The Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai

1 March 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, House of the Month, UNESCO World Heritage, Union for the Mediterranean

Saint Catherine's Monastery in front of Mount Sinai © - Joonas Plaan/cc-by-2.0

Saint Catherine’s Monastery in front of Mount Sinai © – Joonas Plaan/cc-by-2.0

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, officially “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai”, lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine, Egypt in the South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is controlled by the autonomous Church of Sinai, part of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus. A small town with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City, has grown around the monastery.   read more…

Theme Week Libya – Tripoli

25 November 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Istiqlal Street © Abdul-Jawad Elhusuni

Istiqlal Street © Abdul-Jawad Elhusuni

Tripoli is the capital city and the largest city of Libya. Tripoli, with its metropolitan area, has a population of about 1.1 million people. The city is located in the northwestern part of Libya on the edge of the desert, on a point of rocky land projecting into the Mediterranean and forming a bay. Tripoli includes the Port of Tripoli and the country’s largest commercial and manufacturing centre. It is also the site of the University of Tripoli. The vast Bab al-Azizia barracks, which includes the former family estate of Muammar Gaddafi, is also located in the city. Colonel Gaddafi largely ruled the country from his residence in this barracks. Tripoli was founded in the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians, who named it Oea. Due to the city’s long history, there are many sites of archaeological significance in Tripoli. “Tripoli” may also refer to the shabiyah (top-level administrative division in the current Libyan system), the Tripoli District.   read more…

Theme Week Libya – Misrata

24 November 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Misurata Fountain © vedi Fonte/cc-sa-1.0

Misurata Fountain © vedi Fonte/cc-sa-1.0

Misurata is a city in the Misrata District in northwestern Libya, situated 187 km (116 mi) to the east of Tripoli and 825 km (513 mi) west of Benghazi on the Mediterranean coast near Cape Misurata. With a population of about 281,000, Misrata is the third-largest city in Libya, after Tripoli and Benghazi. It is the capital city of the Misurata District and has been called the trade capital of Libya. The harbor is at Qasr Ahmad. The name “Misurata” derives from the Misrata tribe, a section of the larger Berber Hawwara confederacy, whose homeland in Roman and early Arab times was coastal Tripolitania. The location of the city creates a dualism of sea and sand, bounded by the sea to the north and east and to the south by golden sands dotted with palm and olive trees. Like Benghazi and Tripoli, Misurata is divided into two distinct sections. Older Misurata consists of small stone houses and narrow arched streets while the newer part of the city, which began to develop in the 20th century, consists of modern buildings, homes, factories and industrial areas. Aside from its distinct location, which makes it a centre for the exchange of commodities and materials with the rest of the cities of the country, Misrata has modern infrastructure, including paved roads, electricity and communications.   read more…

Theme Week Libya – Kufra oasis group

23 November 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Al Jawf © NASA

Al Jawf © NASA

Kufra is a basin and oasis group in the Kufra District of southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya. At the end of nineteenth century Kufra became the center and holy place of the Senussi order. It also played a minor role in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II. It is located in a particularly isolated area, not only because it is in the middle of the Sahara Desert but also because it is surrounded on three sides by depressions which make it dominate the passage in east-west land traffic across the desert. For the colonial Italians, it was also important as a station on the north-south air route to Italian East Africa. These factors, along with Kufra’s dominance of the southeastern Cyrenaica region of Libya, explains the oasis’s strategic importance and why it was a point of conflict during World War II.   read more…

Theme Week Libya – Benghazi

22 November 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Benghazi Waterfront © Jaw101ie

Benghazi Waterfront © Jaw101ie

Benghazi is the second most populous city in Libya and the largest in Cyrenaica. A port on the Mediterranean Sea in the Kingdom of Libya, Benghazi had joint-capital status alongside Tripoli, possibly because the King and the Senussi royal family were associated with Cyrenaica rather than Tripolitania. The city was also provisional capital of the National Transitional Council. Benghazi continues to hold institutions and organizations normally associated with a national capital city, such as the country’s parliament, national library, and the headquarters of Libyan Airlines, the national airline, and of the National Oil Corporation. This creates a constant atmosphere of rivalry and sensitivities between Benghazi and Tripoli, and between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. The population was 670,797 at the 2006 census.   read more…

