BILMA, or Kawar, an oasis in the heart of the Sahara desert, some 60 m. long by 10 broad. The inhabitants are Tibbu and Kanuri. The name Bilma is properly confined to the southern part of this region, where is the chief settlement, called Bilma or Garu. This place is Boo m. due S. of the town of Tripoli and about 350 N. of the N.W. corner of Lake Chad. In the vicinity are a number of lakes, the waters of which on evaporation yield large quantities of very pure and fine salt, which is the object of an extensive trade with the countries of Central Africa. North of Bilma is the town of Dirki, said to date from the 11th century. Near Bilma is a small circular oasis, kept green by a fine spring, but immediately to the south begins the most dreary part of the Saharan desert, over which the caravans travel for fifteen days without discovering the slightest trace of vegetable life. Gustav Nachtigal, who visited Bilma in 1870, records that the temperature during the day rarely sank below 113° Fahr. By the Anglo-French Declaration of the 21st of March 1899 Bilma was included in the French sphere of influence in West Africa. Turkey claimed the oasis as part of the hinterland of Tripoli and garrisoned Bilma in 1902. In 1906, however, a French force from Zinder occupied the town, no opposition being offered by the Ottoman authorities. In 1907 the oasis and surrounding district was created a circle of the Military Territory of the Niger (see Sahara).
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