Assaraya Alhamra Museum
The silver writing in Arabic reads: The Museum of
The name Assaraya Alhamra means
Red Castle" or "The Red Fort". It was said that it
was painted red after the Spanish invasions
in 1510 AD, as still hinted at by its
current ochrey colour. The fortified castle was built to defend the capital city and
it continued to be the centre of Tripoli's
power right down to the 20th century. Recent digging along
an adjacent road revealed that the
fort was built on top of an ancient Roman
fortified camp, but some
sources state that the actual building was
established by the Phoenicians, who later
abandoned the city after they settled in nearby Carthage.
This road once passed
through the castle and was adorned with statues
on both sides, which gave the museum
an outstanding outdoor department.
After the Romans' descendants' return with the arrival of the 20th century,
the Italians converted a section of the castle that was originally used as an
ammunition storehouse into Libya's first
museum, in 1919, to house some of the countless
archaeological artifacts, scattered across
Libya's vast landscape, and spanning from
prehistoric times to the present. Many of these treasures are still in the open
to this day, slowly degraded by water, wind and the scorching heat of the Libyan
By 1930s, it was re-named the Classical Museum - in
reference to the classical Greco-Roman
After the British occupied Libya
during the Second War, the museum grew
to occupy the entire complex and became known
as The Libyan Museum in 1948; with the
- Ancient Libyan Berber Tribes (Berber Garamantes, Berber Tuareg,
- Libyan-Punic-Greco-Roman-Byzantine Traditions.
- Natural History.
After Gaddafi's arrival
in 1969, a new wing was added, namely
The People's Era Wing, to document the
Libyan struggle for independence. It is emerged later that Libya
has taken this a step further and began building its war museum, known as The
Museum (see above menu for link).
In 1982, in a joint venture
with UNISCO, the museum was further
developed to its current state and became
known as Assaraya Alhmara Museum, which
reopened its doors to the public in 1988.
Although the actual museum occupies only 10000
square meters, it is widely recognised
as one of the most important and richest
museums in the world; owing to its unique
collection of original items spanning
all periods of human history, from the stone age and
the prehistoric civilisations of the
great Sahara, right down to the medieval periods
and the present time. In fact,
Libya is an unprecedented archaeological
goldmine, with most of its prehistoric
secrets still buried under the
desert's sand and beneath the sea's water,
for future generations to rediscover
and bring to life once more.
In August 2011, after the fighters' push into Tripoli, reports
from Russian sources circulated the vandalism of the museum and other sites which
said to have been damaged by NATO's bombing. Most people dismissed these claims,
but the Guardian (http://gu.com/p/3xz76) later confirmed the looting of the museum,
with the headline: "In Tripoli's museum of antiquity only Gaddafi is
lost in revolution". At 11.30pm on the 20th of August 2011, 20 armed
men stormed the museum and broke a window glass, splattered "graffiti in
places", and took revenge as they wrecked Gaddafi's vintage cars, smashing
windows and headlamps, leaving "thousands of shards of glass" on the
floor. Apparently they took a cloak and an antique rifle used against the
An info sheet from the museum about Assaraya Alhamra.
The above sheet provides some basic information about the
Red Fort, including its total area (about 13000 square meters), and a view
of Tripoli from the sea as it appeared in 1645 AD (bottom drawings). The sheet
also states that Assaraya Alhamra was built on the remains of either
a Roman temple or a Roman bath dating from the first and second centuries AD.
The museum is also known as Tripoli, al-Jamahiri, al-Jamahiriya, and the National
The museum houses some of the best of Libya's
archaeological and historical heritage,
including a spectacular collection of
Neolithic, prehistoric, Berber, Garamantian,
Phoenician, Punic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine,
Christian, Islamic and Turkish treasures,
such as marble and stone statues and
busts, columns, grave covers, tombs, pottery, oil
lamps, mosaic panels, coins, glass, funerary
monuments, colour photos of the various
archaeological sites, fossilised and stuffed animals, dinosaur
bones, and a model of the Red Castle
itself (the Assaraya Alhamra).
The contents of
Assaraya Alhamra Museum
are housed in 47 galleries, distributed
across 4 levels. Some of the floors
and wings are closed to the public, some
are undergoing current renovation, while
other sections of the complex are always
closed to the public - probably serving
as storage areas for unsorted items and
for reconstruction, research and renovation
Fossilised Skeleton of a Sperm Whale (h'out albal)
Ajdabya, Eastern Libya.
Ground Floor (Galleries 1 - 9)
Entrance Hall (Gallery 1: Garamantes & Ghirza)
: a map of Libya showing
the main archaeological and historical sites; Gaddafi's
volkswagen beetle (which he used leading up
to the 1st of September); the statue of the
goddess Venus; gladiatorial mosaics from Leptis Magna;
stone Mausoleum from Ghirza.
