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TRIPOLI

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Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 289 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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TRIPOLI, a Turkish vilayet (regency) of North Africa. It is bounded N. by the Mediterranean (between 11° 40' and 25° 12' E.) and has a coast-line of over Iwo m. Tripoli comprises at least five distinct regions—Tripoli proper, the Barca plateau (Cyrenaica), the Aujila oases, Fezzan (q.v.) and the oases of Ghadames and Ghat—which with the intervening sandy and stony wastes occupy the space between Tunisia and Egypt, extend from the Mediterranean south-wards to the Tropic of Cancer, and have a collective area of about 400,000 sq. m., with a population estimated at from 800,000 to 1,300,000. Towards the south and east the frontiers are undefined. But on the west side the conventional line laid down by agreement with France in 1886 was more accurately determined in 1892, when the terminal point on the Mediterranean was shifted from Borj-el-Biban to Ras Ajir, 18 m. to the south-east, in 33° 12' N. 11° 40' E. From this point the line passes along the Wad Magla and across the Erg (sand) dunes in such a way as to leave Ghadames to Turkey. In consequence of frontier collisions the boundary as far as Ghadames was precisely defined in 1910. South of that point the rival claims of France and Turkey remained in dispute. For some distance east of Tunisia the seaboard is low and sandy, and is often regarded as a part of the Sahara, which, however, begins only some 8o m. farther south, ph ic beyond the Jebels Nefusi, Yefren and Ghurian Feature. Features. (Gharian). The " Jebel," as this system is locally called, terminates eastwards in the Tarhona heights of the Horns (Khoms) coast district, has a mean altitude of about 2000 ft. and culminates in the Takut (Tekuk) volcano (2800 ft.) nearly due south of the capital. It is not a true mountain range, but rather the steep scarp of the Saharan plateau, which encloses southwards the Jefara coast plains, and probably represents the original coast-line. The Ghurian section is scored in places by the beds of intermittent coast streams, and on its lower slopes is clothed with a rich sub-tropical vegetation. South of these escarpments, the vast Hammada el-Homra, the " Red Hammada," an interminable stony table-land covering some 40,000 sq. m., occupies the whole space between Tripoli proper and the Fezzan depression. The now uninhabited and water-less Hammada formerly drained through several large rivers, such as the Wadis Targelat (Uani, Kseia), Terrgurt, Sofejin, Zemzem and Bel, north-eastwards to the Gulf of Sidra (Syrtis major). Southwards the table-land is skirted by the Jebel Welad Hassan, the Jebel es-Suda, the Jebel Morai-Yeh, and other detached ranges, which have a normal west to east trend in the direction of the Aujila oases, rising a little above the level of the plateau, but falling precipitously towards Fezzan. The Jebel es-Suda (Black Mountains), most conspicuous of these ranges, with a mean altitude of 2800 ft., takes its name from the blackened aspect of its limestone and sandstone rocks, which have been subjected to volcanic action, giving them the appearance of basalt. Eastwards this range ramifies into the two crescent-shaped chains of the Haruj el-Aswad and Haruj el-Abiad (" Black " and " White " Haruj), which rise some 700 ft. above the Red Hammada, and enclose an extensive Cretaceous plateau. Rocks of Cretaceous age cover, indeed, an immense area of the northern part of the vilayet, recent eruptive rocks being represented by the lavas and ashes of the craters of Takut and Manterus. The later palaeozoic formations occur in Fezzan. Beyond the barren Ghadama district in the north of the Hammada the dreary aspect of the wilderness is broken by several tracts under grass, corn and date-palms, and containing some permanent reservoirs in the beds of the Wadis Sofejin and Zemzem, where the plateau falls from a mean height of 2000 ft. to s000 and 53o ft. respectively. But it again rises rapidly southwards to a somewhat uniform level of 1600 or 1700 ft., and here the main caravan route from Tripoli to Murzuk and Lake Chad traverses for a distance of fully 13o m. a monotonous region of sandstone, underlying - clays, marls, gypsum and fossiliferous silicious deposits. In its northern section this part of the Hammada, as it is locally called in a pre-eminent sense, is relieved by a few patches of herbage, scrub and brushwood, with a little water left in the rocky cavities by the heavy showers which occasionally fall. North-eastwards the Neddik pass over the Jebel Morai-Yeh leads