تامورت Zuwarah زوارة
There are many fantastic beaches of pure golden sand and clear turquoise water spread along Libya’s northern coast, the most significant of which are those found west and east of the city of Zuwarah (or Zuwara), and west of Sabratha and Tellil; extending all the way to the Tunisian border. These are great beaches of soft sand, palm trees and sandy hills.
Matshouk Beach, Zuwarah.
The Name Zuwarah ( زوارة ) And Its Variants
The earliest known name which one can associate with the present Zuwarah is perhaps the prehistoric Tripolitanian Berber tribe Ausorianes, mentioned by Herodotus as a western Libyan tribe. The fact that the name of the ancient Aussian tribe, mentioned by Herodotus to had held ceremonies in honour of the Libyan Goddess Neith around Lake Tritonis, is closely related to the present day sea festival of Awessu in Zuwarah, one is even more inclined to link the Ausorianes of Herodotus with the present day Zuwarah.
2- Arzosei, Arzuges or Arzugitani
These Berber tribes also inhabited the interior regions of Tripolitania and all the way to Lake Tritonis in classical times, and therefore including the entire Zuwarah region. According to Brogan, a bishop of Tusuros (Tozer) passed through the land of the Arzuges in his way to Carthage, presumably to take ship from Tacape, and that a boundary stone found between Be-Zereos and Tibubuci bears the tribal name Arzosei. Also related is the Punic (Berber-Phoenician) tribe name Zeugitane or Zeughitane, which was mentioned during the reign of Massinissa; easily identifiable with Zwagha (/gh/ = /r/).
Next, comes Zwara: the origin of the name Zwara or Zuwarah is not easy to ascertain, even though its derivation from Casas itself may not seem that far fetched. But the current form of the name appeared for the first time in recorded history as the Punta dar Zoyara in a Catalan sailing manual, dated 1375 AD. Just under two centuries later, in 1550 AD, it was mentioned as Zoara by the Berber geographer and traveller Leo Africanus in his Description de l’Afrique. Before that, the 12th century North African Ibn Khaldun seemed certain to connect it with the other Berber variant tribal names, like Hawwara, who according to Ibn A'bd al-H'akam (Futuh' Ifriqiya wa'l Andalus) established themselves at Leptis Magna, and who according to Ibn Khaldun lived in the province of Tripoli (or Tripolitania) in 700 AD.
In this instance Hawwara, Hoggar, Zuwara and Zuwawa are all forms of the same root; in the same way Tamazight and Tamaheq are linked to Temehu. Presently, the name Zwara is often written in various forms, which although are not totally dissimilar, they are nonetheless confusing when running search queries in the Internet or in library catalogues. There are several reasons for this but arguably the most certain is dialectical differences or lack of published dictionaries. The form Zwara is generally written by the natives of Zuwarah (the Ait Willoul), who call their town Tamort, meaning 'home', 'town' and 'land'; even though somehow after the February wars Berbers from Zuwarah as well began using the name Zwara.
The written forms Zowara, Zuwara and Zouara are generally used by the rest of Libyans; while Zuwarah (or rarely Zowarah) is generally used internationally, by writers, scholars, Google, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc., in their effort to directly translate how the word is written in Arabic, although the /h/ (which is written as /t/ in Arabic) at the end of the word is not pronounced in Libya.
Having said all that, the Berbers of Zuwarah call their city Tamort, and they never use any of the above forms when they talk to each other in Berber or Tamazight. The above forms are only used when speaking Arabic. The name Tamort or Tamourt means several things, all of which are well recognised in universal Berber language, from Sebta to Siwa, including 'Zuwarah', 'home', 'earth', 'land', 'village', 'town', 'country', and 'the Earth' (as a planet). And so it follows that the Berbers of Zuwarah call themselves Ait Willoul, the singular of which is Willoul, meaning 'free; born' -- or 'free as born'; and Zuwarah is their 'Home' and their 'Land'. This is a strong indication that there was no one before them in that region! This region may have in ancient times extended from the Tunisian border to Tripoli in the east, and south all the way to the desert at the edge of the oasis. This etymology of Zuwarah being the capital city of a large group of tribes brings us to the next etymology for the name "Zuwarah", namely Roman Casas.
