Monthly Archives: April 2016

Book: Misurata, a market town in Tripolitania

misrata-market-picA small booklet published by the Durham Dept. of Geography in 1968, Misurata: a market town in Tripolitania by G. H. Blake is one of the few (=2 or 3) studies available on Misrata (مصراتة‎) in a western language. The brief introduction is below, and a PDF of the entire booklet is available by clicking here.

“The small towns of the Middle East and North Africa have received so little attention from geographers hitherto that there is a need for case-studies of this kind if only as prologomena for intensive future investigations. Several factors combined to permit little more than a superficial study of Misurata in the summer of 1966; the paucity of statistics, the lack of large scale maps and air photographs while fieldwork was being carried out, and above all the limited time available. In spite of these difficulties an attempt was made to examine the functions and morphology of a market town which is still strongly traditional in character, with a high proportion of the population deriving their living from the sale of goods and services in the market. Some of the results of this work are presented in the following pages. While there may not be much that is methodologically exciting, it is hoped that its publication will be fully justified by its timing, for in 1966 it was already clear that the cultural ethos and economic functions of Misurata are on the threshold of great changes.

Libya’s immense oil revenues have touched every aspect of national life and in Misurata have resulted in a spate of public and private building which is beginning to transform the ancient skyline of minarets, palm trees and low, flat-roofed houses, bringing into being an essentially European-type architecture and ground plan. In the next few years the town will develop from being a regional market to a genuine regional centre with significant functions in serving through traffic. The projected North African highway will pass nearby; Casr Ahmed is to be revived as a naval and military base; and there are plans to develop and settle the vast ex-Italian estates to the south and west. The people of Misurata are famous for their commercial enterprise and will not be slow to make good use of the opportunities thus presented, just as they have been quick to establish light industries in response to the building boom.

The promise of rapid modernisation makes Misurata a town of particular interest since it epitomises the problems of renewal and development in larger cities of cultures. It remains to be seen whether the Master Plan of the town, now being prepared in Rome, will succeed in preserving what is good in the old while creating a town capable of discharging its ever-growing social and economic responsibilities to the surrounding region.” (p. 1)

PhD thesis: Najah Benmoftah on Tripoli Arabic

Warmest congratulations to Najah Benmoftah, who has just completed her Ph.D. at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris with the following thesis:

Benmoftah, Najah. Des ligateurs de cause: étude contrastive entre le français parlé à Paris et l’arabe parlé à Tripoli (Libye). Propriétés syntaxiques et fonctionnements pragmatico-discursifs. Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 (2016).

Abstract: This contrastive linguistic thesis describes and contrasts the syntactic properties and the pragmatic-discursive function of parce que in spoken French in the seventh district of Paris and some of its Arabic equivalents in spoken Arabic of Tripoli (Libya) : liʔǝnna, ʕlēxāṭǝṛ , māhu and biḥkum.

Regarding the spoken Arabic of Tripoli, these ligators may belong to two different grammatical classes : they may be conjunctional ligators and / or prepositional ligatorrs. It depends on their degree of grammaticalization. While liʔanna and māhu are conjunctional ligators that introduce causal clauses organized around verbal or non-verbal predicates, ʕlēxāṭǝṛ and biḥkum can be used as prepositional ligators and introduce circumstantial complements or be grammaticalized as conjunctional ligators and introduce causal clause.

In addition, these ligators can occupy a canonical position when the ligator follows a main clause and introduces a causal clause, or a non-canonical position for which there are two cases : either the utterance begins with the causal which is introduced by the ligator of cause and is followed by the main clause, or the utterance begins with the main clause which is followed by the causal not introduced by a ligator of cause ; the latter is found at the end of the causal and closing the utterance. From a pragmatic point of view, changing the order of the constituents when ligators and causal clauses are not in canonical position allows the focalization of the causal clause.

