Egypt border tribes declare support to Libya revolt

Awlad Ali the biggest Libyan-Egyptian tribe


Chiefs and elders of Egyptian tribes that trace their origins to Libya declared their support for their Libyan counterparts in their revolution against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi and vehemently denied the possibility of using them to crush the revolts that have swept the neighboring country since February 17.

Border tribes are the guardians of Egypt’s Western gates and are offering the Libyan people all sorts of help in their struggle for democracy, said Abdul Ghaffar Hamad, head of the Popular Council at the Marsa Matrouh Governorate, located in western Egypt near the borders with Libya.

“We sent our Libyan brothers all types of humanitarian aid like medicine, dairy products, and meals,” he told Al Arabiya on behalf of all the elders and chiefs in the region.

Hamad denied reports that Ahmed Kadaf al-Dam, cousin and special envoy of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as well as the coordinator of Egyptian-Libyan relations, visited Marsa Matrouh and lured the tribes to support Gaddafi against the Libyan people.

Residents of Marsa Matrouh staged Wednesday a demonstration in support of the Libyan revolution and called for expelling Kadaf al-Dam who they accuse of trying to recruit members of Bedouin tribes of Libyan origins to fight alongside Gaddafi.

A group of lawyers also submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor General in which they demanded arresting Kadaf al-Dam, who arrived unexpectedly in Cairo on Monday, and interrogating him.

Kadaf al-Dam is reportedly contacting several airline companies in an attempt to obtain huge planes to transfer mercenaries from different African countries to Libya to crush the revolution. The mercenaries are said to be specifically heading for Camp 27, headed by the Libyan leader’s son Khamis Gaddafi.

Border tribes

Several Libyan tribes migrated across the borders hundreds of years ago and settled in Egypt while maintaining close ties with their counterparts on the other side.

Awlad Ali is the biggest of border tribes whose people live in both Egypt and Libya. The number of Awlad Ali tribesmen in Egypt amounts to two million, mostly concentrated in cities of Marsa Matrouh and Sallum near the borders with Libya.

Their presence of the Awlad Ali tribe, whose members migrated to Egypt I 1670 after disputes with the Harabi tribe, also extends to the Nile Delta as well as in the governorates of Alexandria and Giza

According to researcher Attia al-Awami, the area occupied by Awald Ali in the Western Desert extends across 500 kilometers west of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

This area, Awami explained, is very important strategically and that is why one of the most important battles of World War Two, the battle of Alamein, took place and also geographically for overlooking the Mediterranean and for including the city of Marsa Matrouh, the most populated and developed in the Western Desert. The fact that this region is rainy also contributed to formation of several natural pastures

“Members of Awlad Ali tribe in the Western Desert basically work in breeding cattle and cultivating wheat, barley, and melons as well as figs and olives especially in area from the city of Hammam in Marsa Matrouh Governorate to the capital Marsa Matrouh city,” he said.

The Gameiyat tribe came to Egypt before Awlad Ali, yet they managed to integrate throughout a period of 600 years although in the beginning both tribes were engaged in disputes similar to the ones that took place between Awlad Ali and the Hanadi tribe, that migrated from the eastern coast of Libya.

Several other tribes came from Libya after the Libyan Civil War that took place in the early nineteenth century between the Turkish governor Yusuf Pasha Karamanli and the Awaqeer tribe on one hand and other tribes like Ghawazee on the other hand.

After the war ended, Karamanli invited 40 of the senior members of Ghawazee in his palace claiming that he wants to pay them tribute then ordered his soldiers to kill them and kill all other members of the Ghawazee all over Libya. This drove many of them to depart to Egypt while others stayed in Libya and changed their name.

Several other tribes offered that the Ghawazee stay with them in border areas, yet they preferred to settle down inside Egypt and their descendants are currently living in the Fayoum Governorate southwest of Cairo.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)

Members of Awlad Ali tribe in the Western Desert basically work in breeding cattle and cultivating wheat, barley, and melons

Researcher Attia al-Awami