A Story of Two Bridges

01/03/2010 at 15:25 | Posted in Cyrenaica | 59 Comments
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NOW

Wadi al Kuf (sometimes written as Wadi el Kouf) is a valley in the Green Mountain (Jebel Al Khdar) of Cyrenaica in eastern Libya about 180 kms east of Benghazi.  The name el Kuf most probably comes from the word Ku-huf in Arabic meaning caves, which are seen all around the valley walls.  In ancient times it had another name as Wadi e Jerreib وادي الجريب .

Wadi al Kuf Bridge at present is the largest steel cable and concrete bridge in Libya.  It connects the two mountain cities of Al Marj and Al Bayda.  The Bridge pillars rise majestically 160 meters above the Wadi al Kuf,  and can be seen from a long distance.  It was designed by the Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi and was constructed by the Italian company C.S.C. between 1965 and 1971, at a cost of 5,300,000 US Dollars.

BEFORE

The only means to cross Wadi al Kuf, at ancient times, was to walk or ride down to its bottom from east or west and coming up at its other side.  After the Italians colonized Libya, they had built a small bridge connecting both sides at the wadi bed.  Later on, this bridge was destroyed by fighting armies in Second World War.

In 1948, during the British Administration after the war and before independence of Libya, the British Army Engineers (R.E.M.E.) built a new bridge, which remains are still in existence at the wadi bed.

The pictures below show the opening ceremony by Emir Idris El Senussi (not yet King of Libya at the time).  These pictures are a courtesy of my friend M. Jean-pierre Misson, whose father, Capt. Robert Misson, a Belgian in the British army since 1941.  Capt. R. Misson was a Liaison Officer between the British Administration and the Emir Idris El Senussi, and he appears in the following pictures (1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 11) as the civilian wearing light coloured dress and sunglasses.

 An Update (30/07/2010):

The following pictures were taken when the old bridge was erected by a member of the ” British” Royal Engineers ( who erected the bridge and not the REME ) as was noted by our friend JMR of RE in the comments below.

I thank friend JMR again for his contribution now and then.

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Wadi el Kouf

28/12/2009 at 23:56 | Posted in Cyrenaica | Leave a comment
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Wadi el Kouf is situated in the Jebel al Akhdar massif of Cyrenaica about 180 kms east of Benghazi and near the town of Beida further east.  Wadi el Kouf stretches for 10 kms from west to east, forming from its basin with its tributaries wadis the source of the great Jarjarummah wadi which flows into the Mediterranean sea.  The view is a spectacular one of towering cliffs and high caves, along with wild trees and bushes of all kinds.  The Wadi area is covered by dense Mediterranean maquis scrub. ” There are essentially three main vegetation habitats: a) maquis;  b) coastal dunes flora;  and c) wadi vegetation.”  More information is available … HERE.

These are some pictures of this beautiful area of the Green Mountain taken last Friday.

Ptolemais Ruins

15/12/2009 at 01:00 | Posted in Cyrenaica | 1 Comment
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Ptolemais is situated about 120 km east of Benghazi city, and it lies between the Mountain and the Sea Shore.  This city  must have been a lovely city indeed. “Ptolemais or Ptolemaida was one of the ancient capitals of Cyrenaica. It was probably named after Ptolemy III Euergetes. Its Latin name in Roman times was Tolmeta, from which the modern Libyan town of Tolmeitha – Arabic طلميثة  – derives its name. The town was most probably founded originally in 6th century BC by settlers from Barka as a port for their city.  Soon it became one of the founding city-states of the Pentapolis federation. In 331 BC the union was dissolved after all of its towns surrendered to Alexander the Great. After his death the area formed part of the Ptolemaic empire. In early 1st century the region was conquered by Rome and became a separate province.    This information and more is foundHere ..

