Chichen Itza
Gebel Berkal

World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



Ghadames is an oasis town and one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities.

The old part of the town, which is surrounded by a wall, has been declared World Heritage. Each of the seven clans that used to live in this part of the town had its own district, of which each had a public place where festivals could be held.

Map of Ghadames


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

Thomas Buechler Switzerland - 20-Oct-13

Ghadames by Thomas Buechler

In the distant corner where Libya, Algeria and Tunesia meet,is Ghadames, an ancient Sahara outpost that was already mentionned in the time of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, 200 after Christ.The jewel of the oasis is the walled old city where 7 clans used to live seperately, but with an identical set up.Around 40 families, the heads meeting regularely to discuss matters and make decisions, a kind of early stage parliament right in the desert.Renowed for its distinctive architecture, we visit the old mosque and the Koranic school, the old butchery, a tailorshop, and a bakery right besides the living quarters.Some of them have been renovated and beautifully decorated.Nice fruit and vegetable gardens as well.It is possible to wander around on the rooftops from one house to the other on narrow house walls, which feels sometimes like a circus acrobat.Women in the old times were forbidden to wander the streets alone, and they used the rooftops as a thoroughfare.

Ghadames can be reached by private car, in a public bus or in shared taxis.Its s whole day trip.

Wortwhile stops are Qasr al-Hadj, Nalut or Cabao with its wonderful food storage fortresses and would be canditates for Unesco if Libya will ever have a tentative list!

We spent an unforgettable sunset time at the summit of the Ghost (Ras al Ghoul) and the huge sand dunes of Erg Oriental, very close to the Algerian border.

Share your experiences!

Have you been to Ghadames? Add your own review!

Community Rating

Community Rating 4.00. Based on 1 votes.

Site Info

Full name: Old Town of Ghadames

Unesco ID: 362

Inscribed: 1988 In Danger

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 5  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2016 - In Danger Simultaneously with the four other World Heritage sites of Libya "because of damage caused by the conflict affecting the country and the threat of further damage it poses".
  • 1988 - Inscribed 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Ghadames


The site has 13 connections.


  • Vernacular architecture: A remarkable domestic architectural style distinguishes Ghadames as a unique site among a series of pre-Saharan cities and settlements (AB ev)



  • Damaged in World War II: "Until World War 2, Ghadames was the home of Libya's oldest mosque, the Atik...built in 666, but destroyed by Allied bombing. A new mosque has been erected in its place."



  • Trans Saharan trade routes: "During the 7th century, Ghadames was ruled by the Muslim Arabs. The population quickly converted to Islam and Ghadames played an important role as base for the Tans-Saharan trade until the 19th century." (Wiki)
  • Berbers: La popolazione locale - costituita in prevalenza da berberi sedentari, ma la citté - anche frequentata da tuareg nomadi... La lingua parlata prevalentemente a Ghadames - un dialetto berbero. (Wiki)
  • Ancient Roman colonies: Cydamus Link

Religion and Belief

  • Legends and Folk Myths: Daily raids brought the riders to travel the desert hundreds of miles. One day a thirsty horse refused to move and began to hit the ground until the water burst forth under his hooves. It was called " Source of the mare ." A dispute broke out among the riders and those who parted the group returned to the miraculous spring to erect the city. Every year in November, three days , a festival featuring performances and dances revive the Ksar. (Wiki) The alternative theory for the name, as espoused by the local populace (i.e. a popular etymology), is that the oasis of Ghadames derives from the Arabic words for lunch ("Ghada") and yesterday ("ams"). The words are contracted to form an approximation of "lunch yesterday." By lore, a group that had camped near the oasis left materials from the previous day's campfire cookout. When the steward tasked to retrieve the materials returned to the site, the hoof of his horse broke through to the water of the oasis that now lies at the center of the town. Whether or not this legend is true, the oasis was the reason the town appeared and has remained in this most remote region of the desert. (Wiki)


  • Built in the 12th century: The settlement at Ghadames goes back at least 5000 years.The first historical information is from 19 BCE when the Romans named it Cydamus. It owed its later significance to its location on one of the major routes of trans-Saharan trade from the Niger area which grew in size based on use of the camel from c300ad and the Islamisation of both Ghadames and on into W Africa during the 7th/8th centuries. This trade continued through to the 19th century. The town's original mosque is said to have been dated from 666AD. The architecture and layout of Ghadames will have developed organically over that period. The Libyan People's Bureau places the age of the current town at 800 years.


  • Minority communities: Tuareg Berbers
  • Swan songs: Libya 1986
  • Role of Women: The upper floors used to be reserved to women only. They were often interconnected between adjacent buildings so that men could avoid women.

World Heritage Process

  • Inscribed on a single criterion only: v. to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change