El Mina, Lebanon
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El-Mina or El Mina (Arabic: الميناء / ALA-LC: al-Mīnā’, which means "harbour"), is a coastal city in Northern Lebanon. El-Mina occupies the location of the old Phoenician city of Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city. It acts as the harbour city for modern neighbouring Tripoli, situated 5 km to the east.
El Mina is the site of the ancient city of Tripolis that dates back to the Phoenician era, and is one of Lebanon's oldest cities, alongside Byblos, Tyre and Sidon. The site of Tripolis moved inland after the Islamic reconquest from the crusaders, and today's El-Mina became the harbour district of Tripoli, eventually having its own municipal board in the beginning of the twentieth century, separate from that of Tripoli, but within the context of Greater Tripoli.
El-Mina is the city with the largest number of islands surrounding it, along the Levantine coastline. It has seven islands, the closest, the Abdul Wahab Island can be visited by crossing a bridge over the sea. The farthest island, 'Ramkin', is 10 kilometers away from the coast, and has a lighthouse. Four of the islands have been declared as natural reservations, to help breed fish, and preserve their natural habitat. The city's seashore extends 3 to 4 kilometers, and its famous seashore sidewalk, the "corniche", is a popular site frequented by people from all around Lebanon, who come to enjoy the fresh air. The city is mostly flat, and has a diameter of only one km, that extends from the seashore to the border of the city of Tripoli. Due to large expansion, El-Mina and Tripoli are almost attached, except for a roundabout that indicate the separation between the two cities, close to 100 meters distance.
- Al-Bakkar ("the cowman") island: (Commonly known as Abdul Wahab Island)is the closest island to the coastline, and can be reached by crossing a bridge.
- Al-Nakhl ("palm tree") Island or commonly known as Al-Aranib Island (The Rabbits): is the second largest island and is declared a national fish preservation.
- Al-Billan (named after a type of plant that grows on it): is the largest island and contains a small cavern on the west side.
- Al-Ramkin also known as Al-Fannar: El-Mina's farthest island, and has a lighthouse. The island was frequented by slain Prime Minister Rashid Karami, who sought refuge at the island for moments of peace and quiet.
- Sananee: is also a natural preserve where sea turtles lay their eggs.
- Al-Rmayleh: is one the smaller islands its name is derived from the existence of a small beach on it.
- Al-Ashak ("the-lovers"): is also known as El-Tenieh ("the second").
- Al-Telteh ("the third"): is a flat, rocky island midway between the coastline and the farthest island, Al-Ramkin.
- Al-Rabha ("the fourth") also known as Al-Maatih ("the cut-off"): is the smallest island and is used as a docking place by fishermen while out at sea.
- Mashti (The Winter): It is close to the seaside where the old port of the city used to be. A large anchor is placed at the center of the park
- Shouhada (Martyrs) : It was constructed in 1964 and has a water fountain at the center.
- Baher (Fabulous) : It contains more than 500 types of trees.
- El-Bi'a (The Environment) : It contains some monumental remains, palm trees, and flowering shrubs.
El-Mina is one of Lebanon's most demographically diverse cities, with many different communities, of various sects. The religious diversity is of particular importance in Lebanon, where within the country, the cities and villages are segregated on the basis of religious sects. El-Mina's neighbouring city, for example, is predominantly Greek Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslim, some other Christian sect also exist such as Maronite and Syriac Orthodox. The city is also a regular destination for foreigners, most notably Mediterraneans, who tend to enjoy the diversity and richness of the city, and its unique atmosphere. Because of its location, it is frequented by Mediterranean sailors. Being at the heart of Mediterranean trade, the city's culture is rich with cross-cultural interaction, and many "Minawees" as they are called, speak many different languages (usually one to three languages), such as Greek, Italian, Spanish, in addition to French, English, and Arabic.
El-Mina is an autonomous entity within the Lebanese government: it has its own municipality, fire brigade, police department, city hall, and Lebanon's second largest harbor, the Tripoli Harbor, which falls within El-Mina jurisdiction but is operated jointly by El-Mina and Tripoli. Alcohol is available for purchase in El-Mina, unlike in neighboring Tripoli, which is almost a "dry" city.
El-Mina traditionally was a walled city, with five outpost towers to protect the city from external invasion.
- Lions or Barsabay (Bourj Al-Siba'a) which is the only tower still standing today.
