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The ancient oasis city of Ghadames lies close to the Libyan border with Algeria and Tunisia. The old town is a labyrinth of tunnels, houses, courtyards and places of worship, all built underground to provide protection from the heat of the Sahara. Women were only allowed to travel on the main 'streets' when the men were at prayer – the rest of the time they had to travel across the rooftops.

Naturally, given the city's location, one of the main functions of the city's mercantile council was to ensure the efficient rationing of water. The people of Ghadames lived in this unique and extraordinary city for centuries with little change.

Its existence is first recorded in the 1st century BC by the Romans, who called it Cydamus, and its remoteness meant it survived political and military turmoil relatively unscathed. The city was only abandoned quite recently, when Gaddafi built modern homes nearby for the population.

Today several houses of the deserted town have been furnished and restored to give the handful of visitors an idea of what they were like to live in. You can also travel across the rooftops as the local women once did – but this can involve some fairly precarious crossings – not for the feint-hearted.

French military administration in Fezzan

The Military Territory of Fezzan-Ghadames was a territory in the southern part of the former Italian colony of Libya occupied and administered by the French from 1943 until Libyan independence in 1951. It was part of the Allied administration of Libya.

Free French forces from French Chad occupied the area that was the former Italian Southern Military Territory in 1943, [2] and made several requests to annex Fezzan administratively to France's North African possessions.

The British administration began the training of a badly needed Libyan civil service. Italian administrators continued to be employed in Tripoli, however. The Italian legal code remained in effect for the duration of the war. In the lightly populated Fezzan region, a French military administration formed a counterpart to the British operation. With British approval, Free French forces moved north from Chad to take control of the territory in January 1943. French administration was directed by a staff stationed in Sabha, but it was largely exercised through Fezzan notables of the family of Sayf an Nasr. At the lower echelons, French troop commanders acted in both military and civil capacities according to customary French practice in the Algerian Sahara. In the west, Ghat was attached to the French military region of southern Algeria and Ghadamis to the French command of southern Tunisia – giving rise to Libyan nationalist fears that French intentions might include the ultimate detachment of Fezzan from Libya. [3]

Fezzan joined Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to form the Kingdom of Libya on 24 December 1951. It was the first country to achieve independence through the United Nations and one of the first former European possessions in Africa to gain independence.

Ghadames - History

the old town
(an UNESCO Heritage site)

Town and oasis in Libya, with 10,000 inhabitants, next to the borders of Tunisia and Algeria. Ghadames is recognized for its beautiful and inventive architecture, designed to fight the dramatic extremities of Saharan climate.

looking down on a palm leaf covered tea house

All houses are made out of mud, lime, and palm tree trunks. They are constructed so that all fit together, with covered alleyways between them, and adjacent roofs, allowing passage from one house to another.

While the entire population have moved out to the modern nearby village, the old one offers the only good shelter against summer heat, so that the old village is still popular to use.

The economical base for Ghadames has been dwindling over the ears. Earlier the town was an important stopover on the caravan routes crossing the Sahara. Today's income is from some camel breeding, a small agriculture as well as administrative and military activities.

There is evidence of settlements here back to Paleolithic and Neolithic times (about 10,000 years).
19 BCE: The Roman garrison Cydaus is set up, but the Romans found this a difficult post to hold.

4-5th centuries: Cydaus becomes an episcopate under the Byzantine empire, and altogether 4 bishops served their mission here.

some passageways are open

667: Arab invasion. Uqba Bin Nefi stopped here on his way to Tunis .

8th century: Ghadames is established as an important trading point for caravans.

16th century: Ghadames is set under the Bey of Tunis.

1860: Ghadames is set under the Bey of Tripoli .

1914: The Italians reach Ghadames, three years after starting the occupation of the rest of Libya. They are met with strong resistance.

1924: Italians finally get control over Ghadames.

1940: Ghadames is set under French control. Under World War 2, the old city is strongly damaged.

special room in the house
used for the bride to meet her husband
and for the widow to use after her husband's death

1951: After strong pressure, the Tunisian protectorate gives Ghadames up to the newly independent Libya.

