oasis, southwestern Libya. It lies on the northern edge of the Murzuk Sand Sea (Idhan Murzuk). An ancient assembly place for caravans to Lake Chad and the Niger River, it was the traditional capital of the Fezzan province (16th-19th century) and a centre of the Arab slave and arms trade. Once called the "Paris of the Desert," it was a base for Saharan explorers, including Germans Friederich Konrad Hornemann in 1798 and Gustav Nachtigal in 1870-71. After the caravan tracks closed and motor and air travel began, Murzuk declined. Extensive ruins remain, including the old Turkish fort. The Italian fort now serves as a police station. The town is linked to Sabha, 85 miles (137 km) northeast, by sand track and remains a local trade centre. Its women's market deals in garden and animal products and handicrafts. Pop. (2003 est.) 68,700.
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