Unlike the spoken Arabic of Tripoli, the examination of the Corpus “Français Parlé Parisien des années 2000 (CFPP2000)” shows that parce que is conjunctional ligator. It introduces a causal clause organized around verbal predicate, rarely non-verbal. parce que can occupy a canonical position when the ligator follows a main clause and introduces a causal clause, and a non-canonical position when parce que follows “c’est” and introduces a causal clause. However, it can not be postponed and it does not accept either suffix. When parce que introduces several causal clauses, it may be taken but in reduced form “que”, giving a series of “que”. In addition, from a pragmatic point of view, when the utterance begins with “c’est parce que” this structure allows to focalisation of the causal clause.

Book: Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism

simon-libya-ottomanism-nationalismRachel Simon, Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman involvement in Libya during the War with Italy (1911–1919). Klaus Schwarz: Berlin (Islamkundliche Untersuchungen, vol. 105), 1987.

Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism is a historical study dedicated to a period which saw the Ottoman empire’s control of North Africa wane while Italy attempted to establish a colony in Tripoli and Cyrenaica. It surveys the political makeup of the late Ottoman provinces that became Libya, the Ottoman involvement in Italy’s conquest of those territories, and chronicles the resistance against colonization in Libya, looking at both Tripoli and Cyrenaica as well as Libyan resistance movements and the Ottoman support thereof.

Since this title has been out of print for many years, the publisher (Klaus Schwarz Verlag in Berlin) has kindly given permission to put a PDF of the entire book on this blog. You can find it here.

A review of the book by Lisa Anderson can be found at this link.

Book: Caricatures of Muhammad az-Zwawi | كاريكاتير محمد الزواوي

Muhammad al-Zwawi (محمد الزواوي) was a Libyan caricaturist who lived from 1936 to 2011. Over a long career mainly in Libya, he produced a vast number of caricatures which commented on everything from social and political life in Libya, to Libya’s relationships with other countries, to politics in the world at large. His relationships with the powers-that-were were often complicated, as he critiqued a wide range of social and political issues. But his caricatures concerning Libya’s politics with other Arab nations were regularly published in the regime’s main newspapers, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

zwawi-1The only publication of, or on, al-Zwawi’s work in the West that I know of is a little-known book produced in German in 1984 by a small imprint called Edition Wuqûf, in collaboration with al-Zwawi himself. The book is divided into two parts. Part One includes three main chapters: I. Overview of the the history and present situation of caricature in Arab lands, II. Caricature in Libya, III. Remarks on the historical and social background of al-Zwawi’s caricatures. Part Two contains something like over a hundred caricatures with German captions (original Arabic text within the caricature is left as is). Here is an example:


“Look at the big words on the desk (I am a revolutionary! Serving the citizen is a sacred duty!), none of which have made it into his head.”

The main Arabic language publication of his work is an album with over 300 of his caricatures entitled الوجه الاخر ‘The Other Face’ that appeared in Libya in 1973.


The Other Face. Social and Political (Drawings) 1966-1972.

Online galleries of his work can be found here and here.

Journal: Archaeological Horizons | افاق اثرية

Archaeological Horizons (افاق اثرية) is the name of an Arabic-language periodical about Libyan archaeology, archaeological sites, museums, and all other related matters. It was founded in July 2011, during an explosion of print media that occurred once cities like Benghazi were free of the regime, and its most recent issue appeared in September 2014. All 19 issues of the periodical are available for free download as PDFs at the following site:

The periodical is full of all sorts of interesting information—there are articles about numerous different sites in Libya (from ancient to early modern), news about digs and expeditions, calls for action regarding antiquities lost during the regime or during the revolution, and even the occasional publication (and translation into Arabic if necessary) of Islamic grave inscriptions or pre-Islamic ones. Foreign works on Libyan archaeological matters are also taken into notice; for example, in Issue 19 (2014), the 2013 volume of the journal Libyan Studies is reviewed.

For those who are interested in the entire gamut of Libyan archaeology — from the perspective of Libyan writers(!) — this periodical provides great starting points as well as up-to-date news. Given recent upheavals in Libya, its publication has no doubt had to take a break, but here’s hoping we see Issue 20 in the near future…