The oasis has a population of 7000 Tuareg Berbers. The old part of the town, which is surrounded by a wall, has been declared World Heritage of the UNESCO. Each of the seven clans that used to live in this part of the town had its own district, of which each had a public place where festivals could be held. In the 1970s, the government built new houses outside of the old part of the town. However, many inhabitants return to the old part of the town during the summer, as its architecture provides better protection against the heat.
The first records about Ghadames exist not before the Roman period, when there were troops in the town from time to time. The Roman name for the town was Cydamus. During the 6th century, a Bishop lived in the oasis, after the population have been converted to Christians by the people of the Byzantine Empire. During the 7th century, Ghadames was ruled by the Muslim Arabs. The population quickly converted to Islam. Ghadames played an important role as base for the Trans-Saharan trade until the 19th century.