Theme Week Libya – Benghazi

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
Reading Time:  13 minutes

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.

On 15 February 2011, an uprising against the government of Muammar Gaddafi occurred in the city. The revolts spread by 17 February to Bayda, Tobruk, Ajdabya, Al Marj in the East and Zintan, Zawiya in the West, calling for the end of the Gaddafi Regime. Benghazi was taken by Gaddafi opponents on 21 February, who founded the National Transitional Council. On 19 March, the city was the site of the turning point of the Libyan Civil War, when the Libyan Army attempted to score a decisive victory against the NTC by attacking Benghazi, but was forced back by local resistance and intervention from the French Air Force authorized by UNSC Resolution 1973 to protect civilians, allowing the rebellion to continue. There is a variety of architectural styles in Benghazi, which reflect the number of times the city has changed hands throughout its history. Arab, Ottoman and Italian rule have influenced the different streetscapes, buildings and quarters in Benghazi. The city is divided into many neighbourhoods, some of which were founded during Italian Colonial rule and many which have developed as a result of modern urban sprawl. The different neighbourhoods vary in their levels of economic prosperity, as well as their cultural, historic and social atmosphere. Central Benghazi is where the majority of Benghazi’s historical monuments are located, and has the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Virtually all of Benghazi’s theatres, libraries, best clothing stores, markets and old mosques can be found there. The Italian quarter is also located in the centre. The central districts are mostly residential and commercial areas such as Sidi Hsayn. The central suburbs are almost entirely residential and more like little towns in their own right; Al-Quwarsha is a good example of this. The coastal districts (especially the southern districts) are where Benghazi’s beaches can be found. Some sections have become more popular as residential areas in recent years (such as Qanfuda). These areas are still primarily recreational however, and many beach condominium resorts (known locally as chalets) have been built in previous years such as those at al-Nakheel beach, and the Nayrouz condominiums.

In February 2011, peaceful protests erupted in Benghazi that were brutally suppressed by Gaddafi’s armed kalb forces and loyalists. The violence urged the people to fight back and start and uprise to withdraw Gaddafi from power The Libyan Revolution. At least 500 people were killed in the protests against the government. The former Libyan flag used in the Kingdom of Libya was used by many protesters as an opposition flag. Demonstrators to Colonel Gaddafi were also seen carrying images of King Idris I. Benghazi and the Cyrenaica have been traditional strongholds of the royal Senussi dynasty. As of 21 February, the city was reported to be largely controlled by the opposition. The widely loathed mayor, Huda Ben Amer, nicknamed “the Executioner”, fled the city for Tripoli. Residents organised to direct traffic and collect refuse. By 24 February, a committee made up of lawyers, judges and respected local people had been formed in order to provide civic administration and public services within the city. Two local radio stations, operated by Voice of Free Libya, along with a newspaper, were also established. From 26 February to 26 August, Benghazi was the temporary headquarters of the National Transitional Council which is led by the former justice minister, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, until Tripoli was liberated. On 19 March, pro-Gaddafi forces almost defeated the rebellion when they began attacking the city of Benghazi in a major offensive, but were forced back the next day when NATO forces began implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. On 1 June, explosives were detonated in a car near the Tibesti Hotel, with a rebel spokesman calling the bombing a “cowardly act”. It was suspected that an officer was killed, and many people started to shout out anti-Gaddafi chants while the Tibesti was cordoned off. On 19 May 2012, residents of Benghazi voted in historic local elections; this was the first time such elections have been held in the city since the 1960s, and turnout was high. On 11 September 2012, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi was attacked by a heavily armed group of 125–150 gunmen, whose trucks bore the logo of Ansar al-Sharia, a group of Islamist militants, also known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, working with the local government to manage security in Benghazi. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer (IMO) Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed during a series of raids, commencing at nightfall and continuing into the next morning. Ten others were injured. Following the outbreak of the second Libyan Civil War in 2014, Benghazi became the subject of heavy fighting between the Libyan National Army-aligned House of Representatives government, and the Islamist Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and ISIL-aligned Wilayat Barqa, which were entrenched in various pockets in the city. During the closing months of the battle, between late-2016 and mid-2017, much of the urban center in and around the remaining Shura Council pocket in the central coastal quarters of Suq Al-Hout and al-Sabri suffered heavy bombardment and war damage. Wilayat Barqa militants reportedly fled Benghazi in early January, while the LNA declared the city cleared of the Shura Council on 5 July 2017; fighting would officially conclude on 27 July.

