Documentary: Libya’s Forgotten King

Al-Jazeera English is releasing a multiple-part documentary about the political life and times of King Idris called ‘Libya’s Forgotten King‘. The episodes are available online and can be watched at AJE’s website or on Youtube (below).

In the first part of the documentary we hear from a number of local voices including historians based at the University of Benghazi, and political leaders and activists from the time of kingdom until today, such as former Prime Minister Mustafa bin Halim and Saleh al-Naeli. Historian Anna Baldinetti (who has written a book about the formation of Libya after the colonial period) was also interviewed for the documentary. Although the narration is a bit weak, including mispronunciation of names and places that could have been avoided, the documentary material gathered and interviews with Libyan historians more than make up for it. However, one has to ask, why King Idris is characterized as “forgotten”. I seriously doubt that any Libyan has forgotten him, and all scholars of Libya certainly haven’t either; so, is it only for the average Westerner that associates Libya only with what came after 1969 that Idris is “forgotten”?

Episode I

Episode II

Sufism and anti-colonial Resistance in Algeria and Libya

In the coming posts, we return to sharing publications on a variety of subjects which are available online. The following is from the open-access journal Open Theology.

Fait Muedini. “Sufism and Anti-Colonial Violent Resistance Movements: The Qadiriyya and Sanussi Orders in Algeria and Libya.” Open Theology 2015; 1: 134–145.

Abstract: In this article, I examine the role of Sufism (and Sufi leaders) as they relate to anti-colonial political and military resistance movements. Sufism is often viewed as a non-violent and non-political branch of Islam. However, I argue that there are many historical examples to illustrate the presence of anti-colonialist Sufi military movements throughout the “Muslim World,” and I give particular attention to the cases of ‘Abd al-Qadir of the Qadiriyya movement and his anti-colonialist rebellion against France in Algeria in the 1800s, as well as that of Italian colonialism in Libya and the military response by the Sanussi order. Thus, while Sufism clearly has various teachings and principles that could be interpreted to promote non-violence, Sufi political movements have also developed as a response to colonialism and imperialism, and thus, one should not automatically assume a necessary separation from Sufism and notions of military resistance.

Archaeology in the Fezzan

One of the most active fields of research with regard to the Fezzan is archaeology. A British team (The Fezzan Project) has been leading work there for several decades, culminating in the publication of a number of volumes.

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 1, Synthesis. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2003).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 2, Gazetteer, Pottery and Other Finds. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2007).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2010).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 4, Survey and Excavations at Old Jarma (Ancient Garama) carried out by C. M. Daniels (1962–69) and the Fazzān Project (1997–2001). The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2013).

New Issue of Libyan Studies | مجلة الدراسات الليبية

LIS46_-1The latest issue of the journal Libyan Studies (no. 46) has been published by the Society for Libyan Studies. It is available online, though only by subscription. The table of contents of this issue is below. For those who don’t know it already, Libyan Studies has been published once annually since the late 1960s. Originally intended to report the various projects of British archaeological teams in Libya, the journal’s scope has since expanded but maintains a focus on archaeology, classical (i.e. Greco-Roman) Libya, and the built environment. The society also has a few lectures open to the public each year in London.

Table of Contents of Libyan Studies 46

“Obituary: Wyndham Michael (Mike) Edmunds” – Tony Allan

“Mid-Holocene bifacial tradition evidenced in Augila Oasis, Cyrenaica, Libya” – John P. Mason and Giulio Lucarini

“Non-destructive μXRF analysis of glass and metal objects from sites in the Libyan pre-desert and Fazzan” – C.N. Duckworth and A. Cuénod and D.J. Mattingly

“The walls of medieval Zuwila” – D.J. Mattingly and C.M. Daniels and M.J. Sterry and D.N. Edwards

“Extramural rock-cut sanctuaries in the territory of Cyrene” – Oliva Menozzi

“The epigraphy of Sidi Khrebish, Benghazi (Berenice): an update” – Joyce Reynolds and Philip Kenrick