Community Reviews

In the distant corner where Libya, Algeria and Tunesia meet,is Ghadames, an ancient Sahara outpost that was already mentionned in the time of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, 200 after Christ.The jewel of the oasis is the walled old city where 7 clans used to live seperately, but with an identical set up.Around 40 families, the heads meeting regularely to discuss matters and make decisions, a kind of early stage parliament right in the desert.Renowed for its distinctive architecture, we visit the old mosque and the Koranic school, the old butchery, a tailorshop, and a bakery right besides the living quarters.Some of them have been renovated and beautifully decorated.Nice fruit and vegetable gardens as well.It is possible to wander around on the rooftops from one house to the other on narrow house walls, which feels sometimes like a circus acrobat.Women in the old times were forbidden to wander the streets alone, and they used the rooftops as a thoroughfare.

Ghadames can be reached by private car, in a public bus or in shared taxis.Its s whole day trip.

Wortwhile stops are Qasr al-Hadj, Nalut or Cabao with its wonderful food storage fortresses and would be canditates for Unesco if Libya will ever have a tentative list!

We spent an unforgettable sunset time at the summit of the Ghost (Ras al Ghoul) and the huge sand dunes of Erg Oriental, very close to the Algerian border.

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Site Info

Site History

2016 In Danger

Simultaneously with the four other World Heritage sites of Libya "because of damage caused by the conflict affecting the country and the threat of further damage it poses".

1986 Inscribed

Site Links

Unesco Website
Official Website
In the News

Clashes in Libyan oasis town Ghadames kill seven, wound more than 20 (23.05.12)

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi are attacking the western city of Ghadames which boasts a Unesco World Heritage site (12.06.11)


Jeeps in the Fezzan Desert Fezzan is the south-western region of Libya, and it is mostly rugged desert, broken up by mountains dry river beds (wadis), with scattered oasis and ancient towns and villages. Ghadames is an oasis town in the west of Libya, near the borders of Algeria and Tunisia. Fezzan and Ghadames were governed by single French military authority until they were separated in 1949.

For centuries, Libya was under the nominal control of the Ottoman Empire, and were historically separated into three major regions: Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. As the Ottoman Empire begin to collapse, European powers begin to compete for the various territories. For Libya, Turkish forces were driven out of the area during the Italo-Turkish War fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from 29 Sept, 1911 – 18 Oct, 1912. Initially the territory was known as Italian North Africa, but in 1922 it was split into two colonies, Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania, run by Italian governors. On 1 Jan, 1934, the colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica along with the Military Territory of Fezzan were combined to form the single Italian Colony of Libya.

With the outbreak of World War 2, North Africa was a major theater of operations. Italian forces were defeated rather early in the war in a failed attempt to invade Egypt. they surrendered to the British in Feb 1941, creating some 150,000 prisoners of war. However, in March, 1941, German Afrika Korps commanded by Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, launched an offensive into Cyrenaica essentially cutting off British troops at Tobruk. For the next two years, the battle for North Africa seesawed back in forth, until Jan 1943, when the Eighth Army, under the command of General Bernard Montgomery, broke through the Axis lines causing German and Italian forces to retreat. By February, Axis troops had been driven out of Libya entirely.

Libya was broken into three separate sections, with Cyrenaica and Tripolitania being administered by the British, and Fezzan and the town of Ghadames to be administered by the French.

Free French troops occupied Murzuk, a chief town of Fezzan, on 16 Jan 1943, but decided to administer Fezzan with a staff stationed in Sabha. But French administration was largely exercised through Fezzan notables of the family of Sayf an Nasr. This obviously caused issues with some of the other tribes in the area. (as a note Muammar Gaddafi was of the Sayf an Nasr tribe). At the lower echelons, French troop commanders acted in both military and civil capacities according to customary French practice in the Algerian Sahara. In 1949, Fezzan and Ghadames seemed to be separated administratively by the French, (although I cannot find clear documentation), and separate postage stamps were issued.

On 21 Nov 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before 1 Jan 1952. Idris represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. On 24 Dec 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy was formed under King Idris, Libya’s only monarch.