© giannip46/cc-by-sa-3.0 Green old town © Dennixo/cc-by-sa-3.0 Garyounis Tourist Village © Dennixo/cc-by-sa-3.0 Al Daawa al Islamiyah building © Maher A. A. Abdussalam Benghazi Waterfront © Jaw101ie Downtown Benghazi © Dennixo/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Al Daawa al Islamiyah building © Maher A. A. Abdussalam
Benghazi is one of the cultural centres of Libya and is a base for tourists, visitors and academics in the region. Throughout its history, Benghazi has developed with a certain level of independence from the more Maghreb oriented capital Tripoli. This has influenced the city, and as such, the cultural atmosphere in Benghazi is more Arab in nature than that in Tripoli. An influx immigrants including Egyptian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Sudanese and Syrian immigrants have also influenced the city’s culture to a certain extent in recent years. The city centre contains a few local theatres, as well as the Dar al-Kutub National Library in Al-Funduq, where the works of popular local novelists like Sadeq Naihoum and Khalifa al-Fakhri can be found. Different architectural styles attest to the different empires that have controlled the city throughout history. Sport is also important in the city; two of Libya’s most successful football clubs are based in Benghazi. Although Benghazi does not have a high percentage of green space per resident, there are a few public parks and green recreational areas in the city. Perhaps the most famous is the zoological garden and theme park in Al-Fuwayhat; the park is referred to locally as al-Bosco, a colloquial Italian name for zoo/forest. The park is a combination of a zoo full of trees built during Italian rule (which contains wild cats, primates, elephants, birds and other animals) and a small theme park of electric rides, added later in the 1980s as part of a redevelopment of the entire site. It is one of the most popular parks in Benghazi, and is very busy on public holidays, as well as amongst school children and scouts on outings. On Gamal Abdel Nasser Street is 23 July Park, another large green space which faces the Tibesti Hotel and borders the waterfront. The park is popular amongst teenagers, and families on Thursday nights (as Friday is a day off work throughout Libya). Another large and popular park is al-Buduzira in North Benghazi on the al-‘Uruba Road in al-Kwayfiya. The park surrounds a natural lake, and is more rugged in nature than the city parks. A section of al-Buduzira is also a water park with large slides, whilst the southern part of the park has picnic areas which are popular in the summers.

Benghazi, as the principal city of eastern Libya, is one of Libya’s major economic centres. The city has an important port which is vital to the economy, as Libya imports many foodstuffs and manufactured products. Benghazi is also an industrial and commercial centre in Libya. Major manufactured goods include processed food, textiles, tanning, processed salt and construction materials, particularly cement; a large cement factory is located in al-Hawari. Food processing is based on local fish, imported goods, and the produce of irrigated coastal lowlands and the nearby Jabal al-Akdhar Mountains, including cereal, dates, olives, wool and meat. Finance is also important to the city’s economy, with the Libyan Bank of Commerce and Development maintaining branches in Benghazi; the Bank’s headquarters is a high office tower on Gamal Abdel Nasser Street in el-Berka. Other large banks include the Central Bank of Libya office in the city centre. The oil industry drives the city’s commerce. Large national companies such as the Al-Brega Oil Marketing Company and the Arabian Gulf Oil Company are important to the city’s economy and employ many people. An increase in consumer prices has been coupled with an increase in the importance of the retail sector to the city’s economy. In recent years, international franchises such as United Colors of Benetton, H&M and Nike have opened in Benghazi. Tourism is still in its very early stages in Libya. The industry is however growing in importance in Benghazi. The majority of tourists that visit Eastern Libya use Benghazi as a base for which to explore the Greek ruins in Cyrene or to make desert excursions south in Kufra. The two main hotels in the city are the Tibesti Hotel and Uzu Hotel, and several other hotels have opened in recent years to cater for increased demand. Handicrafts are found in the many souks in the city, but are of little significance to the economy. Skanska built a good connection of speedways and flyovers in the decades after the Libyan revolution in 1969; this has made the transport of goods between Benghazi and other cities easier. Benghazi’s air transport uses Benina International Airport; numerous daily flights leave for Tripoli and connections are also available to other African, Asian and European cities. In April 2012, the Libyan economy ministry announced plans for creating a free trade area in Benghazi.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Wikivoyage Benghazi and Wikipedia Benghazi. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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