SENUSSIS

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1924 ARTICLE INTRO
SENUSSIS
SIWA
AMERICAN SHEIK
THE SANDSTORM
THE CARAVAN
JALO
BIBO
TEA AND RICE
LEADERSHIP
HELPING BIRDS
TRAGEDY
KUFRA
DESERT CHIVALRY
SLAVES
THE UNKNOWN
CAMEL AND MAN
EXTREMES
NIGHT TREKS
BY THE STARS
OUENAT
ROCK CARVINGS
END OF JOURNEY
Glossary
Editors Notes

 

THE SENUSSI, A SECT, NOT A PEOPLE

The reader sees always connected with the Libyan Desert the word Senussi. Many people think the Senussi are a tribe or a people. In reality, they are a sect of the Moslem religion embracing all the tribes of Cyrenaica and having influence in North Africa and the region south of Kufra. It is a comparatively recent sect, being only about 80 years old.

Its founder, Sidi Mohammed Ibn Ali El Senussi, came from Algeria about 100 years ago. On his long journey to Mecca he saw that there is a fertile field for his teachings in Tripoli and Cyrenaica. He established the famous University of Jaghbub (see page 238) and preached a very primitive and pure form of Islam, shorn of all luxuries. The devotees were not even allowed to drink coffee or smoke, and up to ten years ago the man caught smoking was severely punished, sometimes to the extent of having one of his hands cut off.

It has been said by explorers that the tribes of Cyrenaica, who are all under Senussi influence, are actuated by religious fanaticism when they refuse foreigners permission to enter their territory. To my great interest, however, I discovered that not religious, but patriotic, fervor is the impelling principle. Their reasoning is simple. They do not want any aliens to come into (p234) [photo] (p235) the country, for they say foreigners mean domination, domination means paying taxes, and they do not want to pay taxes! Therefore, the best way to avoid taxes is to prevent any stranger from entering the region.

 

Siwa by Ahmed Bey Hassanein on his exploration trip of the 1923
Stone houses of siwa, one of the most historic oases of northerN africa

the lofty structures indicate that Siwa was at one time a point of defense from desert tribes. In the middle distance, slightly to the right, is the covered market-place. Siwa was noted for its Temple of Ammon even before the time of Herodotus, and Alexander the Great came here to consult the oracle. [photo page 235]  

 

Map of the route of Ahmed Bey Hassanein expedition of 1923

A sketch map showing the route of Hassanein Bey through the Libyan desert[1]

The results of the author's journey include the determination of the exact positions of the wells of Zieghen and the Oasis of Kufra, resulting in changes of 62 and 24 miles respectively from the positions hitherto assigned to these places on maps of Africa; the discovery of the oases of Arkenu and Ouenat, previously unknown; the discovery of a route from southwestern Egypt across the Erdi Plateau of French Equatorial Africa into Darfur, and the determination of elevations along the entire route. [photo page 236]

 

Now, who are the outsiders who come to their country? They are European explorers Christians. Therefore, no Christians are permitted to enter. Explorers had been forbidden to go into the interior, and with the exception of the German scientist Rohlfs, who in 1879 boldly ventured to Kufra but escaped with little more than his life, this prohibition had been effective. But when I, a Moslem, the son of a religious man and a friend of their head man, arrived, they scratched their heads. Here was a foreigner whom they did not want, but they could not convict him on religious grounds. I had to be tolerated, temporarily at any rate.

My first objective from Sollum was (p236) Siwa, where I arrived after a nine days trek. This is one of the oldest oases of the Libyan Desert, and the most prosperous because of its date trees and its numerous springs. Its geographical position has made it a center for Bedouins trading between Egypt and the interior of Cyrenaica.

 

Armed men of the caravan of Ahmed Bey Hassanein's expedition to the Libyan Desert on 1923

the armed men of the caravan

Hassanein Bey is mounted upon his Arab horse Baraka (see text, page 245). [photo page 237]


 

[1] The making of this map is all dependent on the scientific data that Ahmed Bey brought back to the Desert Survey in Cairo (masla7et el mesa7a  مصلحة المساحة ). When the large amount of scientific data (adjusted astronomical and chronometric measurements in addition to tables of compass bearings, etc.) are converted to a route diagram on map, it is said that the data has been reduced. The map here is the result of this reduction.SaharaSafaris.org Editor.

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