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Fezzan
Wan Caza dunes in Fezzan.


Fezzan (Arabic: فزان transliterated: Fuzzan) (Latin name Phasania) is a south-western region of modern Libyamarker. It is largely desert but broken by mountains, uplands, and dry river valleys (wadis) in the north, where oases enable ancient towns and villages to survive deep in the otherwise inhospitable Sahara.

Administrative division

Fezzan was formerly a province under the Ottoman Turks and Italy and a governorate ("muhafazah" or "wilayah") of Libyamarker (alongside Tripolitania and Cyrenaica), in the system of administrative divisions abolished in 1983 in favor of smaller districts or "baladiyah". The "Baladiyat"-system was reorganized in 1987 and was replaced in 1995 by the "Sha'biyat"-system.

The former Fezzan province contains the districts (Sha'biyat) of Wadi Al Shatiimarker, Wadi Al Hayaamarker, Al Jufrahmarker, Ghadamismarker, Murzuqmarker, Sabhamarker and Ghat. The former capital and still largest city is Sabhamarker.

Geography and population

Fezzan is crossed in the north by the Ash-Shati Valley (Wadi Al Shatii) and in the west by the Wadi Irawan. These two areas, along with portions of the Tibesti Mountainsmarker crossing the Chadian border and a sprinkling of remote oases and border posts, are the only parts of the Fezzan able to support settled populations. Large dune seas known as ergs cover much of the remaining land. The region's inhabitants include the nomadic Tuareg in the southwest and the Toubou in the southeast. These pastoralist populations often cross the borders of Algeriamarker, Chadmarker and Nigermarker freely. In the north, Arab, Berber and settled Tuareg and Toubou mix. While making up some 30% of the land area of Libya, the Fezzan supports little of its population. Despite this, large towns like Shaba, survive on near surface water in the wadis of the north and west. The northeast area is dominated by Harujmarker, a large and unpopulated volcanic field.

History

From the 5th century BCE to the 5th century of the modern era, the Fezzan was home to the Garamantian Empire, a city state which operated the Trans-Saharan trade routes between the Carthaginiansmarker -- and later the Roman Empire -- and Sahelian states of west and central Africa. During the 13th and 14th century, portions of the Fezzan were part of the Kanem Empire, while the Ottoman rulers of North Africa asserted their control over the region in the 17th century.

Beginning in 1911, the Fezzan was occupied by Italy. However, Italy's control of the region was precarious until at least 1923, with the rise of the Italian Fascist regime. The Italians were resisted in their early attempts at conquest by Berber and Arab adherents to the militant Sanusiya Sufi religious order. The Tuareg clans of the region were only ever nominally pacified by European expansion before the Second World War.

Free French troops occupied Murzukmarker, a chief town of Fezzan, on 16 January 1943, and proceeded to administer Fezzan with a staff stationed in Sabha. But French administration was largely exercised through Fezzan notables of the family of Sayf an Nasr. Disquieting to the tribes in western Fezzan was the administrative attachment of Ghatmarker, and its surrounding area, to French occupied southern Algeriamarker. However, when the French military control ceased in 1951 all of Fezzan became part of the Kingdom of Libya.

Notes

  1. Berry, LaVerle Bennette "Chapter 1 - Historical Setting -World War II and Independence - Allied Administration" Area Handbook for Libya (1987 edition) Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; available at: A Country Study: Libya, accessed 17 May 2009


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