Thousands flock to ‘Pearl of the Desert’ in Libya for heritage event
In the Libyan town of Ghadames, known as the “Pearl of the Desert”, Tuareg traditions are being celebrated with a huge craft and shopping festival.
Built around an oasis and spring, the UNESCO-listed city, more than 600 kilometres south of Tripoli, is one of the oldest communities in the pre-saharan region and families from all over the country flock to this event.
Mayor of Ghadames, Qasem Mohammed Al-Manea, believes it is a highly significant event.
“It’s a great honour for Ghadames to host this shopping and heritage festival,” he says. “Ghadames is without doubt a city of heritage where shopping dates back thousands of years.
“We are talking here about buying traditional industries and handicrafts made with Libyan hands. It’s a great honour to receive people from various parts of Libya and even from abroad like Tunisia.”
One visitor to the festival, Al-Yazidi, is the owner of a traditional handicrafts factory from Tunisia and says: “We had an opportunity to visit Ghadames so we came. We had an opportunity to present traditional handicrafts, so we wanted to visit this country and introduce our traditional products.
“We were well received by the people of Ghadames. It’s a beautiful city. We hope to visit it again.”
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee feared the city could suffer damage due to the ongoing armed conflict.
Since July 2021, Libya has been trying to have Ghadames removed from UNESCOs list, arguing it is safe from fighting and that the only recent damage was due to heavy rains.
Libya descended into chaos after the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, with rival powers, a myriad of armed militias and foreign mercenaries scattered across the country.
Despite persistent divisions between the eastern and western camps, the Tripoli authorities boast that they have brought more security since the establishment of a UN-recognised Government of National Unity in March 2021.
Meanwhile, officials win Ghadames hope to see tourists from Algeria if the border crossing is re-opened.