle’s Libraries
The Castle’s libraries consist of three sections inside it, storing documents, books and periodicals in important historical stages, namely: the National Archives of Libya, Public Archeology Library, and Historical Archives Library.
When the Italians came in 1911 AD, they destroyed the documents of the Red Castle until the arrival of the Italian orientalis Auviere Gargiti, who stopped this massacre. Historian Professor Ali Al-Sadiq Hassanein refers to an Italian with a high military rank and a great deal of culture called Tomaso Salsa, who reorganized Management of historical documents and archives before his death in Rome on 9/21/1913 AD. In 1928, a decision was issued to establish the House of Documents, which is defined as publications, and other papers that have passed fifty years old, but this house remained a storehouse of documents only.
Also an archaeological library specialized in history and civilization in Italian language was established, concerned with Roman antiquities and their history in Tripoli, and another one in Shahat in 1914 CE, which was specialized in pictures and slides for excavations of Roman civilization, as part of the colonial plan that justified the Italians' historical right of the occupation. With the simultaneous transfer of the government library from the Castle to its new headquarters during the reign of the British administration, a library was formed from the output of the fascist library Dante Alighieri, located in the headquarters of the fascist Union of the presidency of the colony's army, and managed by Tabalini Ugo until the end of 1933 AD, it has a military character, whereas its collections contain 2510 volumes, in addition to the scientific and cultural publications, Italian and foreign magazines, which are read by the club members, and later included the library of the Church of Algerian Square and the Italian Archaeological Library Countess daughter of Volpi, whose palace was transformed into the Islamic Museum in the mid-seventies.
The Red Castle’s Museum
Assaraya Al-Hamra’s Museum or the former Red Castle’s Museums Complex in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, is the oldest and largest Libyan museums. It is practically divided into four levels of museums that present the heritage and history of Libya across different time and periods that include the civilizations of Libyan tribes, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Arab eras. In the 1920s, all the annexes of the castle were removed as well as the building next to it, which the Italians turned it to an ammunition store. In 1930 AD it was completely transformed into a museum named Classic Museum during the period of Italo Balbo's rule. In 1948 the entire fortress was turned into the Libyan Museum. The Museum displays a collection of Libyan antiquities dating back to different eras, including ancient Libyan, Greek and Roman, in addition to a group of statues and mosaic paintings that were found in different regions of Libya.