The amazing city of Ghadames on the edge of the desertPictolic
Ghadames, known as the "pearl of the desert", is located in an oasis in the south-west of Libya (the historical region of Tripolitania). It is one of the oldest towns on the border of the Sahara and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement.
The city has a population of about 10,000 people, mostly Berbers, who live in traditional houses made of clay, bricks and palm trees, closely grouped like a honeycomb. The local residential architecture is characterized by a vertical division of functions: the first floor is used for storing supplies, the next floor is used for family life, and finally, at the top there is an open terrace designed for women. The terraces are connected by walkways that allow women to move freely, while remaining hidden from men's eyes.
Shaped like a circle, the ancient city of Ghadames is a close cluster of houses. The fortified outer walls of the houses on the edges of the city form a fortress wall. This city fence is broken here and there by numerous doors and bastions.
Ghadames is an ancient city. The first mention of it dates back to the Romanesque period, when the settlement was known as Tsidamus-a fortress city built in the first century BC.
None of the surviving buildings belong to the early Berber period or the period of the ancient Romans. Nevertheless, the remarkable style of residential architecture distinguishes Ghadames from other North African cities and settlements that stretch along the northern border of the Sahara from Libya to Mauritania.
Today, Ghadames is a small oasis located next to a palm grove.
The historical part of Ghadames was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986.
The buildings that overhang the street passageways create something like a network of covered galleries or corridors instead of the usual streets. These galleries are "reserved" exclusively for men.
While men walk on the ground, women walk "on the roofs", or rather-on the terraces connected by passages. Terraces – the female kingdom, which gives them, according to local residents, more freedom. So they can make friends with their neighbors and move around the city.
All houses have at least two main floors. The ground floor, which is often sunk into the ground, is accessed through a single door, behind which is a narrow passage leading to a room where supplies are stored. At the back is usually a staircase leading to a much larger second floor.
The residential floor usually includes an attic and bedrooms, and sometimes a living room. Occasionally, another floor with a similar layout is located above it.
Standing on the ground, it is almost impossible to see either the city around you or the sky above your head.
But the terraces of neighboring houses, connecting with each other, form an open urban landscape.