November 5, 2003
On four floors in chronological order upward, its main attractions are the stunning mosaics and statuary from Tripolitanian sites, with some added quirky exhibits. (Note : 4th floor was closed for renovations in Nov. 2003)
There's insufficient room here to enthuse in much detail but here's a run-down of highlights and my personal unmissables (by room number)...
Ground floor -- lobby (room 1): large mosaic with tiny tesserae of seashore scenes, opposite a huge funerary monument. At the back of the room is the Colonel's turquoise VW beetle from his revolutionary days (photo below). Prehistoric/Libyan heritage/Punic exhibits (rooms 2-6)/Greek closed (room 7).
The museum's finest is in spacious room 9, showcasing, in 3 parts, classics from Leptis and Sabratha. Huge colour photos of the sites act as reminders of their current state for you to orientate yourself around two “what it would have looked like” mini-site reconstructions. Around the walls are mosaics from those sites, mostly in exquisite condition. You can get up close to examine the minute, delicate workmanship -- funky, mythical fishes and beasts; gods and cherubs; fishing, hunting or pastoral scenes and geometric patterns. It’s too much to take in at once -- sit down and absorb.
Complementing the mosaics are marble statues of gods and mortals, some life-sized and some monumental. Between these two chambers is a central area with a large floor mosaic (best seen from the balcony on floor 3.
First floor -- room 10 shows various everyday pots and pans from the sites, and a remarkable collection of coins. Room 11 is worth dawdling -- it contains friezes from the Severan Arch at Leptis, hung at eye height so you really appreciate the workmanship and sheer scale. In the centre is a beautiful mini-reconstruction. Rooms 12 and 13 contain stone grave covers, glass and pottery remains.
Second floor -- Islamic architecture, featuring a huge, green-bound Qur’an (room 15), sandstone tombs from Ajdabiya (16/17) and a model of the Red Fort (Assai Al-Hamra).(19).
Third floor -- Islamic/Turkish age, mainly mannequins set in ancient Libyan or more modern Bedouin or Tuareg households (rooms 20-30). Don’t forget to look over the balcony into room 9 below.
Fourth floor -- closed but apparently contains details of Libyan resistance, including further evidence of the Libyan people’s love for their leader and his aims for his country (rooms 31-7) and Libyan natural history, i.e. geology, botany and a few stuffed animals (38-47).
From journal Let loose in Libya