Ghirza, Girza

The route to Ghirza, from Qaddah'yah: requires a 4WD vehicle; broken rocky tracks.




Ghirza was an ancient Berber farming community, located in Wadi Ghirza, about 156 miles south-south-east of Tripoli (see map below). The town was studied by Olwen Brogan and Dr E. Vergara-Caffarelli in 1952 and 1953. The town was later occupied by the Romans during their invasions of Libya.




Its archaeological remains include at least eighteen fortified farmhouses, with wells and cisterns to catch rain water, and many more smaller buildings nearby, the remains of a standard Berber olive-press, cemeteries and temples.The farmhouses are two- or three-storey buildings, built of rubble core and mud, and enclosing, like typical Libyan houses, an open courtyard. They had doors, windows and balconies overlooking the courtyard. Although presently there are no palm trees in the area, they were frequently pictured  in the sculptures in the mausoleums.


Ghirza, an archaeological site

Mausoleums From Ghirza.

Also unique to Ghirza are the two groups of advanced mausoleum tombs, which are of high standard and built of limestone with craftsmanship. Mausoleums (or mausolea) are monumental tombs of kings or powerful leaders. The Latin word mausoleum itself comes from the Tomb of Mausolus, King of Caria, at Halicarnassus. The stones are perfect squares, with four classical pillars, one on each corner, arches, stairs, ornamented with sculptured reliefs and rosettes. The mausoleum have a false door which symbolises the deceased's entry into the after-life.


Mausoleum from Ghirza.

This Ghirza Mausoleum, currently housed at Assaraya Alhamra Museum in Tripoli.


The name Ghirza appears in several place-names of classical times, such as the Roman civitas Gurzensis and the Gurza of Ptolemy. Its chief Sun-God Ghurza, mentioned as Gurzil by Corippus, and Kurza by al-Bakari (11th century AD), was a prophesy god, whose faceless mass was said to represent the image of the deceased in a seated position, and thus he is represented as the offspring of the Libyan prophetic god Amon. There were about twenty small votive altars in the debris of the temple, on three of which were inscriptions in the ancient Berber script known as Tifinagh (the Libyan Alphabet); most of which are still awaiting deciphering. The destroyed temple was later rebuilt as a Berber house, with more inscriptions scratched on the plaster of its walls.


Tifinar the ancient Berber script known as the Libyan Alphabet

Berber Tifinagh Inscriptions, Ghirza.

funerary door from Ghirza.

Tomb Door, Ghirza.

This door was found in a tomb, and thought to help the soul enter the tomb to visit the body of the deceased; probably to keep unwanted stray souls away from the body of the deceased king or queen.




Ghirza: A Libyan Settlement in the Roman Period:
by O. Brogan and D. J. Smith. 1984. Contains detailed studies of many of the buildings, temples, tombs, and cemeteries found in the area, and specialists' finds reports covering Roman pottery and lamps, coins, glass, Latin and Libyan inscriptions and altars, Islamic pottery, and mirror boxes, skeletal remains, wood and charcoal samples, botanical remains and textiles. 330 pp. 172 black and white plates.