Today, Ptolemais lies in ruin and neglect, but still, it remains a part of our history that we can’t deny.  The whole area is occupied by several shepherds and their sheep,  while the modern town of Tolmeitha garbage dump is located nearby in one of the ravines.  The museum of Tolmeitha is a very modest one indeed,  and the road leading to it from the present town is in need for much repair.

However, the beauty of Ptolemais and its ancient history and spirit is always there and can’t be overlooked.  You find the area in its most natural splendor by mid winter and early spring when all flowers are blooming and it is green all around.  Here are some pictures that were taken two years ago. 

Between the Mountain and the Sea

12/12/2009 at 11:22 | Posted in Cyrenaica | Leave a comment
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The coast of Cyrenaica stretches for about 300 kms, from Tokrah (Tauchera ) in the west to Derna in the east.  Unfortunately, there is no coastal road between the mountain and the sea that runs all this area.  There exists a small road that connects Tokrah (Tauchera) with Tolmetha ( Ptolemais ) , however on the other side , there is a beautiful modern highway that starts from Soussah (Apollonia) to Derna, passing through Ras al Hilal and Lathroun ( Erythron ) featuring probably the most spectacular scenery in all Libya of the mountain and the sea .  These are some pictures of this beautiful area.

Aerial Abodes

04/10/2009 at 20:30 | Posted in Cyrenaica | Leave a comment
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Every wonderer visits Jabal Lakhdar remarks the hanging caves he sees on the sides of cliffs and ravines. Some of those caves have pieces of wood –tree trunks- sticking out of them. What’s the story of these caves?
In 1821, the brothers F.W. and H.W. Beechey, British explorers made an expedition to explore the Northern Coast of Africa from Tripoli eastward. When they arrived in Jabal Lakhdar region and in one of the valleys near Soussa (ex-Appollonia) they reported the existence of families living in caves above the ground, hanged caves or what they called Aerial Abodes. They reported also that there where people living in tents near Ras el Hilal area.
Great thanks to Dawood Hallag, of Shahat Archeology Department, who, with a group of six brave men of Jabal Lakhdar, attempted a survey expedition in three years between 1985 through 1987 of an area estimated by 5000 km2 to discover those Aerial Abodes or what he called hanged caves – or in Arabic as (أوشاز الأسلاف ) in the Green Mountain. He then wrote a book with the same title published in 1988.
Historical Background:
But why people of the mountain lived in those Aerial Abodes?
D. Hallag in his book stated that according to history there was a period of five centuries starting from middle thirteenth century to middle nineteenth century, there passed an era in Cyrenaica characterized by the following:
1- Cyrenaica was very backward socially and politically and the only authority that existed was a very weak tribal rule.
2- Cyrenaica was underdeveloped economically depending mainly on animal raising, a very primitive kind of agriculture and raiding and theft.
3- Wild spread famines, pests and plagues and natural disasters such as earthquakes.
Andalusi diplomat, geographer and adventurer Al Hassan Mohamed al Wazzan( الحسن بن محمد الوزان ), Also known as Leo Africanus wrote in the sixteenth century describing Cyrenaica as:
“Desert of Barga is about 1300 mile long and 200 mile wide…The life of its inhabitants is very miserable as it is isolated from populated areas. No cereals grow in their land and all their needs are imported from Cicely.”
The Arab Explorer, Al Ayashi (العياشى) wrote about the same era:
” Because of the nonexistence of rulers, anarchy and unrest of people, the land of Barga which is a distance of two months between Alexandria and Africa, became empty of peoples and lawless lands. ”
How People lived in Aerial Abodes?
D. Hallag wrote that people managed to live in high caves in vertical ravines and made them suitable for living, fortified against attacks, safe, secure and habitable. Between 1445 and 1545, which was the peak of living in high caves, a whole society developed according to necessity and adaptation. He found traces and findings of how people managed to live as in regard to:
– Safety of children.
– Reaching the caves by ropes.
– Collecting rain water for drinking and hygiene.
– Arms and self-defense.
– Managing honey hives.
– Women rule in the family.
– Art, singing and Ghinawi al Alam.
– Kitchen and heating and making pottery.
– Medicine and use of mountain plants.
– Relations between cave dwellers and storage records made of rocks.
– Food preservation.
– Making clothes and shoes.
—- and other aspects of life in this environment.
D. Hallag with his team locoted in this expedition more than 100 caves, including the shrines of early Christians in the green mountain in Wadi Marcus (وادى مرقص ) and Wadi el Enjeel (وادى الانجيل ), which were used as a safe refuge during the first century.
Unfortunately and to my knowledge this research was not continued by any other official party.