down to the remarkable chain of low-lying oases, which, The AuJiis from the chief member of the group, is commonly Depression. called the Aujila depression. Collectively the oases present the aspect of a long winding valley, which is enclosed on the north side by the southern escarpments of the Barca plateau, expands at intervals into patches of perennial verdure and shallow saline basins, and extends from the Wadi el-Fareg, near the Gulf of Sidra, through the Bir Rassam, Aujila, Jalo, Faredgha, and Siwa oases, to the Natron lakes and the dried-up branch of the Nile delta known as the Bahr bila-Ma (waterless river). The whole region presents the aspect of a silted-up marine inlet, which perhaps in Pliocene times penetrated some 300 m. south-east-wards in the direction of the Nile. Nearly all the fossil shells found in its sands belong to the fauna now living in the Mediterranean, and Siwa is 98 ft. below sea-level. This is true also of its eastern extensions, Sittra (8o) and the Birket el-Kerun in the Fayum (141). But Aujila and Jalo stand 130 and 296 ft. respectively above sea-level, so that the idea entertained by the explorer Gerhard Rohlfs of transforming the chain of oases into a marine gulf, and thus converting the Barca plateau into an island or peninsula in the midst of the Mediterranean waters, and in fact flooding the Libyan desert, must share the fate of Colonel Francois Roudaire's equally visionary scheme in respect of the Western Sahara. The Barca plateau, which consists largely of strata of tertiary formation, falls in terraces down to the Aujila depression, and The Barca presents an unbroken rampart of steep cliffs towards Plateau. the Mediterranean, is by far the most favoured region of the vilayet. Its many natural advantages of climate, soil and vegetation led to the establishment of several Greek colonies, the oldest and most famous of which was that of Cyrene (q.v.), dating from about 63o B.C. From this place the whole region took the name of Cyrenaica (q.v.) and was also known as Penlapolis, from its " five cities" of Cyrene, Apollonia, Arsinoe, Berenice and Barca. The elevated plateau of Cyrenaica, which encloses the Gulf of Sidra on the west, is separated southwards by the Aujila depression from the Libyan desert, and projects northwards far into the Mediterranean, might seem, like the Atlas region in the west, to belong geologically rather to the European than to the African mainland. It has a mean altitude of considerably over 2000 ft., and in the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountains) attains a height of nearly 3500 ft. East-wards the Barca uplands merge gradually in the less elevated Marmarica plateau, which nowhere rises more than 1800 ft. above sea-level, and disappears altogether in the direction of the Nile delta. The most easterly spot on the coast belonging to Tripoli is the head of the Gulf of Solum; from this point the frontier line separating the regency from the Egyptian dominions runs south so as to leave the Siwa oasis on the Egyptian side of the line. South of the Aujila depression the land rises steadily to a height of nearly 1200 feet in the Kufra oases, which lie between 21 ° and 24° E., The Kufra north of the Tropic of Cancer and due east of Fezzan. The K The group consists of five distinct oases in the heart of the Libyan desert—Taizerbo, Zighen, Bu-Zeima, Erbena and Kebabo—which extend for a distance of 20o m. north-west and south-east, and have a collective area of 7000 sq. m. and a population of boon or 7000 Arabo-Berber nomads. Good water is obtained in abundance from the underground reservoirs, which lie within a few feet of the surface, and support over a million date-palms. Kufra, that is, " Infidels " (in reference to the now extinct pagan Tibu aborigines), is a centre of the Senussite brotherhood, whose cazeva (convent) at Jof, in Kebabo, ranks in importance with that of Jarabub, their chief station in Cyrenaica. This circumstance, together with the great fertility of the group and its position midway on the caravan route between Cyrenaica and Wadai, imparts exceptional importance to these oases. Formerly the Turks did not exercise authority in Kufra, the influence of the Senussi being paramount. Kufra, moreover, is outside the limits usually assigned to Tripoli. But in 1910 Ottoman troops were in occupation of the oases. Ghat stands 2400 feet above the sea, on the Wadi Aghelad in the Igharghar basin, and consequently belongs, not to the Fezzan Chat. depression, but to the Saharan plateau. The Aghelad, or Passage," trends north to the Iasawanvalley along the east foot of the Tasili plateau, that is, the divide between the waters
End of Article: TRIPOLI
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