Next, comes the Roman Casas of the second century BC. This name has been widely suggested by several writers and historians to have been the ancient name of Zuwarah. Based on the Tabula Peutingeriana (a pictorial road-map of the Roman empire) and archaeological evidence such as Roman road milestones, D.E.L. Haynes, relates that there were several Roman road systems in Tripolitania, including the Coast Road, which in fact stretched from Alexandria to Carthage, and, with a fair degree of certainty, gives the following stations.
However, in a recent map the name Casas was also associated with Abu-Kammash, some 40 km to the west of Zuwarah. But since Zuwarah was a huge region stretching from west of Sabratha to the Tunisian border and beyond al-Jamil and Regdalin inland, composed of various villages and castles, then the name Casas could have been originally used to refer to any of the settlements or homes in the Zuwarah region. This is also indicated by the meaning of the name Casas itself, which in today's Italian (based on Latin) means several things including: 'homes', 'houses', and 'places', and therefore it could have been used by the Romans to describe the settled centre of the various tribes and villages of the region, the city itself, as opposed to the other farmers, herders and nomadic groups, living across the oasis. This capital city had two seaports, one on the eastern side, and the other on the western side, namely Tibuda, which may have been used to export salt and goods to Rome, Venice and Malta. This distribution is further confirmed by at-Tijani in his Travels of at-Tijani in Tunes and Tripolitania (1306-1308 AD), in which he described Zuwarah as a group of villages, rather than one, including: Zuwarah Minor, Zuwarah Major, and Willoul, and perhaps Mellita, Tellil, and Tibuda.
The following photo shows the same market area in 2008.
Zuwarah City Centre
Territories of Zuwarah
Based on various historical documents and sources, it becomes evident that the territories of Zuwarah, as a region composed of various villages and towns, included most of western Tripolitania, all the way to the Tunisian border, where they still are. According to a study published in 1946, Zuwarah was the largest region in the whole of Tripolitania: an estimated one thousand and three hundred and thirteen square miles (1,313). Al-Yaqubi (9th century) informs us that the territory of the Nafousa extended from southern Tripolitania to the neighbourhood of Kairouan (in Tunisia). After the various 'arrivals' during the course of the centuries, the Nafousa tribes were forced back towards their stronghold, the mountain, while the various Zwawa or Zwara tribes were slowly 'pushed' westwards.
According to at-Tijani (Travels of at-Tijani in Tunes and Tripolitania, 1306-1308 AD), Zwara al-Sughra (Zwara Minor), The Land of al-Murabit ’ in (almuravids). He says it was a village with plenty of high palm trees and sweet water, but during his time it was taken over by destruction and its few dwellers are Khawarej. He also says that the most prominent from the land of al-Murabit’ in is Shaykh A’ebd al-Rrah’ im az-Zwari, who was respected by all and chosen to be their leader for his age and good deeds. Then he continues his travels to Zwara al-Kubra (Zwara Major), which has a bigger forest than the first one. Then to Willoul, which he says was named after the tribe of Ait Willoul who inhabited the area. Today, the various tribes of Zwara call themselves by the collective name of Ait Willoul. And from Willoul, he continued to Tellil, just before Zwagha (Sabratha), a fortress on top of a hill by the seashore, surrounded by many houses all the way down to the ground level, where they mingle with gardens and farms, on which they depend on for food.
Currently, the Zuwara territories extend from al-Manqoub (about 20 km east of Zuwara) to the Tunisian border, where the fishing village of Abu-kemmash (the gate to the island Farwa) still is inhabited today by various tribes from Zuwara city. This shrinkage in territories was accompanied by slow growth of population, mainly due to government policies. In a recent case study of the Libyan Zuwara population, published in the Journal of Applied Science [6 (3): 616-621, 2006], the authors Tarik B. Benomar, Fuling Biant and Abdolaziz Muosa Shalgam have used a population project model to estimate the population growth for Zwara city until the year 2050, and came to the conclusion that the average population growth rate of Zuwara city is 7.2% per year.
The February 2011 clashes at the Black Crescent area are, without a doubt, linked to land, regardless of what many had said -- especially those who attempted to turn the land issue into an ethnic 'propaganda'. There it appears that native tribes loose land during and aftermath invasions, wars, coups and revolutions. Gaddafi himself confiscated many of these farms from Berber owners and granted them to the Arab feudal workers, under the pretext of his socialist ideals; and therefore his loyalists around the Black Crescent may still be attempting to seize yet more land from the Berbers of Zuwarah, as reported under the Black Crescent (https://www.temehu.com/february17.htm). Many people from Zuwarah hope the land confiscated by Gaddafi wiil be returned by the new rulers of Libya to its legitimate Berber owners.
