The Sanusi of Cyrenaica

The Sanusi of Cyrenaica

The Sanusi of Cyrenaica

The Sanusi of Cyrenaica

Excerpt

This account of the Sanusi of Cyrenaica would not have been written if a number of accidents had not led me to their country during the late war, but the seed of it was planted long before the war. I had acquired during three years' residence in Egypt and through travels in other Arab lands some knowledge of Arab history and culture, a little experience of Bedouin, and proficiency in spoken Arabic. During the war a year spent as Political Officer in the Alawite Territory of Syria added to both knowledge and enthusiasm. I had been acquainted with some of the Sanusi exiles in Egypt as far back as 1932 and had visited Darna and Banghazi by sea; and it had long been my hope that I might some day, when the Italians had ceased to rule the country, have a chance to visit the interior. This wish came true when in November 1942 I was posted as Political Officer to the (third) British Military Administration of Cyrenaica. I spent over two years in the country, the greater part of them among the Bedouin, particularly the more nomadic sections. Inhabited Cyrenaica is a small country and as in the course of my wanderings, mostly in its southern steppes and the desert beyond them, I covered more than two thousand miles by horse and camel I came to know something of its Bedouin tribes. My duties, it is true, prevented me from carrying out any systematic inquiries of a sociological kind, but the contact with the Bedouin they entailed enabled me to read the literature which forms the basis of this study in the light of my own experience. My labours have been but a small return for the hospitality of the tents and the many kindnesses of my Bedouin hosts.

I have not attempted to write a history of Cyrenaica, but only of the development of the Sanusiya Order among the Bedouin tribes of the country. I have, therefore, said nothing of the centuries of Greek colonization and Roman and Byzantine rule, nor of the little known centuries of Arab and Turkish rule until 1843, when the Grand Sanusi founded his first zawiya, or religious lodge, on the Cyrenaican plateau. Also, I have not aimed at giving a comprehensive account either of the Sanusiya Order or of the Bedouin tribes, but I have described both only in so far as seemed necessary to an understanding of the political . . .

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