Global Issues

According to Nature, the biggest issue that archaeologist are facing in Libya is the fact that fieldwork was still going on prior to the start of conflict in the region. Archaeologist are responsible for educating the public about past humans, something that is very prevalent in Africa. Particularly in the desert, much can be learned about past climates as well as human movement. However, for the safety of archaeologist, fieldwork has been put on hold due to unrest in the region. The Libyan Civil War effects us on a global scale because other cultural heritage site have already been damages or even destroyed, for example, the Karamanli mosque was destroyed as a result of conflict in Libya. When important site like this are destroyed we can no longer learn about past societies who used/built the artifacts. In regards to the Old Town of Ghadames, this site is an example of a traditional settlement, and much can still be

learned about the movement of people from this site, but only if it stays in tact. Again this effects us on a global scale because past research has indicated that a majority of modern humans descended from somewhere in Africa. While these commonalities are very far in the past, it still represents cohesion among the human race. Of course no one can say when fieldwork will resume in the area, because no one can predict when the region will be stable, but as Sabloff states in his book, warfare is not innate human behavior. And as we have learned from the past, most conflict arises over inadequate allocation of resources and wealth. Both of these issues were present during Gaddafi’s reign, which contributed to the unrest (Sabloff 2008).

According to Savino di Lernia a writer for, fieldwork in Libya will be paused for many years to come. he believes that getting funding for extensive excavations as well as getting enough archaeologist to come to the unstable region is highly unlikely. This may mean that many potential discoveries about human past, climate change, societies, etc. will go undiscovered and possible be destroyed during warfare. That is why agencies like UNESCO are so important, because right now fieldwork is not plausible, but it is still important to put forth effort to preserve site so eventually we can learn and grow from the discoveries.

Old Town of Ghadames - Libya

Location and Values: The old town of Ghadames is located in an oasis about 600 km south-west of Tripoli near Libya’s border with Algeria. It has been settled since pre-historic times, and was the location of a Roman garrison from 19BC. But the characteristic buildings of the old town that remain today date from the period of prosperity associated with the booming of trans-Sahara trade from the 13 th to 16 th centuries.

The Old Town of Ghadames is roughly circular in layout and the outer walls of the houses around its perimeter are thickened to create an external fortification for the town. The architecture of the flat-roofed houses adheres to a standard plan, with the ground floor used for storage, warehousing and business, with family living quarters on the first floor and the inter-connected roof-top terraces reserved for women. The first floor rooms are often suspended over the narrow alleys below, creating a network of cool passageways through the town at ground level.

Slideshow of the Old Town Of Ghadames: The slideshow includes 24 pictures of the old town provided by Bridget Goldsmith and David Trump. They illustrate the key elements of the town’s architecture, with its shaded passageways, roof-top terraces with their distinctive triangular crenulations, some bas-relief wall decorations, and a couple of mosques.

Slideshow of the Old Town Of Ghadames:

Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the Old Town of Ghadames on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.

Links to other towns of the trans-Sahara trading routes: M’Zab I Ksour I Ait-Ben-Haddou I Timbuktu

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Unravelling the time-space distribution of diagenetic events modifying the pore network of reservoir rocks is fundamental for hydrocarbon research, but it needs to constraint a number of variables driving that distribution along the geological history of sedimentary basins.

Here, we present the results of an integrated study performed on Paleozoic and Triassic reservoir sandstones coming from the Ghadames-Illizi Basin (North Africa), where it is still debated the possible thermal effect on the petroleum system of the Cenozoic magmatic activity occurred in neighbouring regions of the studied basin.

The study aims to contribute in solving that problem by combining: the reconstruction of the relative timing of diagenetic events obtained by petrography the detection of precipitation temperature of cements from microthermometric analyses of fluid inclusions the collection of thermal constraints from low-T thermochronology (Fission tracks and (U–Th)/He analyses) on detrital apatite grains the maturity profile of organic matter obtained through vitrinite reflectance and spore analyses. This integrated approach was applied to samples coming from a basin region where Hercynian erosion was minor, in order to discuss different thermal scenarios, with or without a Tertiary thermal overprint.

The results point out that a simple thermal scenario with heating only due to increasing burial depth is not able to account for the observed experimental data (both organic matter and fluid inclusions data sets) conversely, a Tertiary heating overprint well explain the data collected. Between the tested scenarios considering a Tertiary overheating, the one with an Early Tertiary thermal event seems to fit better data, even though a younger thermal peak is possible. Whatever the case, the choice of the thermal scenario significantly changes the calculated age of cements precipitation in the pore system of the studied reservoir rocks.

Watch the video: ባሎቻቸውን በምላሳቸው የሚጨቀጭቁ ሴቶች አስደንጋጭ የቀብር ዉስጥ ቅጣት... (November 2022).

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