An impressive Stone Mausoleum From Ghirza: a Berber farming community
from the Roman period, located in Wadi Ghirza, about 156 miles south-south-east
of Tripoli. The Ghirza
mausoleum tombs are well known for being
advanced, of high standard,
and built with rare imagination
and craftsmanship. The chief Sun-God of Ghirza
was Ghurza, also mentioned as Gurzil by Corippus, and identified with
ancient Libyan Amon (or Amen) of Berber Siwa.
Also there are a number of interesting
mosaic panels collected from the main archaeological sites
in Tripolitania, depicting various mythical
themes and geometrical patters, fishing
beasts. Also a complete mosaic floor
is on display. (See Villa
Silene, and Qasr Libya Museum (above).)
The Goddess Venus (Ground Floor, Gallery 1).
Immediately inside is a fine statue of
the goddess Venus, originally found
at the Hadrianic Baths at Leptis
Magna. The statue was stolen during
the colonial period, and it was not
returned until the year 2000. This
second century BC statue is apparently
a copy of an earlier statue by Praxiteles
(4th century BC). There are other
copies of the statue, the most famous
of which is the Capitoline Venus
in Rome's Musei Capitolini.
Is this the Libyan Holy Grail?
Galleries 2, 3, 4: Stone Age, Prehistoric
Periods & Rock Art : fossilised
tree, stone tools, stone
arrows from the Sahara, hand-axes (300,000 years old), pottery
ceramics (some of which are
8000 years old), rock art
reproductions, and Tashwinat mummy of a child
found by Professor Mori.
The Tashwinat Mummy of
a child found in Wan Muhuggiag (or Uan Mughjaj), Tadrart Acacus, Fezzan, southern
Libya, by Professor Mori in 1958. The
mummy was thought to be at least 5400 years old and therefore it is much
older than any of the mummies found in
Egypt. The child is thought to have been 3 years old at the time of death.
The mummy was found wrapped in an animal
skin and covered with herbs and plants, probably to aid preservation
and to ward off decay.
Rock Art Reproduction.
Gallery 5 : Libyan Period:
Berber Civilisations: Slontah (Slonta), Zinchera,
Garama, Ghirza: temple
relieves from Slonta; royal Garamantian tombs, stone
altars, stone hands, stone
offering tablets and pottery from Fezzan; and stone
carvings from Ghirza.
8000 years old pottery from Fezzan
A funerary door with a lock from Ghirza.
These doors were found in tombs,
and thought to help
the souls enter the tomb to visit the
body of the deceased. A central pillar
of the religion of the ancient Libyans, likewise of their cousins
and neighbours the Egyptians, was the
worship of the dead, and as such the
soul was seen as part of everyday life (of the dead) in the same way it
was for the living before
death. Such doors therefore
would seem to keep unwanted stray souls
away from the sacred body of the deceased;
which speculatively were decorated or marked with special symbols or objects
only the deceased soul would recognise
and thus obtain access to the holy tomb.
The lock seems to have been secured with
a chain (below).
Gallery 6 :
Libyan-Phoenician Period: tablets of the
Punic alphabet; the sign of the Libyan Goddess
Tannit (Ta-Neith), adopted by the Phoenicians as Tanit after they arrived
in North Africa.
The Libyan Goddess Tannit (Libyan Neith)
Temehu.com's translation of the Arabic text
at the Museum:
The Goddess Tannit. Tannit is regarded as one
of the most famous and important Punic goddesses
in Tripolitania. She is the wife of the Punic god
Bal Hamon. She was the goddess of sowing, harvest and fertility, and a
sky goddess essentially associated with the moon. Her symbol, known as
the symbol of Tannit, is a triangle representing the human body, surmounted
by a circle representing the head, and separated by a horizontal line
which represents the hands (or the arms). The worship of the goddess Tannit
emerged after the 5th century BC. She appears to be of Libyan origin.
This piece is from the 2nd century BC.
[End of translation.]
The worship of the Goddess Tannit
the Libyans of the ancient Delta (in present day Egypt)
goes back to
The Goddess Minerva
(Athena): the goddess of wisdom.
Found in the Theater, Leptis Magna, dating to the
first century AD.
Galleries 7 & 8 :
statues of Athena, Apollo, Dionysus,
Serapis and two busts of Persephone, the
Death-goddess and the queen of Hades;
a model of the temple of Zeus from Cyrene;
decorative Greek pottery.
Gallery 8: The Three Graces : the intimate mates of Aphrodite, the goddess
of love and beauty.
