The News in 219 Cities: This week’s cities: Sabha, Homs, and Tunis!

I put together a list that included the 10 most populated cities of each country (though tiny Bahrain only had 9 cities.) Then I used a random number generator to pick three cities to write about.

By doing this I hope to gain a better picture of what the Arab world looks like. In the US all we see of the Middle East is explosions but that does not mean the entire Middle East is exploding. Unfortunately because my project is based in news articles, it will be hard to completely get away from writing about explosions. In either case, I will do my best to portray a snippet from the lands where our civilization was born.

Sabha, Libya

Population: 130,000 (9th most populated city in Libya)



Description from Wikipedia:

With a relatively large population, and growing fast, Sabha’s importance is due to its being the air and road transport hub of the Fezzan, a military base, and the centre of a remarkable agricultural industry in the desert. Sabha is famous for the Fort Elena castle, which is the castle featured on the reverse of the ten dinars banknote of Libya. Fort Elena was previously known as Fortezza Margherita, built during the Italian colonial period. Currently the Italian-built fort is a military institution.


June 12, 2014: Sand surfing! (Twitter)

Any news coming out of Libya is not good this week. In contrast to Libyan culture, a civil war between tribes seems to be coming to the country. Despite its distance from Libya’s main population centers, Sabha has not been immune to the looming conflict. Most of the English news coming from Sabha has been about tribal clashes or about Vietnamese workers being pulled out of the city.

However, I searched Twitter and found a different side of Sabha. Here’s one of my favorite tweets in English:


Homs, Syria

Population: 775,404 (3rd most populated city in Syria)



Description from Wikipedia:

Previous to the civil war, Homs was a major industrial centre, and was the third largest city in Syria after Aleppo to the north and the capital Damascus to the south. Its population reflects Syria’s general religious diversity, composed mostly of Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims and Alawiteand Christian minorities. There are a number of historic mosques and churches in the city, and it is close to the Krak des Chevaliers castle, a world heritage site.

In the ongoing Syrian civil war, Homs became an opposition stronghold and the Syrian government launched a military assault against the city in May 2011. By 14 January 2014, the government was in control of Homs except for the Old City, which remains in rebel hands and is under government siege. The Syrian army’s artillery shelling and warplane bombing has left much of the city completely destroyed and thousands dead.

August 13, 2014: Rebuilding a Restaurant in the midst of Civil War. (Press TV, Horst Fiedler)

Through a series of sieges and intense bombing campaigns the Syrian government has ultimately gained back what is left of the city of Homs. Now in the relative peace, former residents have come back and rebuild their city. During this period of reconstruction the iconic restaurant Julia’s Palace has been revived, though the repairs have not been completed yet.

Julia’s Palace before the war.

Julia's Palace Today

Julia’s Palace today during reconstruction.


It wouldn’t be surprising to find Julia’s Palace bustling soon. A restaurant would be a welcome site for a city that was so recently under siege. And besides, this is Syria after all.


Tunis, Tunisia

Population: 693,210 (The most populated city in Tunisia.)


Description from Wikipedia:

Situated on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf (the Gulf of Tunis), and behind the Lake of Tunis, the city extends along the coastal plain and the hills that surround it. At the centre of more modern development (from the colonial era and later) lies the old city.

The colonial-era buildings provide a clear contrast to smaller, older structures. As the capital city of the country, Tunis is the focus of Tunisian political and administrative life; it is also the centre of the country’s commercial activity. The expansion of the Tunisian economy in recent decades is reflected in the booming development of the outer city where one can see clearly the social challenges brought about by rapid modernization in Tunisia.

*Tunis is also the capital of Tunisia, which was the country where the Arab Spring began.*

August 24, 2014: Walid Sultan Midani’s new company is making the first Tunisian video games. (BBC)


It has not been easy, but Walid Sultan Midani has created a video game company called Digitalmania in Tunis. In the early days of Digitalmania, he could only pay his employees enough money to buy lunch. Since then business has picked up. In its three year history, Digitalmania has developed 34 games. Most of the games have been for third parties, but four have been released under the Digitalmania’s own name.

So far Digitalmania has thirteen employees: seven men and six women. Midani says he is still looking for more employees. Thinking of moving to Tunisia?


One comment

  1. travellingmo · September 22, 2014

    I love that Digitalmania has almost as many women working there as men! Yay gender equality in the workplace :)

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