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Jaghbub (الجغبوب)

 

 

 

 

The Berber oasis of al-Jaghbub is located around 280 kilometres south-east of Tobruk, by the Egyptian border. Likewise the nearest settlement, the oasis of Siwa, the population of Jaghbub are mainly Berbers. In ancient times all the oases of the Libyan desert (now in Egypt and Libya) are Berbers including most of the oases in western Egypt (all the land west of the Nile). The population of the Jaghbub village is  2,768 people (as of 2006). During the colonial era the oasis was refered to by the name "Giarabub", where the Berber /gha/ is often written as /r/.

The Jaghbub oasis is situated on a depression that extends around 10 meters below sea level. The oasis is the home of a number of desert lakes, the most popular of which are the Malfa lake and the Fridgha. It was said that the salt in the Malfa lake, the largest lake in the Libyan Sahara, has a healing property. The oasis is self-sufficient, depending largely on the underground water reservoirs and palm-date production. In ancient times the caravan trade also played an important role in the economy  of the oasis. The oasis was the headquarters of the Senussi Movement [5], where king Idris, the king of Libya before Gaddafi, was born on the 12th of March 1889.

 

 

jaghbub in 1941

An aerial view of the village of Jaghbub (Ministry of War Office Propaganda, Rome 1941).
Image source: wikipedia Commons

 

 

Althni Castle (قصر الثني)

The castle was originally built for the Berber family of Mr. M. A. Althni Alghadamsi some 135 years ago. Althni was a famous caravan trader along the Ghadames-Siwa caravan route. The castle is a classic style of the Berber architecture of Ghadames.

Althni castle

Althni CAstle, Jaghbub. Photo source [4]: facebook.com/forgotten.libyan.treasures

 

 

Sand Remedy

The Jaghbub oasis is also popular for its medical tourism (السياحة العلاجية), else known as sand remedy, where patients bury their bodies in hot sand right to their chin and soak the sun-energy trapped in the sand. The healing property of hot sand is also a source of tourist attraction in the nearby Berber oasis of Siwa, in Egypt.

sand remedy

Sand Remedy (Hot Sand Bath), Jaghbub.
Photo Source: curtesy of Libyan LANA (http://lananews.com/ar/?p=7192)

Beginning in the month of August many patients arrive in the Berber oasis to bury themselves in the hot sand of the Sahara, believing the practice heals a number of ailments including nerves, rheumatism, back and muscle pain, arthritis, diabetes, skin diseases, and general well being (أمراض الأعصاب والروماتيزم وآلام الظهر والعضلات  ومرض السكري  والتهاب المفاصل والأمراض الجلدية والصحة العامة). The treatment begins by burying the body (except the head) for around 20 minutes each session, with the head protected from the scorching heat of the Libyan sun. The therapist then provides the occasional drink of warm water to the patient. This is repeated for up to 4 days (depending on the ailment). The patient then is taken inside the hot tent where s/he stays while the tent is closed and without drinking any cold drinks or being exposed to any draft. The patient is given warm fenugreek soup, before he is taken to his sleep tent where s/he receives a massage with warm olive oil. The cost of this treatment varies from 120 LD to 300 LD, depending on ailment and severity. LANA's report says that scientists believe the secret is not the hot sand itself, but the sun's electromagnetic waves that interact with the human body via the sand [6]

 

 

Jaghbub Caves

The oasis was neglected by all the previous Libyan governments, and as of today still there are no academic or professional studies to document the abandoned treasures of the oasis, including looted, prehistoric cave tombs and prehistoric paintings and engravings. The cave contained mass-graves dating to the second century BC. The caves were located in the areas of Fridgha, Malfa and Ain-Bouzid. Some mummies were also found in the caves.

However, according to Expedition Atlantis [7], the caves do not appear to have been planned as tombs or graves, but are more reminiscent of the troglodytes (cave dwellers) described by Herodotus; not only because the mountain range in which the caves are found shows large pieces of rocks have crumbled off the edge revealing the caves, which indicate that these caves were once much deeper, with their front part is missing. The way in which the bones are found, for example, grouped together in mass, may support this theory.  

 

jaghbub caves

Jaghbub Caves. Image source: [3]: https://youtu.be/f94w7w-YDVM

 

 

Jaghbub Mummies

jaghbub mummies

The Jaghbub Mummies

This Jaghbub site where many mummies were found is is characterised by a series of rock-cut tombs. It was said by some researchers that the caves must have been part of a larger structure of caves connected by stone-stairs, before the front section collapsed. The caves, or tombs, were badly vandalised by tomb robbers.

According to W. J. Mike Groen, Nicholas Márquez-Grant, and Rob Janaway (in their Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective), there were five mummies discover in al-Jaghbub in 1995 by Dr. Fadel alone [5]. Dr. Fadel was the antiquities advisor for the state and lecturer at the Omar Almukhtar University. Radiocarbon analysis in France revealed that the mummies date to between 196-126 BC. The website of the Atlantis Expedition has a small video showing some photos about one of the mummies [7].

One of these mummies, known as the Jaghbub mummy, is a mummy of a seven-year old girl, dating to 120-260 BC. The medical analysis showed that the girl has died of liver disease. The mummy was discovered in 2004. It was shipped to Italy by the Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus and Messak (of the University La Sapienza) for analysis, before it was returned to Tripoli's Red Castle Museum in 2009; where it is displayed in its original tissues, alongside an accurate copy of the body. This archaeological initiative was supported by Eni NA [1].

 

 

jaghbub mummy

One of Jaghbub's Mummy

jaghbub mummy head

This close up shows a necklace around the neck. The jewellery found with the mummy include a ring, a necklace of 78 coloured glass-beads (resembling amber and emerald), three larger glass beads (with gold leaf), and other glass beads with silver leaf.

 

ENI report jaghbub mummy

The Jaghbub mummy and the glass necklace.
Image source: ENI's Sustainability Report 2009 (pdf report).

 

 

Short video introducing the oasis of Jaghbub [2]

 

 

 

 

References:

[1] https://www.temehu.com/FreeDownloads/eni-north-africa-2009-eng.pdf
[2] https://youtu.be/aHVlVHnDanU
[3] https://youtu.be/f94w7w-YDVM
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaghbub,_Libya
[5] Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective, by W. J. Mike Groen, Nicholas Márquez-Grant, and Rob Janaway, Chapter 36. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=fuUbBgAAQBAJ
[6] lananews.com/ar/?p=7192
[7] expedition-atlantis.com/Mumie-Cyrenaika.html