First published in the early 1930’s, Angelo Piccioli’s La porta magica del Sahara (The Magic Gate of the Sahara) presents a colonial vision of Italy’s ‘fourth shore’. This guide around Tripolitania takes the reader on a sensuous journey through a land that was supposed to be the future of Italian agriculture and tourism at the height Mussolini’s fascist reign.
Riddled with colonial snobbery, Piccioli’s travelogue describes Libyan culture as little more than a ‘primitive simplicity of life’. Our guide acknowledges and appreciates its dynamical make-up of Judaism, Islam, Arabs, Berbers, Turks and Europeans, but he’s cynical as to whether they can invigorate the fertility of a land once ruled by the Greeks and Romans. The Italian Empire was the rightful heir to Libya, and would pride itself on restoring civility in place of what was then conceived as a wretched, barbaric culture.