Intervention and Colonization in Africa

By Norman Dwight Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE REOCCUPATION OF NORTHERN AFRICA

TRIPOLITANIA

TRIPOLITANIA, the chief gateway to the Sahara, has been the last province of the North African littoral to be taken under the control of the European powers. It is large in area, but small in natural resources. While it contains some 406,000 square miles of territory, or about the same as Egypt (leaving out the Sudan), its population hardly exceeds 525,000 souls, and neither of its two chief cities -- Tripoli and Ben Ghasi -- has over 35,000 inhabitants. There are few fertile agricultural districts, like the Djebel Gharian, which furnishes the grain and other produce for most of the cities and towns. The desert approaches too near the sea to permit of much cultivation, and there are no rivers like the Nile to furnish water for irrigation. The Atlas range does not ran far enough to the east to afford Tripoli any protection from the winds and heat of the Sahara; and what few mountains and hills the country possesses, outside of the Barca district, are so insignificant and so scattered that they are of little value as bulwarks against the ever-encroaching desert. The chief exports of the region are ostrich feathers, ivory, oil, and esparto grass, the two former of which have been brought from Lake Chad and Central Africa for years over the famous caravan route via Murzuk, Ghat, and Ghadames. Since the occupation of the Niger country and the Sudan by the British and French and the opening of direct connection by rail and water between the West Coast and Central

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