Gaddafi Revives Rhodes' African Railway Dream

By Darwish, Adel | The Independent (London, England), September 11, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Gaddafi Revives Rhodes' African Railway Dream


Darwish, Adel, The Independent (London, England)


THE GREAT AGE of international rail travel in Africa could be revived by the end of the century, with the construction of a new trans-Maghreb line that will enable tourists to travel by train from Casablanca to the Valley of the Kings, 2,900 miles away in Egypt.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya has signed a $300m ( pounds 200m) deal with the Egyptians to fund the reconstruction of the railway, built by the Italians along the Libyan coast and destroyed during the Second World War. The proposed Maghreb line would link the British- and Belgian-built Egyptian network, the largest and oldest in Africa, with the cities of Morocco, using the French-built Tunisian and Algerian lines.

During the Second World War, German and British commandos blew up sections of the track to disrupt each others' supply lines, especially between Tobruk and Benghazi.

The trans-Maghreb link is the latest project of Colonel Gaddafi, who is obsessed by the idea of a federation among Arab, African or Maghreb nations. He sees the railway as a way for Libya to break out of the international isolation imposed after the Lockerbie bombing. Last week, he told Western guests, in his tent at the Bab el-Aziziya barracks in Tripoli, that he was inviting foreign companies to tender for the project, which would "cement Maghreb Arab unity".

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