Islamic Sanctuaries in 17th-century Tripolitania

sanctuari-islamiciIslamic Sanctuaries in 17th-century Tripolitania is the translation of a work by the Libyan religious scholar ‘Abd as-Salām al-‘Ālam al-Tajouri.* It gives details about the many shrines and mosques in Tripolitania (western Libya), as they were known in the 17th-century. The Italian translation of the work, shown here, is the only scholarly work on the text that I know of. Antonio Cesàro, an Arabist who also wrote a grammar of the Tripoli dialect of Arabic, teamed up with the human geographer Enrico de Agostini to also track down the sites mentioned by al-Tajouri and document them in photos and with maps.

An interesting, though probably discouraging, project would be to go to these sites today, in and around Tripoli, Tajoura, Tarhuna, Zliten, and Misrata, and document as many as possible—both those that have survived the past five years of turmoil and those that have not.

*The full reference is Tajouri, A. Santuari Islamica nel secolo XVII in Tripolitania, tr. by Antonio Cesàro. Tripoli: Maggi, 1933.

Article: Italian colonisation and the walled city of Tripoli

An article on the Italian period and its impact on the old city of Tripoli, available online:

Mia Fuller (2000), “Preservation and self-absorption: Italian colonisation and the walled city of Tripoli, Libya,” The Journal of North African Studies 5/4, pp. 121-154.

“Scholars periodically return to the study of how French administrators and architects handled the urban settings of North Africa – the ones they found and the ones they founded – beginning with the occupation of Algiers in 1830. Italian occupation of Libya began much later, in 1911, but in the 32 years of their effective rule, Italians had sufficient time to be both destructive and constructive in significant ways. Nonetheless, only a handful of scholarly efforts have been devoted to Italian architectural and urban policies in Tripoli;
and very few of those have been concerned with the walled city at all…”

Tripolitanian traditional song 1960-2010

Another PhD thesis by a Libyan student has come to our attention, this time in the field of musicology. It can be accessed online at the following link.

Abdelmonam Ben Hamed, La tradition citadine libyenne et son acculturation: Etude du chant tripolitain (1960-2010) [The urban Libyan tradition and its acculturation: study of Tripolitanian singing (1960-2010)]. PhD thesis, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, 2014.

Abstract: “The goal of this thesis is to study in particular the repertoire of Tripolitanian traditional song at the core of the Libyan musical tradition with a method that brings to light both the melodic and rhythmic models which characterize this singing as well as the compositional structures which they exemplify. Specific attention is given to the evolution / acculturation of Tripolitanian traditional song.”


Italian colonial rule and Muslim elites in Libya

Here, an article analyzing Muslim elites in Libya during the colonial period:

Baldinetti, Anna, “Italian colonial rule and Muslim elites in Libya: a relationship of antagonism and collaboration”, in ‘Ulama’ in the Middle East, edited by M. Hatina (Brill, 2009).

Abstract: “In Libya, under Italian rule, ‘ulama’ (علماء), Sufi shaykhs and other religious dignitaries played an important role, as Islam not only legitimated the resistance but also became a fundamental element in colonial policies. However, the relationships between the colonial authorities and the religious elites, beyond what the colonial laws prescribed, have as yet not been examined, except for the Sanusiyya order. This paper aims to fill this research gap, focusing mainly on the region of Tripolitania.”

The conclusion reads: “Islam constituted an important element in Italian colonial policy in Libya, and the colonial authorities always paid particular attention to indigenous Muslim elites. However, the “politics of chiefs,” which was based mainly on an exaggerated patronage polìcy, did not help to overcome sectarian, tribal and regional divisions.

The Italian colonial authorities did not develop a well-defined educational policy aimed at modernizing the traditional elites or forming a new “evolués” elite useful for meeting administrative and economic needs. As noted, the —the institution charged with reforming the local elite—was established only in the mid-1930s, in the closing phase of colonial rule. Even then, its impact on the emergence of new elites was negligible, due to the small number of students admitted each year. Moreover, the Institute of Islamic Studies in Tripoli (المدرسة الاسلامية العليا) was not very popular among native circles because its educational program was perceived as too “Westernized.” Hence the Italian administration did not significantly alter or influence the structure of the Muslim elites in Libya, nor did it contribute to the emergence of new ones.”

As always, those who are interested in reading the piece can drop me a line.

The Arabic dialect of Tripoli | لهجة طرابلس العربية

pereira-parler-arabePereira, Christophe. 2010. Le parler arabe de Tripoli (Libye) | لهجة طرابلس العربية. Estudios de Dialectología Árabe 4. Zaragoza.

This book is the most recent linguistic description of the Arabic dialect spoken in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Based on fieldwork over the course of several years, it provides a detailed look at the dialect of Tripoli from the viewpoint of Arabic dialectology, but goes beyond the usual approaches in including a thorough description of syntax. Furthermore, it is the only book to be written on a variety of Arabic in Libya since the early 1980s. Christophe Pereira is a Maître de Conférences at INALCO in Paris.


New PhD: 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.