Theme Week Libya – Tobruk

21 November 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Port of Tobruk © Maher A. A. Abdussalam

Port of Tobruk © Maher A. A. Abdussalam

Tobruk is a port city on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border of Egypt. It is the capital of the Butnan District (formerly Tobruk District) and has a population of 120,000 (2011 est.). King Idris of Libya had his palace at Bab Zaytun. Tobruk was traditionally a stronghold of the Senussi royal dynasty and one of the first to rebel against Colonel Gaddafi in the Arab Spring. At the outset of the 2011 Libyan Civil War, the city quickly came under the control of the NTC. In September 2014 the internationally recognized government of Libya relocated to a Greek car ferry in Tobruk harbor. A rival New General National Congress parliament continued to operate in Tripoli. In October 2014 they again re-located, to a hotel named Dar al-Salam also known as the Al Masira Hotel in Tobruk. In November 2014 that government was declared illegal by Libya’s highest court. Tobruk has a strong, naturally protected deep harbour. It is probably the best natural port in northern Africa, although due to the lack of important nearby land sites it is certainly not the most popular. The city is effectively surrounded by a desert lightly populated with nomadic herdsmen who travel from oasis to oasis. There are many escarpments (cliffs) to the south of Tobruk (and indeed in all of Cyrenaica, the eastern half of Libya). These escarpments generally have their high sides to the south and their low sides (dip slopes) to the north. This constitutes a substantial physical barrier between the north and south of Libya in the Tobruk area.   read more…

Theme Week Libya

20 November 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks

Ancient Roman Leptis Magna Theatre east of Khums © David Gunn

Ancient Roman Leptis Magna Theatre east of Khums © David Gunn

Libya is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. The country is made of three historical regions, Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya’s six million people. The other large city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.   read more…

Theme Week Algeria – Algiers

30 September 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, UNESCO World Heritage, Union for the Mediterranean

Bologhine district © - Damien Boilley/cc-by-2.0

Bologhine district © – Damien Boilley/cc-by-2.0

Algiers is the capital and largest city of Algeria. The city’s population is at 3.5 million and the population of the larger metropolitan city to be around 6.3 million. Algiers is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the north-central portion of Algeria. Sometimes nicknamed El-Behdja or alternatively Alger la Blanche (“Algiers the White”) for the glistening white of its buildings as seen rising up from the sea, Algiers is situated on the west side of a bay of the Mediterranean Sea. The modern part of the city is built on the level ground by the seashore; the old part, the ancient city of the deys, climbs the steep hill behind the modern town and is crowned by the casbah or citadel, 122 metres (400 ft) above the sea. The Casbah and the two quays form a triangle. Some 20 km (12 mi) to the west of Algiers are such seaside resorts as Sidi Fredj (ex-Sidi Ferruch), Palm Beach, Douaouda, Zéralda, and the Club of the Pines (residence of State); there are tourist complexes, Algerian and other restaurants, souvenir shops, supervised beaches, and other amenities. The city is also equipped with important hotel complexes such as the hotel Hilton, El-Aurassi or El Djazair. Algiers also has the first water park in the country. The tourism of Algiers is growing but is not as developed as that of the larger cities in Morocco or Tunisia. The districts of Algiers are:   read more…

Theme Week Algeria – Tlemcen

29 September 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Union for the Mediterranean

© - habib Kaki/cc-by-3.0

© – habib Kaki/cc-by-3.0

Tlemcen is a city in north-western Algeria, and the capital of the province of the same name. The city has developed leather, carpet, and textile industries, which it ships to the port of Rashgun for export. It had a population of 140,000, while the province had 950,000 inhabitants. The town is the ancient capital of central Maghreb, and was founded by the local Berbers. Its centuries of rich history and culture have made the city a center of a unique blend of music and art. Its textiles and handcrafts, its elegant blend of Berber and Al-Andalusian cultures, and its cool climate in the mountains have made it an important center of tourism in Algeria. It is home to a beautiful tomb – that of Sidi Abu Madyan, whose tomb adjoins a mosque. The Great Mosque at Tlemcen was completed in 1136 and is said to be the most remarkable remaining example of Almoravid architecture.   read more…

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