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This article is about the town; for the former Libyan district see Ghadames District.
Ɣdames / Ɛdimes (Berber)
Ghadames Mosque at night
Ghadames Mosque at night
Ghadames is located in Libya
Location in Libya
Coordinates: 30°8′N 9°30′E / 30.133°N 9.500°E / 30.133; 9.500Coordinates: 30°8′N 9°30′E / 30.133°N 9.500°E / 30.133; 9.500
Country  Libya
Region Tripolitania
Municipality Ghadames
Elevation[1] 1,080 ft (330 m)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total approx. 10,000
Time zone UTC + 2

Ghadames or Ghadamis /ɡəˈdæmɨs/ (Berber: Ɣdames or Ɛdimes; Arabic: غدامس‎, Libyan vernacular: ġdāməs, Latin: Cidamus/Cydamus) is an oasis town in the Nalut District of the Tripolitania region in northwestern Libya.


Ghadames lies roughly 462 kilometres (287 mi) to the southwest of Tripoli, near the borders with Algeria and Tunisia. Ghadames borders Illizi Province, Algeria and Tataouine Governorate, Tunisia.

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 43 °C (109.4 °F) in July, the hottest month of the year as well as short, warm winters. The town is virtually rainless throughout the year as average annual precipitation is only 33.1 mm (1.30 in) and the sky is nearly always clear all year long.


Ancient eras[edit]

Main article: Cydamus

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.[3] A permanent Roman garrison was established during the reign of Septimius Severus, and the emperor may have visited the settlement around AD 202.[4] However, the Romans withdrew from the area a few decades later during the Crisis of the Third Century.

Houses in Ghadames are made of mud, lime, and palm tree trunks with covered alleyways between them to offer good shelter against summer heat.

During the 6th century, a Bishop lived in the oasis, after the population had been converted to Christianity by Byzantine missionaries.

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.[3]

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.

During the Libyan Civil War, National Transitional Council forces entered the town on 30 August 2011,[5] which had been under siege by NTC forces since the beginning of the conflict.[6]

Old Town of Ghadames[edit]

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Old Town of Ghadamès
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Old Town of Ghadames
Type Cultural
Criteria v
Reference 362
UNESCO region Arab States
Inscription history
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.[7]


View over the rooftops of the old town of Ghadames

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wolfram Alpha
  2. ^ Der Spiegel, 2011 Aug 23
  3. ^ a b "Ghadames (Ghudamis), Cydamus: the Pearl of The Libyan Sahara". Temehu. 
  4. ^ Birley, Anthony R. Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. London: Routledge. (2000) [1971]. pg 147.
  5. ^ "Libyan fighters set to seize border town". PressTV. August 30, 2011. 
  6. ^ Libya: what about the south? The Guardian, 24 August 2011
  7. ^ The World Heritage Newsletter, No.9, December 1995.

Further reading[edit]

  • Edmond Bernet (1912). "Ghadames". En Tripolitaine: Voyage a Ghadames (in French). Paris: Fontemoing. 

External links[edit]