“Conserving and managing mosaics in Libya (CaMMiL): the final project review” – William T. Wootton and Alaa El-Habashi and John D. Stewart and Hafed Walda

“Les dépotoirs d’ateliers de céramiques de Majoura: nouvelles données” – Mongi Nasr

“The musical tradition of maʾlūf in Libya: rethinking memories from the field” – Philip Ciantar

“The Society for Libyan Studies Archive: Past, Present and Future” – Victoria Leitch and Julia Nikolaus

“Notes from Libya” – Paul Bennett and Pauline Graham

اللي ايحب يقرا مقالتين او ثلاثة من العدد هذا ايدز لي رسالة نعطيك

Bordercrossing Touareg between Niger, Algeria, and Libya

Ines Kohl. 2009. Beautiful Modern Nomads: Bordercrossing Tuareg between Niger, Algeria and Libya. Berlin.

“The Ishumar, a group of “new modern nomads” are borderliners who move between Niger, Algeria, and Libya, and in doing so not only cross territorial borders, but also social and societal boundaries and barriers. It is characteristic of the Ishumar that their way of life is one beyond traditional systems. They break away from traditional norms and values, select special elements, change them, and place them into a new context. Their ideas, concepts and ideals of beauty and aesthetics, values and morals, can be regarded as an indicator of sociocultural changes in the Sahara.”

You can see a number of pictures from the book and read an extract over at the site of Ines Kohl.

Arabic in the Fezzan

We continue our look at the Fezzan with the following work, a study of the Arabic spoken in different parts of the Fezzan by noted Arabist Philippe Marçais. Both he and his father, William Marçais, were participants in the French scientific missions to the Fezzan in the 1940s; they collected linguistic information in places in and around Sebha and Brak. In colonial French prisons in Algeria, he also met many people from the Fezzan and was able to interview them. Yet Philip Marçais’ work on these materials from the Fezzan was not completed in time to be published with other research from the French scientific mission, and ended up never being published. Only recently were his remaining papers edited and his work on Arabic in the Fezzan published posthumously.

Marçais, Philippe. 2001. Parlers arabes du Fezzân. Textes, traductions et éléments de morphologie, rassemblés et présentés par Dominique Caubet, Aubert Martin et Laurence Denooz. Geneva: Librairie Droz.

The texts gathered in the volume include i) prose recordings from everyday life, ii) poetry pertaining to special occasions, iii) epic poetry, and iv) songs. Much of this folk literature is no doubt hard to find these days. Then a second section gives a brief grammatical sketch of the dialects represented in the material and a lexicon. The material is exceedingly rich and full of interesting themes and words. Here is my dire attempt at translating an example of a camel-herders song (the ‘her’ refers to the camel):

طبّي المسارب و اشربي الرياحة     و ان شاء الله بعد الشقا ترتحي

انا اللي انورّدها و انا اللي ما علَي     انا اللي انورّدها في الفجّ اللي خالي

Follow the tracks and drink the winds, God-willing you’ll find rest after tribulations
I’m the one who waters her without worry, the one who waters her in the empty desert

Urbanization and urbanity in the Libyan Fezzan

During this month we will focus on the Fezzan, Libya’s southern region. This region is covered by so little Western journalism that a Twitter account was started simply to produce reliable information from and on it: the Fezzan Libya Media Group. It would be beneficial to focus on the Fezzan from an academic perspective, too. Like other parts of Libya, the Fezzan has interesting people, cultures, and histories. So to start off with, another open-access publication:

Villes du Sahara: Urbanisation et urbanité dans le Fezzan libyen [Cities of the Sahara: Urbanization and urbanity in the Libyan Fezzan]. ed. Olivier Pliez. CNRS Éditions (2003).

The book is divided into three sections, which discuss “the cities of the Fezzan between the State and crossroads”, “local dynamics framed by the State”, and “towards a Saharan urbanity”. An essay by the same author, also on urbanization in the Fezzan (also in French) titled “An urbanity without a city?” , is also available online.