The Three Graces
The three sister goddesses
of beauty, elegance and magic. The statue was found,
among other similar works of art, in the city of Cyrene, in Eastern Libya.
The realistic finish and the fine elegance with which the statues
were crafted clearly reflect the qualities
they supposed to represent: elegance and beauty.
One can only wonder at the stunning effect
they once had on viewers when they were in their original and perfect state.
Gallery 9: Roman Period: This gallery houses a large
collection of Roman artifacts from the cities of
Leptis Magna and Sabratha, like statues
and busts, including those of
the emperors Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius
and Lucius Verus and their wives, and
Venus, Roma, Mercury, Diana, Hercules, Calliope and Artemis;
columns and column bases; mosaic scenes,
including the following one; a model of Leptis Magna; a
model of Sabratha; glassware and other
artifacts from the Roman period.
The Mosaic of The Four Seasons.
This floor piece was originally found in Dar Bouk A'meer,
The All-Commanding Roman God of War: Mars (centre).
First Floor (Galleries 10 - 14):
Gallery 10: Roman period : a collection of miniature pots,
plates, bowels, small statues
heads, bronze items, coins, oil lamps and
clay drinking jars from the Roman period found in various sites around
the country, including Sabratha, Leptis Magna.
Gallery 11: Roman Period: the Arch of Septimius Severus, from
Leptis Magna: a marble relief
from the Arch of the Berber-Roman Emperor
Septimius Severus, showing the emperor with his wife Julia Domna and
sons Geta and Caracalla; some of the pieces and panels are the original
ones brought from Leptis Magna.
Gallery 12, 13: Roman Period: Byzantine Period (5th to 6th centuries AD): grave
covers, glass bottles, photos.
Second Floor (Galleries 15-30): Traditional & Islamic Exhibits:
Spells & Amulets
Written in Arabic Script and Berber Symbols
The above magical charts or amulets are
used in traditional medicine. Medicinal amulets, which are a kind of
are widely used in North Africa for all kinds of ailments and illnesses. They
are prescribed by "holy men" - people who are highly religious and
thought to have some kind of "healing gift
. This practice must have
its roots in prehistoric times as Herodotus
and the ancient Egyptians have both provided us with similar examples.
large Green Koran; mud-brick
vernacular arch; a map of the world in 1349;
models of sand stone tombs.
Gallery 19 : a map of Oea (old Tripoli); a model of Assaraya Alhamra; an old
wooden door; a painting of Ahmed Pasha Karamanli Mosque; a model of a house
Gallery 20 : a collection of traditional crafts, jewellery, costumes,
weaving, and other local artifacts.
Galleries 21 - 23 : Tuareg Galleries: Tuareg leather items, metal work, like
spears, jewellery, costumes, basketwork
using palm leaves,
thatched hut, and other traditional Berber Tuareg items.
Galleries 26 - 27 : Libyan Farming
a stone relief from
Ghirza showing farming scene; farming tools,
bee-keeping; and an old oil press from the
Nafousa Mountain. The press was in use until recently in the mountains.
A wooden branch connected to a large stone is attached to an animal,
usually a cow or a bull, which goes around the circular wall. The turning
of the stone crushes the olives and sends the oil to the bottom of the
press where it collects in a specially-made hole.
Galleries 28-30 : Libyan folklore and music, including traditional musical instruments.
Third Floor: Libyan Struggle For Independence:
Gallery 31: This section commemorates some of the
main figures of the Libyan resistance: personal belongings, photos and writings
of Suleiman al-Barouni, a native of Yefren in Nafousa Mountain, and the leader
of 1912 rebellion. Photos of Omar al-Mukhtar, including a photo during his trail.
Omar al-Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert,
was a native of Cyrenaica. His first campaign
was against the Italians between 1911 and 1917, after which he succeeded in uniting
the Libyan resistance under one force. He was still fighting at the
age of 73 when he was captured and subsequently executed by the Italians in September
Galleries 32-37: The September 1969 Coup:
English translation of the declaration of
"people's power", photos, images and other related material.
Gaddafi walking in London, 1969, a few months before his installation.
The Royal Libyan Military Academy, the Sandhurst of the Libyan army, was set
up in 1957. Among its early recruits was Gaddafi himself. Ted Lough was quoted
as saying 98% of
the cadets passed, while 2% failed including Gaddafi. The right specifications
for the "job".
Galleries 38 - 47: Natural
History Museum : stones and rocks from
various geological epochs; local plants; stuffed,
preserved and fossilised animals; and a massive
skeleton of a sperm whale (see photo below).
Clay Oil Lamps
The Sun-God Apollo, Mother & Offspring.