Tibuda ( تيبودا )

a photo of  part of the sunken archaeological city of Tiboda in Zuwarah


A photo of  Tibuda: the stone structure on the beach, relentlessly worked by the restless waves of the sea, is part of the sunken city of Tibuda. The black heaps on the left were formed by the accumulation of seaweed, which the Berbers call talga. A truly breathtaking site.

Libya’s 2000-kilometer-long coastline offers a unique opportunity to divers and underwater explorers to see what has never been seen before, including a large number of wrecks, sunken archaeological sites (many of which are certainly to be discovered), and gold, supposedly lost to pirates and ships from the Second World War. Some tour operators offer cruises along the coast, with onboard diving facilities. The most popular diving destinations include Janzour, Tajoura and Zuwarah. Unfortunately, Tiboda is currently closed to public viewing without a written permission from the Libyan Board of Tourism and Traditional Industries. We can arrange tours to the sunken site only if visitors can secure a written permit from the Libyan Board of Tourism. Please do not attempt to visit the site without written permission no matter what your guide tells you, as breaking the law could land you in trouble with the authorities.


stones from the site of Tiboda


This is the view from the other side of the seaweed structure in the first photo. There was another stone structure on this side similar to the stone structure in the first photo, before it was bulldozed into a pile of stone for the seaweed to gradually cover. No archaeological studies have been taken so far to uncover what lays beneath this stone structure, nor were there any professional studies to catalogue the actual city.

Tibuda or Tiboda is situated approximately 4 kilometres to the west of Zwara city (Zuwarah), and sits about seven to ten meters under water. The site is not yet fully explored nor properly catalogued, as it was discovered only recently. Dr. Shawqi Moammer, a researcher from Zuwarah, had some photos of the site since 2003, while researchers in the USA were said to have identified the sunken city through satellite imaging in 2010.

Dr. Shawqi was quoted to have said that American researchers have discovered a number of sunken cities (or sites) along the southern coast of the Mediterranean including Tibuda, and that the scientific explanation for this is that these cities were covered by the tsunami that took place around 8,000 years ago, after a volcano eruption in Sicilia. According to some sources this generalisation does not prove Tibuda to be that old, and only underwater archaeological research will conclude the age of the stone structures. While others say the sea level after the tsunami never returned to its previous level and therefore Tibuda must ne around 8,000 years ago. However, tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, sub aqueous landslides and asteroid impacts, in addition to volcano eruptions.

The Mediterranean sea had claimed many coastal cities in the past and it was predicted that it will continue to do so in the future, especially after the predicted melting of the arctic and antarctic ice, associated with global warming. Scientists have warned that many coastal cities are at risk and that the sea level could rise by nine metres (9 m). They have also predicted that the southern Mediterranean is likely to be hit by a tsunami, and that the Nile Delta might also prove unstable as a result of "several recent fault escarpments" seen on the sea floor. There are already a number of cities and villages registered as "endangered places" around Greenland and Iceland, some of which are being moved to other localities. If scientists are correct, then Zuwarah itself may one day join its sister Tibuda!

sunset by Tiboda village by the beach, showing a few mud houses and palm trees

The view of Tiboda beach facing the sunken city.


Its close proximity to Zuwarah city may shed more light about the ancient history of Zuwara, before its ancient coast was claimed by the sea. It has been already suggested that Tibuda may have been the ancient port of the city of Zuwarah during the Roman period, and that the port was used to export the main commodities produced by the Zuwaran communities, mainly olive oil, salt, lime and gypsum. The evidence for this comes from its Roman name. D. Haynes, in his An Archaeological And Historical Guide To The Pre-Islamic Antiquities of Tripolitania (p. 136.), gives a list of the names of the towns and villages that formed the stations along the Roman road across the coastal Tripolitania. Based on the Roman pictorial road-map of the Roman Empire, the Tabula Peutingeriana, and on the evidence preserved by the road milestones along this road, he gives the following names: Sabratha, Ad Ammonem, Casas, and Gypsaria (Marset Tibuda). Casas has been identified with Zuwarah, and Gypsaria (or Tibuda) is clearly related to gypsum, which indicates that the area around Tibuda could have also produced gypsum, the reason for which the port may have been built in that locality. The name Marset Tibuda clearly indicates that it was a seaport (marsa), from marina, which survives today in the local language in another name: Elmers (Zuwara Marina), the current seaport of Zuwara, a few miles east of the city.

However, it is not known yet if the port, like many other sites along the Libyan coast, was in existence before the Romans had arrived. There is no doubt that the site is ancient because among the nearby finds were remains of Roman villas, mosaic pieces and pottery. This conclusion is also evidenced by the archaeological remains found south of Tibuda, which the Berbers call ighermawen ('the castles').

If it was the same port, then how are we to understand that Tibuda sunk 8,000 years ago? Perhaps the Roman Tibuda was built on top of the sunken Tibuda? Or maybe Tibuda was covered by seawater after the Romans' arrival and not after the Tsunami? Only archaeological analysis of sunken Tibuda would indicate its true age.


marine wildlife by the beach of Tiboda, showing various shells

Marine wildlife by the beach of Tiboda.

From what has been explored so far and from what had been released to the public, Tiboda looks like a small settlement, consisting of open rooms built with carved stone columns and stone arches, most of which are thought to be buried by 4 meters of sand. As a result the arches are so low -- barely enough for one to swim through, says Yousef Saleh Helmi (zuwara.com/zuwarahblogs/102.htm), who had also provided six photos, which he said were taken by Dr. Shawqi Moammer, including the following two:

tibuda underwater arches

Both photos were taken by Dr. Shawqi Moammer,
source of both photos: zuwara.com/zuwarahblogs/102.htm

tibuda under water arches



Libyan Diving Team Explores Tibuda

A Libyan diving team guided by Mohammed Gaddafi went on an underwater adventure to investigate the Tibuda site near Zuwarah. The team took a number of photographs of the site. The following photos, taken by Naser Hwas, were published by Libyaonline in 2004 (the website now seems to have disappeared and the old link to the source file became unavailable).



tiboda underwater


tibuda underwater


tibuda underwater