- This article is about the town; for the former Libyan district see Ghadames District.
Ghadames Mosque at night
|Elevation||1,080 ft (330 m)|
|• Total||approx. 10,000|
|Time zone||UTC + 2|
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.
The first records about Ghadames date from the Roman period, when the settlement was known as Cydamus. 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 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.
The alternative theory for the name, as espoused by the local populace (i.e. a popular etymology), is that the oasis of Ghadames derives from the Arabic words for lunch ("Ghada") and yesterday ("ams"). The words are contracted to form an approximation of "lunch yesterday." By lore, a group that had camped near the oasis left materials from the previous day's campfire cookout. When the steward tasked to retrieve the materials returned to the site, the hoof of his horse broke through to the water of the oasis that now lies at the center of the town. Whether or not this legend is true, the oasis was the reason the town appeared and has remained in this most remote region of the desert.
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.
Old Town of Ghadames
|This section requires expansion. (March 2011)|
|Old Town of Ghadamès|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|UNESCO region||Arab States|
|Inscription||1986 (10th Session)|
The old town, inscribed in 1986 as a UNESCO World 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.
Ghadames Old Town Images
- Wolfram Alpha
- Der Spiegel, 2011 Aug 23
- "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.
- Libya: what about the south? The Guardian, 24 August 2011
- The World Heritage Newsletter, No.9, December 1995.
- Edmond Bernet (1912). "Ghadames". En Tripolitaine: Voyage a Ghadames (in French). Paris: Fontemoing.
|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.