The name Tripoli means ‘three cities’ and refers to the cities that made up the region of Tripolitania in ancient times: Sabratha (Zwagha), Leptis Magna (Lubdah), and Oea (Tripoli). The city was founded by the Phoenicians and later controlled by the Romans, the Vandals, and the Byzantines. During the Vandal invasions, the walls of the two other cities were destroyed, resulting in the exponential growth of Tripoli, which had previously been the least important of the three. In 645 the city fell to Arab Muslims, subsequently remaining under Arab influence and control. Despite being later conquered by the Spanish and the Turks, being a colonial capital of the Ottoman Empire, and then being occupied by Italians and British, Libyan traditions are still highly influenced by Islam. The arts are dominated by geometric and arabesque designs, because of the traditional Islamic prohibition against representations of people or animals, which are best displayed in the mosques of Tripoli.
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