Qasr Libya

25/09/2009 at 07:00 | Posted in Cyrenaica | 2 Comments
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Qasr Libya (Arabic: قصر ليبيا‎) is a small town in northern Libya about 100 miles northeast of Benghazi. In ancient times, it was called Olbia and Theodorias, the ruins of which were excavated in the 1950s. The town contains a museum with fifty Byzantine mosaics. It’s on the cross-roads between the Marj-Al Bayda main road, and the Qasr Libya-Marawah road.
The following pictures were taken in the spring of 2008
of the Museum and the area of Qasr Libya

Wadi Jarjarummah

21/09/2009 at 18:15 | Posted in Cyrenaica | Leave a comment
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If you drive your car from Benghazi eastwards for about 200 kms through the Green Mountains you’ll arrive to a small town called Qasr Libya. If you turned left in Qasr Libya and drove for about 20 kms through a beautiful wood lands area you’ll come down to a fantastic sandy beach, and you’ll see the broad mouth of Wadi Jarjarummah on your right.
The end of Summer and beginning of Fall is my favorite time to go to the beach, and Jarjarummah was an ideal place Today. The water was clean with some refreshing waves and the air was nice and cool.
Wadi Jarjarummah and the Beach as seen
by Google Earth

 

The Temple at Slontah

10/09/2009 at 19:26 | Posted in Cyrenaica | Leave a comment
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Slontah is a small town about two hours drive from Benghazi, located in the Green Mountains of Cyrenaica. Halfway uphill in the small mountain town, there are the remains of a very ancient temple that goes back to times unknown. This place was better described by Paul Sieveking who visited the site in June 2007. Quote;
“A small boy unlocks a metal door in a breezeblock wall, revealing a semicircular space bordered by low limestone ledges. A round base, 120cm (almost 4ft) in diameter, indicates the temple was once inside a cave, the roof supported by a pillar. The ledges are carved with faces and teeming figures of humans and animals (pig, lion, sheep, horse, deer, dog, etc.). Those on the left are much eroded and difficult to interpret, although one group of figures appear to be in an erotic embrace. Behind the pillar base is a giant horizontal snake accompanied by figures carrying baskets and a crocodile devouring a calf; along to the right is a row of five heads peering from beneath a ledge. On the furthest right is a group of figures – maybe four adults and two children – adjoining another group with a large head and a female figure in a long robe.” Unquote.
The place must be of tremendous historical value, though it is left in a very bad shape, and eventually, the forces of nature will finally succeed in destroying whatever left of its remains. Who were those people who left us these remains? What were their beliefs and how they lived? What period of history they lived in? Were they one of the ancient Libyan tribes that lived while the Pharos ruled in ancient Egypt? Many questions that have no answers.


Battus was here!

02/10/2008 at 10:24 | Posted in Cyrenaica | Leave a comment
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Battus, and a small group of Greek immigrants from Thera, founded in 631 BC Cyrene or Kyrene in north-eastern Libya. Battus ruled as king for forty years, then followed by seven kings of his descendants.
It is so amazing to think that in ancient times this city that lies in ruins Today has been a cultural and commercial centre in the Old World, powerful enough to compete with Athens itself.
Some Pictures of Cyrene Today

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