Ghadamès, known as 'the pearl of the desert', stands in an oasis. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement. Its domestic architecture is characterized by a vertical division of functions: the ground floor used to store supplies; then another floor for the family, overhanging covered alleys that create what is almost an underground network of passageways; and, at the top, open-air terraces reserved for the women.
The oasis has a population of around 10,000, mainly Berbers
. The old part of the town, which is surrounded by a city wall
, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage
site. Each of the seven clans that used to live in this part of the town had its own district, of which each had a public place where festivals could be held.
Ghadames has a hot desert climate
(Köppen climate classification BWh
) with long, extremely hot summers as average high temperature is around 41 °C (105.8 °F) in July, the hottest month of the year as well as short, warm winters. The town receives little precipitation throughout the year as average annual precipitation is only 33.1 mm (1.30 in).
Houses in Ghadames are made of mud, lime, and palm tree trunks with covered alleyways between them to offer good shelter against summer heat.
It has been suggested, based on archaeological evidence, that this area has been settled since the 4th millennium B.C., and is one of the oldest pre-Saharan settlements. Its situation near a water source in the middle of a desert would have made it an important spot for anyone seeking to settle in the area.
The first written records about Ghadames date from the Roman period when the settlement was known as Cydamus
, from which modern Ghadames derives its name. In the 1st century BC, the Roman proconsul Lucius Cornelius Balbus
invaded Cydamus during the reign of emperor Augustus
A permanent Roman garrison was established during the reign of Septimius Severus
, and the emperor may have visited the settlement around AD 202.
However, the Romans withdrew from the area a few decades later during the Crisis of the Third Century
During the 6th century, a Bishop
lived in the oasis, after the population had been converted to Christianity by Byzantine
missionaries. It became a stronghold of the Donatist
heresy until its conquest by Muslim Arabs
During the late 7th century, Ghadames was ruled by the Muslim Arabs. The population quickly converted to Islam
and Ghadames played an important role as base for the Trans-Saharan trade
until the 19th century.
The etymology of the name Ghadames is very closely linked with its history. It is believed that the name Ghadames is originally connected to the name of the ancient Berber
tribe of Tidamensi
, a tribe from Fezzan
. It is also believed that the name Tidamensi was corrupted by the invading Romans to form the name Cydamus, which in turn gave way to the name Ghadames.
In October 1911, shortly after the Italo-Turkish War
broke out, Ghadames was occupied by Italian soldiers marching from Tripoli
. However, Italy's hold on the city was interrupted several times until June 1915, when a general rising throughout Libya caused the Italian garrison to retreat from Ghadames to the stronghold of Tripoli. Effective control over the city was restored in December 1918, but rebellion throughout Fezzan
kept Ghadames in a state of emergency until 1923.
In 1943, Free French forces occupied Ghadames and its surrounding area in the southern part of the former Italian colony of Libya
, forming the Military Territory of Fezzan-Ghadames
until Libyan independence in 1951. Ghadames was made the territory's capital during this time.
In the 1970s, the government built new houses outside of the old part of the town. However, many inhabitants return to the old part of the town during the summer, as its architecture provides better protection against the heat.
That same time, director Moustapha Akkad
chose Ghadames as a filming location for interior scenes of the city of Medina
in The Message
, an Islamic epic drama film.
Old Town of Ghadames
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. (March 2011)
The old town, inscribed in 1986 as a UNESCOWorld Heritage
site, was de-populated of its inhabitants throughout the 1990s, leaving the old buildings at risk of collapse due to a lack of maintenance.
It has been listed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
since 2016 among four other sites in Libya, because of damage caused by the Libyan Civil War
affecting the country and the threat of further damage it poses.
Inside view of a small dwelling
Old Town Rooftop View
Old Town Spring Water Pool
Old Town Wall Entrance
Fruit Trees in the Old Town
View over the rooftops of the old town of Ghadames
- ^ "Wolfram-Alpha: Making the world's knowledge computable". www.wolframalpha.com.
- ^ Der Spiegel, 2011 Aug 23
- ^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Old Town of Ghadamès - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
- ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Old Town of Ghadamès - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
- ^ "Climatological Information". World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- ^ "Klimatafel von Ghadames / Libyen" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961-1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
- ^ "Appendix I: Meteorological Data" (PDF). Springer. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
- ^ a b "Ghadames (Ghudamis), Cydamus: the Pearl of The Libyan Sahara". Temehu.
- ^ Birley, Anthony R. Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. London: Routledge. (2000) . pg 147.
- ^ "Libyan fighters set to seize border town". PressTV. August 30, 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-10-11.
- ^ Libya: what about the south? The Guardian, 24 August 2011
- ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-10-18. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
- ^ Marozzi, Justin (18 September 2011). "Libyan Tuareg face reprisals" – via www.bbc.com.
- ^ The World Heritage Newsletter, No.9, December 1995.
- ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Libya's five World Heritage sites put on List of World Heritage in Danger". whc.unesco.org.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ghadames
- Falling Rain Genomics, Inc.: "Ghadamis, Libya"
- Azzouz, Intisar (1980) "Ghadames, Libya" In Safran, Linda (ed) (1980) Places of Public Gathering in Islam: proceedings of seminar five in the series Architectural transformations in the Islamic world, held in Amman, Jordan, May 4–7 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Philadelphia, OCLC 7208199; photographs of Ghadames.
Last edited on 20 April 2021, at 03:57
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