From Green Square, enter beneath the left arch by the fort - ahead you can see the blue-glassed C19 Ottoman clock tower. Turn left along the copper souk (al-Guizdir) past an outdoors market selling camel rugs and saddles and leather goods, and then past the plain Mosque al-Kateis and its madrassa. 150m along is the Sidi Abdul Wahab Mosque and a surviving part of the medina wall built by the Muslims against Byzantine invasion. Within your sights is the Arch of Marcus Aurelius and, behind it, the Gurgi Mosque.
The arch is the last intact remnant of Oen’s Roman history, completed in 163 AD to stand at the crossroads of the city’s Roman streets. Go underneath it to get a feel for its enormity and the beauty of the remaining craftsmanship (no charge - also worth going in at night when it’s well lit and the contours better defined). Scattered around are pieces of marble, inscribed pillars, and tiles. The C19 Gurgi Mosque (named after a Tripoli naval hero) was the last to be built by the Turks - try to get inside to see glorious marble, ceramic tiling, engraved stonework, and gorgeous dome.
Make for the narrow lane behind the Mosque, where you’ll see the old French Consulate (marked by a plaque and cream archway over a blue door) and the Banco di Roma (opposite is a Roman column). Look out for the Othman Pasha Mosque and Draghut (named after an infamous corsair who tricked the governor of the Knights of St John of Malta from the fort and clapped him in irons) Mosque and, at the crossroads, a sign for the old Turkish prison, dating from 1664.
Along and to the square, you’ll find the newly renovated former Catholic Church. Around the corner is the old British Consulate, also marked with a white stone plaque (it now houses a gallery and some members of the High Commission).
Further along, through whitewashed lanes with colourful painted doors, some with ornate metalwork designs, and stone grated ventilation holes in the walls (these properties are mainly residential), often with bright flowering shrubs hanging above your head, you come to the Roman crossroads. The Druj Mosque is on the corner, and beyond you can already hear the bustle of the souks al-Attara (outdoor) and the covered al-Rabaa, which is dedicated to jewellery (often if you dally, you can see -- presumably prospective -- brides with entourage trying on wedding finery in the form of heavy-looking golden necklaces and bracelets.
You’re now back at the entrance -- on Green Square, look across to the water for the towers with cavalier and ship-in-full-sail at the top. From towering billboards, Gaddafi has his eye on you from almost every angle.
November 6, 2003
From journal Let loose in Libya