- Arabay which was partially demolished, and a new building resembling a castle was built on top of its ruins.
- Al-Dewan which was built by prince Seifeddine Aytamash al-Jarkassly during the Ottoman rule. (demolished)
- Sheikh-Affan on top of which two of El-Mina's oldest houses stand today.
- Ezzeddine, built by prince Sefeddine Jalaban 1442 of which ruble still remains.
- Bourj Al-Siba'a: The only remaining tower of the five protective towers that were built around the city during the Mamlouk period to protect the city from foreign invasions.
- The Corniche : The city's most visited site. A long sidewalk along the coast of the city, approximately 4.5 km long, where people come for a walk, sports and leisure activities such as fishing and sailing. A large number of cafes along the corniche makes it an attractive site for tourists and locals alike.
- Khan Al-Tamasili : An old Ottoman style building that was an old market place during the Ottoman era
El Mina is mainly a services oriented city, much like most of Lebanon, the services sector is the main source of economic income of the city, and employs the largest number of people. Restaurants and cafes are abundant along the city streets, servicing tourists and locals alike, who frequent the "Corniche" during afternoons and weekends. The second most important sector of the city's economy is the fish industry. As a consequence to the exposure of the city to the sea, the inhabitants have been fishermen and seamen by trade for centuries. The fish industry employs the second largest number of citizens of El Mina, and contributes considerably to the city economy. The city has a mini harbor for fishing boats that hosts a considerable number of small individual fishing boats. The city's fish market is well known by Lebanese from all over the country. Albeit, the fishermen failed to modernize and incorporate the industry into a well established and strong source of economic wealth, and the combined output of the fishermen fails to supply even the local community, often forcing fish traders to import frozen fish from Turkey. In addition, the lack of heavy equipment and deep sea fishing ships has left this sector decades behind.
Because of its location on the Mediterranean coast and its history as a trading hub, similar to metropolitan coastal cities such as Beirut, El-Mina is characterized by its diversity and rich political culture, as most Lebanese political parties hold offices in the city. El Mina citizens, like most Lebanese citizens, are politically aware. The Mayoral elections are always a fierce and closely contested race.
The Municipality of El-Mina was established by the Ottomans in 1882 with the Mayor being appointed by the Ottoman district governor and was held chronologically by:
- Ibrahim Alamedine (1882- by appointment)
- Mouheiddine Kabbara (by appointment)
- Mouheiddine Yafi (by appointment)
After the Second World War, and the French colonization of Lebanon, mayoral position remained by appointment by the French district governor.
- Nour Alamedine (1920–1928)
- Moustafa Ghazi (1928–1933)
The French mandate introduced the municipal committee that would later become the city council.
- Abdel Satar Alamedine (1933–1935)
- Kheireddine Abdul Wahab (1933–1944)
The posts remained vacant between 1944-1947 after the independence of Lebanon, and the first elections were held in 1947.
- Mounir Alamoun (1947–1951)
- Saadi Ghazi (1951–1955)
- Habib Abdul Wahab (1955–1959)
- Saiid Bayeklee (1960–1964)
- Ahmed Ghazi (1964–1968)
- Ahmed Moumtaz Kabara (1968–1972)
- Abdel Kader Alamedine (1972)
With the eruption of the Lebanon Civil War in 1975, mayoral elections were no longer held till 1998, and Alamedine remained in office till then. Many regard Alamedine to be the builder of modern El Mina, notably the construction of the El Mina Corniche, which has become an integral part of the city's attractions and landmarks.
With the first election in 1993, Alamedine was re-elected into office.
- Abdelkader Alamedine (1998–2001, resigned)
- Mouhamad Helou (2001–2004)
- Abdelkader Alamedine (2004–2010)
- Mohammad Issa (2010–Present)
El Mina does not officially have a representative in the Lebanese Parliament, although traditionally each parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Rachid Karami representing North Lebanon, would have one member from El Mina.
- "Yawmiyat Madinah" (Diaries of a City) - By J. Touma, Jarousse Press 2003.
- "El-Mina - Tarikh w Tourath" (El Mina: History and Culture) - By A. Kabbara, Dar El-Chamal Press 2006.
- Pictures from El Mina
- El Mina Tourism Information Center
- The Official Website of the Municipality of El-Mina