The ruins of Bab al-Azizia, Colonel Gaddafi’s “Splendid Gate”, are as vast and as provocative as anything left by the many kings, emperors and dictators who have disgraced the pages of world history. The smashed three-metre-thick olive-green walls of the former Libyan leader’s compound stretch for miles on the western fringes of Tripoli. They are watched over by machine-gun posts set at 50-metre intervals. Like a medieval castle, these concrete defences enclose inner walls and then, over fields of what has been gunfire in recent days, stands a cluster of culturally inarticulate living quarters, a clumsy Zenga Zenga palace with the inevitable marble-lined walls, gold fittings, steam rooms and jacuzzis.
Here, in the grounds, is the House of Resistance, a ruin even before the present revolution, prized by the Libyan dictator as a symbol of his survival against US bombing 25 years ago. And, there, deep below the caboodle of kitsch on ground level, is what makes Bab al-Azizia so deeply unsplendid: a bunker.
Story by Jonathan Glancey – The Guardian
Historical clothing design of the day is from the Air Force – Roundels series, the the roundels used by the Air Force of the Kingdom of Libya from 1951 to 1969. Each day a new design is chosen and an article is posted to highlight the historical significance of the design.
Prior to World War II Libya had been a colony of Italy until Italian forces were driven out by the Allies in 1943. Libya came under the control of France and the United Kingdom as a UN Trusteeship in 1947 when Italy formally relinquished its claim to Libya. As part of the arrangement the United Kingdom and France governed the three historical regions of Libya, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan.
The UK was responsible for Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and France was responsible for Fezzan. On 21 November 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that Libya should become independent before 1 January 1952.
Kingdom of Libya (1951-1969)
Idris as-Senussi, the Emir of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and the leader of the Senussi Muslim Sufi order, represented Libya in the UN negotiations, and on 24 December 1951, Libya declared its independence with representatives from Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan declaring a union with the country being called the United Kingdom of Libya, and Idris as-Senussi being offered the crown. In accordance with the constitution the new country had a federal government with the three states of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan having autonomy. The kingdom also had three capital cities: Tripoli, Benghazi and Al Bayda. Two years after independence, on 28 March 1953, Libya joined the Arab League.
When Libya declared its independence on 24 December 1951 it was the first country to achieve independence through the United Nations and one of the first former European possessions in Africa to gain independence. The Kingdom of Libya was proclaimed a constitutional and a hereditary monarchy and Idris was proclaimed king. Previously, the USSR had sought a Mandate over Libya following the end of World War II.
Following independence Libya faced a number of problems. There were no colleges in the country and just sixteen college graduates. Also the country had just three lawyers with not a single Libyan physician, engineer, surveyor or pharmacist in the kingdom. It was also estimated that only 250,000 Libyans were literate and that 5% of the population was blind, with eye diseases such as trachoma widespread. In light of these Britain provided a number of civil servants to staff the government.
In April 1955, oil exploration started in the kingdom with its first oil fields being discovered in 1959. The first exports began in 1963 with the discovery of oil helping to transform the Libyan economy, although imposing a resource curse on Libya. Although oil drastically improved Libya’s finances, popular resentment grew as wealth was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the elite.
As was the case with other African nations following independence, the remaining Italian settlers in Libya held many of the best jobs, owned the best farmland and ran the most successful businesses.
The monarchy came to an end on 1 September 1969 when a group of military officers led by Muammar al-Gaddafi staged a coup d’état against King Idris while he was in Turkey for medical treatment. The revolutionaries arrested the army chief of staff and the head of security in the kingdom. After hearing about the coup, King Idris dismissed it as “unimportant” while it was initially reported (falsely) that the Crown Prince Hasan as-Senussi had announced his support for the new regime.
The coup pre-empted King Idris’ instrument of abdication dated 4 August 1969 to take effect 2 September 1969 in favour of the Crown Prince, who had been appointed regent following the king’s departure for Turkey. Following the overthrow of the monarchy the country was renamed the Libyan Arab Republic.
Read More about the History of Libya on Wikipedia.com
Archaeological evidence indicates that the coastal plain of Ancient Libya was inhabited by the Neolithic Berbers from as early as 8000 BC.
By the 5th century BC, the greatest of the Phoenician colonies, Carthage (whose most famous general was Hannibal Barca), had extended its hegemony across much of North Africa, where a distinctive civilization, known as Punic, came into being. Punic settlements on the Libyan coast included Oea (later Tripoli), Libdah (later Leptis Magna) and Sabratha. These cities were in an area that was later called Tripolis, or “Three Cities”, from which Libya’s modern capital Tripoli takes its name.
After the Punic wars between Carthage and Rome resulted in the fall of Carthage, the Romans did not occupy immediately Tripolitania (the region around Tripoli), but left it under control of the kings of Numidia.
During the Roman civil wars Tripolitania and Cyrenaica sustained Marc Antony against Caesar and Octavian. The Romans completed the conquest of the region under Augustus. Roman ruins like those of Leptis Magna and Sabratha, extant in present-day Libya, attest to the vitality of the region.
Read More at From Carthage to the Colonel | Deccan Chronicle.