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Lydon in Libya, YemenLydon with caravaner Jalu

Lydon in Libya, Yemen

Fulbright fellow Ghislaine Lydon delivered a paper on caravan trade in Libya, now conducting research in Yemen

Ghislaine Lydon was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant by the Council for International Exchange Scholars to teach African history at Sanaa University and to carry out research on Islamic legal history in Yemen from June 2007 to March 2008.

In November 2006, Lydon participated in a conference on caravan trade organized by the Libyan Jihad Center for Historical Research, a large government-sponsored institute dedicated to the study of history. The research center is headed by Dr. Mohammed Jerrari (Ph.D., History, University of Wisconsin–Madison), who has directed its work for several decades. The center has a primary sources department engaged in the preservation and digitization of Libyan and colonial archives. It also has an oral history department that has been actively collecting since the 1970s. Its archives house over 8,000 interviews that are now being transferred to MP3 format. The center publishes four multi-issue journals and some 15 history books each year.

The International Conference on Caravan Trade (Tijarat al-Qawaafil) was held in the city hall of Jalo, a Saharan town near the ancient trans-Saharan town of Awjila, home of the earliest mosque built in Africa west of Cairo. There were 42 participants at the conference, mostly Libyan historians, but also a Tunisian, a Sudanese, several Egyptian, a Belgian, and two Italian scholars, as well as a delegation of German cartographers from Freiburg University. On the last day of the conference, a panel of retired caravaners was invited to discuss their experiences and answer questions about trade routes and the business of organizing caravans. Lydon delivered her paper in Arabic and gave a Powerpoint presentation titled “Contracting Caravans: Partnership and Profit in Nineteenth-Century Trans-Saharan Trade.” The paper is based on a chapter of her forthcoming book, On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Western Africa (Cambridge University Press). 

Center for Near Eastern Studies