The City of Zawila

The City of Zawila

November 05, 2021 - 00:44
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Written By: LibyaMohammed

Zawila is a village in southwestern Libya. It was conquered by Uqbah bin Nafi' al-Fihri around the year 22 AH. During the Middle Ages, it was the capital of the Fezzan region. It is considered one of the oldest urban centers in Libya. It had trade relations with Egypt and the oases of Sudan. It is located 140 km to the east of the city of Murzuq, and also considered one of the most important Islamic heritage sites in Libya.


It was dominated by the Hawwara Berbers, who mostly followed Ibadism. The Abbasids under Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath al-Khuza'i captured the town in 762/63, and killed its Ibadi ruler, Abd Allah ibn Hayyan, but Ibadism persisted in Zawila and the Fezzan in general. The town then became part of the Rustamid domains, albeit lying on the extreme eastern periphery of their realm. After the demise of the Rustamid dynasty at the hands of the Fatimids, in 918/19 Zawila became the capital of another independent Ibadi state, under the Berber Banu Khattab dynasty, which lasted until 1176/77.

The Kanem Empire started raiding the region in the 11th century, but the Bani Al-Khattab held power until they were conquered by an Armenian Mamluk, Sharaf Al-Din Qaraqush, who came from Egypt, conquered the region in the 1170s. The instability created by Qaraqush was exploited by the Kanem, who by the end of the 12th century had seized control of the Fezzan, establishing a new capital at Traghan, a few miles west of Zawila. Kanem rule lasted through the 13th century, until the local governors, the Banu Nasur, established their own independent state. In the early 15th century, Fezzan came under the influence of the Hafsid dynasty, and Zawila probably once again became the regional capital. At the same time, however, the disruption of the trans-Saharan trade routes affected the town's prosperity, and it lost its importance and rank of capital. When the Awlad Muhammad dynasty established Murzuq as their capital to the west of Zawila, the trade routes were diverted there, and Zawila fell into obscurity.

Landmarks of the City

Among the most important landmarks of the ancient city of Zawila, is the seven shrines of the rulers of Zawila from the family of Bani Al-Khattab.

The remains of the ancient mosque of Zawila are among the most important Islamic monuments.