Discover the Beauties of North Africa
By: Yaseen Rashed/ Arab America contributing writer
North Africa is a region rich with natural wonders and beauty. From its unique maritime culture on the Mediterranean to its mystical Sahara Desert, this region is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world. Many people hail from all over to witness and experience these natural wonders this place has to offer. Scattered across the North African desert, the ruins and remains of ancient empires lie around waiting to be excavated and appreciated.
Shahat, Libya, a hidden city that rests just northwest of Benghazi, is home to some of the most fascinating remains and ruins of both the Greek and Roman empire. Shahat was a port city used for maritime trading and was considered a staple of Greek culture and art. It was founded by Grinus, son of Aesanius a descendant of Theras, and the king of the island of Thera, after being inspired by the oracle of Delphi which advised him to find a new city filled with treasure in Libya. It quickly became a populated city but fell to Roman control in 74 BC. Under Roman influence, Shahat flourished and prospered as its citizens built houses, temples, and amphitheaters. Some of these structures remain standing until today, displaying the delicate and intricate architecture, the Romans and Greeks have built.
Another staple of beauty found in North Africa is Jemaa el-Fnaa, a square found in the heart of Marrakech. The name Jemaa comes from the Arabic word Jamah, which means mosque or congregation. Usually, a mosque is extremely busy, bustling with people coming in and out, kids laughing, old men gossiping. Similar to Jemaa el-Fnaa, it is a square that is constantly alive no matter what time it is. The square is always filled with street vendors serving delicious ethnic Moroccan food. Tourists taking pictures, kids playing soccer, locals smoking hookah, there is always something to see there. What’s more beautiful, however, is exactly five times a day the mosque in the square makes a call for prayer and this bustling square comes to a halt. The street vendors lock up and everyone flocks to the mosque and for approximately 10 minutes the square experiences a change and all of a sudden it becomes quiet. An unsettling quietness sets over the whole square as you can no longer hear the loud noises of the city. Yet after these 10 minutes are over the square comes back to life, as people go about their day and reopen their businesses. Taking a deeper look at this square you can realize that the beauty lies within the people. This one prayer call unites everyone from different backgrounds and allows them to assemble within the mosque showing us the beauty of unity. The human connection provides us with a feeling of community, that we are loved and wanted and this feeling can’t be artificially replicated which is what makes it so beautiful.
North Africa is also home to diverse ecosystems, similarly to how we have adapted to live in the desert so have animals. The Cerastes, known as the horned viper snake, is a native North African reptile that adapted to live in the Sahara desert. What makes this reptile unique is its thorny exterior from head to tail this reptile is covered in brown spikes and two horns resting on its snout. These snakes are nocturnal and hunt at night. When prey is spotted, the horned viper will bury itself in the sand and wait for the prey to walk by. Once they sense the presence of their prey the immediate coil and fling themselves at their prey. They then sink their fangs into the prey and release lethal venom that paralyzes the prey. Most of their diet consists of rodents and birds and occasionally other snakes. However not much is known about these fascinating animals.
In conclusion, North Africa is truly an under-appreciated gem. From the rich history to culture and unique wildlife, North Africa has a lot to offer. Let us know in the comments what your favorite places in North Africa are!
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