Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gadhaffi Shells Ghadames Oasis

The Road to Tripoli from Ghadames

Gadhafi accused of bombing heritage site

June 12, 2011

The rebels said pro-Gadhafi forces were shelling the western city of Ghadames some 600 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, close to the borders with Tunisia and Algeria, on Saturday. Known as the "pearl of the desert," the oasis boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for its Roman-era ruins.

The Libyan Peoples Bureau Describes Ghadames:

Ghadames is one of Libya's highligts. As a matter of fact, it is a highlight of the whole of Sahara, often called "the jewel of Sahara", and was in 1999 added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, as one of 5 places in Libya.

Ghadames is a tranquil old city, with covered streets that are both dark and quite cool even during summer. And of course, the colour chosen, is white. Ghadames represents popular engineering, and is the result of a complex knowledge on how to deal with extreme temperatures. The arrangement of the houses is far from casual. Every angle, every wall, every opening in the roofs over the alleyways, are parts of the same organism.

Ghadames 683 km. Southwest of Tripoli, is reached either by land or by air. It offers to tourists comfortable accommodation in the middle of the desert. The town distinguishes itself by its shape and look which are both extraordinary. It is full of small covered streets which run like-corridors, even through the house have flat intercommunicating terraces reserved for women only.

The inhabitants of Ghadames, (Cydamae in the Roman times), are the Touareg lovers of freedom and liberty. This oasis, in the far southwest of Tripoli, has seen lover of pleasant evening talk, and recreation, and pleasant seekers. People loved to hear the still of the night being broken by the music of a simple cane flute: or to attend the scene of a curtain of silence being lifted by the artistic fingers of a Bedouin woman playing a beautiful tune on strings attached to a small leather-coated drum: or the uproar of a tumuli on the dance ring with the songs of the Touareg. (Singular Targui).

Ghadames Oasis maintained its own framework of customs and habits, and its own social ways of life. The existence of a water spring endowed on its special attraction and grave it vital life arteries. Thus, it become one of the most important commercial station for merchants caravans created commercial activity and brought substantial wealth to this beautiful Libyan oasis; the pearl of the desert. The most important oases in the Jamahiriya other than Ghadames, are the oases of Jalu, Aujla, Kufra and Jaghboub.

Historians record that Ghadames was habited (4,000) years ago. It is now an archaeological site which dearly indicates the presence of several civilizations that had lived on the city's streets and paths. These civilizations have left their prints on the rocks, in the caves, on ruins scattered on the dunes and in the curves of the valleys. Excavators in Ghadames have also found Greek carvings in a region to the northeast of the city, as well as the mixture in tile city of Roman and Garamantes arts and architecture. In the 3ed century B.C., there was also a castle built for Roman soldiers. In the 7th century A.D. 'Omar Ibn-al-As sent an Arab Muslim battalion to Ghadames in order to make it a foothold from which the Arab Muslim armies would spread throughout North Africa later on. It was a strategical position which they sustained strongly.

Ghadames population is composed of groups of people from Arab origin and other groups of ancient Libyan source. They speak Arabic which the Arab Muslim Leader Ugba ibn-Naafa' brought with him to the city when he conquered it twice in the 7th century A.D.). They also speak a sort of a vernacular language which is common to day among the indigenous people of Ghadames (19). They are, of corse Libyans.

It is worth noting that there is a legend about how the name of "GHADAMES" had been so framed. It si said that once upon a time a caravan passed through a valley where they had their own much

After they had packed their belongings and left the spot, one member of the caravan noticed the missing of the cooking utensils. Then he said, '' We forget them at "GHADAMES" (He meant : We left them at Yesterday's lunch". i.e. where they had their lunch.

In Arabic '' GHADA" means hunch and "AMS" means in Arabic "Yesterday " Therefore, - GHA-DAMES - means yesterday lunch. But it is by chance, the Roman name "Gyadamae" has been transformed to "Ghadames".

However, there is no doubt that this story' is a pure legend . . . for Ghadames to its name from a distortion of its original name, "Cydamus '' and its present name has no relation with (Ghada'). (Arabic for lunch). The Touareg are however one of the most colorful people in Jamahiriya. They mount or ride on their very fast dromedaries known as "Mehari" which can run as fast as 50 km. per hour. They are the guardian of the Sahara.

The settlement at Ghadames goes back at least 5000 years. Before that time, Sahara was greener, allowing different settlement patterns. The first historical information we have is from 19 BCE when the Romans occupied it, and named it Cydamus. The present old town is probably 800 years old; town centre had then moved around the oasis a few times. From the 18th century until 1874 was Ghadames an independent state, thriving from trans-Saharan trade.

For a long time, trade lines across the Sahara, including the transportation of slaves, was the life line of Ghadames. Today the 10,000 people living here make a living out of agriculture, but tourism has become a new and important source of income.
The Ghadames festival is staged through three days every September, bringing back life to the old town on the second day of the festival. People put on traditional dresses, and weddings are held as well as rites of passage for young men passing to adulthood.

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