The Berbers are the first known inhabitants of Libya and other parts of northwestern Africa. By most historical accounts, the Berbers have lived in Libya since the 10th century BC, long before the first Phoenecian sailors met them on the Libyan coast. Still, one of the largest communities of Berber Libyans is found in the coastal city of Zwara, called "tamourt" (homeland) in the Berber language. Large communities are also found inland, throughout the northwestern mountainous region of "jabal nefoosa." Some unique architectural features of Berber mountain towns are presented in the painting below.

Painting by : A.Fhema
Architect's Vision of a Libyan Mountain Town (by courtesy of the artist, Mr. A. Fahema)

The artist portrays the town houses as a cover of the mountain, with two centers of power in the background. On the left is a mosque, which is a dominant feature throughout the Libyan landscape. The background structure on the right is an interesting feature of Berber towns. The "gaSr" (castle) is a place for safekeeping valuables in times of war. Each family is allotted some space to store grains, oils, and other nonperishable possessions. In dire times, the entire town might seek refuge in the castle. To hinder unwanted visitors, the castle is usually built on the edge of a mountain.   

Today, an example of the ancient Berber refuge still stands near the mountain town of Jadu. It is called "gaSr elHaj," and said to be 700 years old. Here are a few glimpses from a videotaped tour of "gaSr el7aj."   

Coming soon: Video clips from Jadu, including a tour of a community museum.  

Also: See another painting by A. Fahema, and more to come.