Zuwarah Free Trade Zone & Land Confiscation
Confiscation of Berber Land: on the 3rd of September 2006 the Libyan government passed Law (215) of 2006, which declared the foundation of Zuwarah-Abu-Kemmash Free Trade Zone in an area owned by the Berbers of Zuwarah. The head of the project, Saadi Gaddafi, was reported to have confiscated around 45,000 hectares of Berber land, stretching 60 kilometres along the coast (between Zuwarah and the Tunisian border) and 30 kilometres inland -- way pass Regdalin and al-Jamil.
Berberists from Zuwarah protested about the true motives behind the project, which they said was designed to Arabise the area of Zuwarah, and called for the resignation of Saadi and the appointment of competent experts who would consider the local population into the workings of the zone and encourage local jobs and investment including the use of Berber language within the zone.
Legally speaking Article (11) of Law 215/2006 says "It is allowed to use English language as well as other languages, in addition to Arabic, in all the dealings of the free trade zone", and therefore in theory one can use Berber language (under the clause "as well as other languages").
However, the project had never materialised, and today's NTC had already declared during the Liberation Day (23 October 2011) that all confiscated land should be returned to its rightful owners, and urged the Libyan people not to take matters into their hands and instead wait for the law to implement justice.
In fact "land & indigenous peoples" is a global problem, disaster to say the least, and it is no use insisting it does not happen anywhere else in the world where natives are to be found. For more information and laws regarding the establishment of the Libyan free trade zones, please see https://www.temehu.com/LFTZ/lftz.htm
The Tribes of Zuwarah
According to Agostini, Around 1909 the tribes of Zuwara were comprised of ten tribes, divided into two groups: ibeh'reyyen and iqebliyyen:
Ammi Sa'eed: The Holy Tomb
The tomb was demolished during the last decades of the 20th century, when
Gaddafi declared his so-called war on
"charlatans". But, typically, the government reversed its decision
and later allowed the Berbers of Zuwarah to rebuild the tomb, as shown above.
In late February 2012, the Sidi Said tomb was once again attacked by an unknown
group of attackers, the revolutionaries without committees. Sidi Said
was also the name of one of the most important battles fought by the locals against
the colonial Italian armies. Tomb worship in Libya is prehistoric, and is closely
associated with matriarchal Tamazight culture.
Ammi (Sidi) Said Memorial, Zuwarah. The seahorse and the Tifinagh inscriptions were added in 2013.
The following documentary film is about "Juggeej". The meaning of the name remains unknown, but it signifies a holy ancestor with that name, the place where his tomb is to be found, and the ceremonial gathering to commemorate the event itself: Juggeej.
The film was produced by Tamort Studios in 2005. It was filmed by Dr. Hsain Said Qerri, and directed by Yousef Saleh Helmi. The film documents this obscure festival. The gathering takes place late in the summer, and on Thursday, with preparations made the day earlier, like setting up tents for the visitors who spend the night at the shrine. The site is located by the sea, to which the sacrifice ceremony appears to be dedicated. Of peculiar interest is the small size of the tomb.
Ighermawen (The Castles)
Zuwarah village as it looked in 1920s: mud houses and palm trees.
Ighermawen, meaning 'the castles', is a place of ancient ruins, about four kilometres west of Zuwarah city, including a Roman villa, dilapidated buildings, shreds of pottery and mosaics, possibly dating to the second century BC. The site is part of the local culture, but it has not been documented or studied. Future research may one day shed more light on the distant history of Zuwarah.
Tawsent is a Berber name for the coastal area located between Zuwara City and Zuwara Marina (the seaport of Zuwara), characterised by large mounds of seaweed (the dark formations shown in the photo) -- igodayen n talga. A few years ago these seaweed heaps reached up to three meters high, and formed a huge platform, about few hundred meters long, with several holes in between going all the way down to the water level. Walking across the top of the platform, one often sees water coming up as waves hit the base of the cavities. But unfortunately these natural formations are now history, as they were cleared away a few years ago in a massive clean-up operation; while most Libyan beaches and streets still littered with empty plastic bottles and garbage to this day. The above photo shows the process to have started again and it will take decades for the seaweed to reach the levels it had reached before. Natural landmarks such as these ought to be left alone and even protected for the wildlife they harbour and for the aesthetic beauty they provide. Tawsent has started the recovery process by herself.
Tisent: Produce of Zuwarah: