Written by koshkha on 02 May, 2010
Troglodyte - it's a lovely word that brings to mind a very primitive way of life. It trips off the tongue very nicely, filling your mouth with a sense that this is a word to be respected. But when push comes to shove, for all…Read More
Troglodyte - it's a lovely word that brings to mind a very primitive way of life. It trips off the tongue very nicely, filling your mouth with a sense that this is a word to be respected. But when push comes to shove, for all the beauty and intrigue of the word and all the thoughts of past times, it's just a fancy word for someone who lives underground or in a cave. When I read the itinerary for our week long tour of Libya I was still quite excited about the idea of staying in a 'Troglodyte Lodge'. I've been to Cappadocia in Turkey, probably one of the most impressive places for seeing troglodyte dwellings and cave churches and other buildings carved out of the rock so my expectations were based on what I'd seen there. The reality of the Libyan troglodyte experience was a bit of a disappointment.We spent most of the afternoon driving inland from Tripoli stopping only to see the granary at Qasr al Haj. I don't entirely know where we were since the trip itinerary is very vague on the location but by checking the internet for photos of a troglodyte lodge which appears to be the same one we stayed at, I suspect it was somewhere near to Rayehbet.Our bus pulled up in a small village at the end of the afternoon. There was nothing immediately visible that suggested we'd reached our destination. A large modern house was built on the roadside and we were told that this was where the family who owned the lodge now lived. Clearly they'd given up living underground in favour of running a nice little B&B business for foreigners who want to sleep in a novelty setting. I'm not going to pretend I was expecting our troglodyte hosts to be running around in animal skins with bones through their noses but it did seem to be rather more commercialised and 'theme park' than I had expected. Our tour leader led us into the accommodation area. With a party of 18 we didn't have quite enough rooms to go round so the single ladies all shared a room together, and the single gents took another. We were led through the rock room 'complex' with our tour leader pointing out the doors, suggesting which rooms were best for the people sharing, and then showing us the communal areas. Everything was lighter than I expected and even though the rooms themselves were below ground level, there were large open spaces that let the light flood down. My husband grabbed our bag and headed through the first door that he saw, accidentally and unknowingly grabbing what was probably the largest of the rooms. To be fair, space isn't a big benefit but I was glad we'd got one of the rooms with its own door since some of the rooms were paired up with only curtains separating their entrances. I was suffering from a very unpleasant cold and knew that I'd spend most of the night coughing my lungs up and if we'd been in one of those rooms I'd have kept everyone awake.Inside our room the facilities were very basic. Two single beds had been cut from the rock, one on either side of the room with a small wall-mounted light between them. Each of the beds had a mattress, sheets, and a blanket but there was a thick rug folded at the foot of each which we could tell was going to be very much needed. The floor was decorated with a striped rag-rug and that was all there was in the room. Worryingly - especially in the middle of the night - there was a large step down from the sleeping area to the door so we both kept head torches to hand in case we needed to get up in the night.The bathroom block had been built into the back of the owners' new house with one side for the men and the other for the women. The facilities were ok with two toilets, two showers and a large sink area. I didn't have a shower because I feared freezing on the way back to the room but there was plenty of hot water for washing. There's not an awful lot to do at the lodge apart from sitting around and chatting. Our tour leader suggested to use some of the time before dinner by visiting a local 'museum' - a place he considered to be one of a kind and really very special. With nothing else available in terms of entertainment we all agreed to join him and headed off to walk the short distance towards a large house. The owner and two of his daughters were waiting for us. Our tour leader explained that this was a private museum and he knew only a couple of other such places in the whole of Libya. He felt it was important to support such an initiative by bringing us to see the place. We all traipsed in and found a place that reminded me of my grandfather's garage; a couple of rooms filled with random objects that the owner had found or bought. When I was a child it was typical for children to decide to 'collect' things. Sometimes these were things of value - like stamps or coins - often they were things collected for the sake of having a collection, like the picture cards from cigarette packs of packs of tea. Others collected random objects and the owner of this 'museum' was probably the kind of kid who said to his friends "I'm going to collect key………….and locks………..and boxes………..and bags………….and animal skeletons…………..and rocks…………and every other daft thing that a sensible human being really wouldn’t bother with. I struggled and I tried really hard to fake interest in this little museum. I went round two or three times to try to make it look like I was really interested in shoe lasts and woodworking tools and keys and old jerry cans and snake skins and half-broken old saddles and even random bits of rock but inside my quiet inner voice was screaming "You're having a laugh mate, this isn't a museum, it's your garage filled with old junk". I sought the glory in amongst the junk - "Look at these nice old pots" I said to my husband who snorted through his nose in surprise. There was nothing more for it, we had to get out and swallowing down our sniggers we burst out into the evening air.We headed back to the lodge to wait for dinner which was - according to my diary - "a bit bleurgh". Slightly stale bread with very garlicky dip followed by vegetable soup and stuffed green peppers. The meat eaters tucked into a dish of rice with lamb whilst we non meat-eaters got rice with……almonds. There was nothing sweet to follow except for glasses of the worst tea I've ever tasted. We all dragged the meal out as long as we could but it was cold and there wasn't anything to do once the meal was over other than to go back, build up the layers of clothes, rugs and blankets on the bed and go to sleep. It was a cold night but we were surprisingly cosy in our little cave room though I coughed most of the night and slept very badly. Breakfast the next day was poor with just slightly old croissants served with honey or cheese spread.If you are looking for a 'sleeping in a cave' experience, I don't think this will really satisfy most people. I'd definitely advise to book into one of Cappadocia's 'rock hotels' instead.Close
Written by koshkha on 28 Mar, 2010
~ O is for Odeon ~As the guide at our first ancient site told us "Not the one in Leicester Square". I learned a few lessons during a week of ancient archaeological sites including that the Greeks built their theatres (called Odeons) into hill sides,…Read More
~ O is for Odeon ~As the guide at our first ancient site told us "Not the one in Leicester Square". I learned a few lessons during a week of ancient archaeological sites including that the Greeks built their theatres (called Odeons) into hill sides, usually in quarries that they already dug for rock to build the city. The Romans by contrast built their theatres above the ground.~P is for Ptolomais~Ptolomais was the first archaeological site we visited. It's in Cyrenae in the East of the country and was founded by the Greeks in the 6th or 7th century BC. The Romans conquered it in the 1st Century and built some amazing underground water collection cisterns which can still be visited today and which were used as a hiding place by rebels during the Italian occupation. ~ Q is for Qasr Libya ~Qasr Libya is home to a museum of mosaics in the east of Libya. The mosaics were extracted from two Byzantine churches on the site of the museum and have been 'lifted' and installed on the walls of the museum to protect them for the future. Oddly, the two churches that supplied the mosaics are also open to visitors and you really can't help but wonder why 'they' didn't just restore the churches and leave the mosaics in situ.~ R is for Roads~Hoorah! The roads in Libya are really good which considering we spent hours every day in a small coach, was really important. Yes there were a few potholes but let's be honest, you can't drive down the street anywhere in the UK without risking a bust axle after this winter's snows.~S is for Switzerland~I can read your mind. You are thinking 'Switzerland? What's that got to do with Libya?' Gaddafi has declared Jihad against Switzerland after the authorities had the temerity to arrest one of his sons, Hannibal, for beating up members of staff a couple of years ago. The colonel kicked out Swiss businesses, cancelled all the flights between Switzerland and Libya, and took $5 billion out of his bank account. Let's face it, Switzerland really isn't the sort of country that people normally get worked up about. Cuckoo clocks, banks, chocolate, and lots of cows would fill the mental collage of most people except for the Colonel. He says Switzerland is "an infidel state" and he thinks it should be split between Germany, France and Italy. Admittedly Swiss voters backed a referendum to prevent mosques from building minarets but that's hardly a rock-solid reason for Jihad. This would all be quite amusing (for those of us who aren't Swiss), but as a result of the bad blood between the two countries, Libya now won't issue visas to people with passports of the 25 countries that are in the Schengen agreement, arguing that because they have no border controls, it's the only way to stop Swiss coming to Libya. This was great for us because the tourist sites were empty but hardly good for the Libyan economy.~ T is for Troglodytes and Toilets ~Troglodyte – was there ever a more satisfying word? I loved it long before I had any idea what it actually meant. Troglodytes are people who live in caves or underground holes and our trip included spending the night at a troglodyte 'lodge'. The place had about 10 rooms carved into the side of the hill and under the ground and they were a lot less bizarre than that probably sounds. Our room was large with a rough cut ceiling, two rock beds cut out of the rock and a rather dangerous step that was impossible to spot with the lights off (note to anyone considering staying somewhere like that – take a torch!).Toilets are an obsession with travellers and a couple of the ladies in our group were really weird about the local toilets. If you are a bit OCD about foreign loos, Libya really isn't a big deal at all. There's approximately a 50:50 split between squat and western styles and nowhere I went was really disgusting although it was not unusual for the wash basins to have no water so take your alcohol gel for germ killing!~ U is for UNESCO ~UNESCO has recognised five sites in Libya as being worthy of the World Heritage designations and three of these were included in our itinerary. In addition to supporting Cyrene in the east of the country and Sabratha and Leptis Magna in the West, there are two other sites – the old town of Ghadames in the desert interior of the country and the rock-art sites of Tadrart Acacus which date back up to 12000 years.I interrogated one of the archaeologists about the impact of the UNESCO listings on their work. We've heard in many countries that local experts don't always appreciate the intervention of UNESCO because they restrict what can and can't be done but in Libya it seems that UNESCO gave them nice plaques to put at the entrance of the sites but not much else – no money, no experts, no interference.~ V is for Vandals and Visas ~The Vandals came from Eastern Germany and ploughed into the Roman Empire in the 5th Century, going around destroying things, most notably during the 'Sack of Rome'. They got a reputation for senseless destruction and turned up in Libya in 455 to do their stuff. Visas are currently (2010) not easy to get unless you are a citizen of one of Gaddafi's favoured nations and that rules out the 25 countries of the Schengen agreement (see S is for Switzerland). Step one in the time-consuming process of getting permission to go is getting your passport translated. Step zero (i.e. before you can even start) is making sure you have a computer readable passport. Heaven alone knows why since I doubt there's a computer that can read the passports anywhere in Libya. The translation service in the UK is offered by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce and costs £30 per passport if you are willing to go to the ABCC yourself, and considerably more if you use a visa agency to do it for you. My husband took the train down to London to get ours done, had a very pleasant time chatting to the CofC staff and popped round a couple of museums to pass the time. For your £30 you get a page in your passport with all your details translated into Arabic. Our actual visas were arranged by the local tour agency and were for collection on arrival. This costs an additional $30 per person. ~ W is for Water ~One of Gaddafi's famous initiatives was the creation of the Great Manmade River which has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's biggest irrigation project. It runs between an aquifer in the Sahara and the coast and cost $25 billion to build. One of our guides was very disparaging (after checking nobody was around to overhear him). "It's destroying an ancient fossil aquifer when it would be so much cheaper and less destructive to just buy desalination plants". He also claimed that the GMR would cause earthquakes. I quietly avoided commenting on that since it was geologically utter tosh.~ X is for eXodus and X-rated sculptures~In case anyone was wondering, our tour was arranged by the UK-based adventure travel company Exodus.I also noticed that almost every nude male statue we saw (and believe me, we saw lots) had no willy. I'm still not sure whether this was an extreme form of later Islamic censorship or whether those bits just tend to get knocked off and damaged by history. If you know, please tell me!~ Y is for Yousef ~Yousef was a guide who was with us for two and a half days and knew EVERYTHING about ancient Greece and Rome. When taking us round the national museum he set the tone with this comment "Ladies and Gentlemen, I crave your indulgence. I despise the Stone Age, and implore you to join me with the Romans". He was a very nice little chap but I can't help thinking that we often missed seeing quite a lot of things because he took so much time telling us about some places. Our poor tour guide was going crazy trying to keep us on track.~ Z is for Zebra ~Of course there aren't any Zebras in Libya but we did find some striped animals in the mosaics at Qasr Libya which were probably made by artists who'd had a zebra described to them (a striped horse perhaps) but nobody remembered to tell them that it was black and white. Close
~G is for Gaddafi – of course!~The world's second most famous Colonel (the other is the one with the 'special blend of herbs and spices') became the leader of Libya at the age of just 27, after a coup in 1969. This means he's been…Read More
~G is for Gaddafi – of course!~The world's second most famous Colonel (the other is the one with the 'special blend of herbs and spices') became the leader of Libya at the age of just 27, after a coup in 1969. This means he's been around for the same length of time as Sesame Street. The man nicknamed 'Mad Dog Gaddafi' (I think it was by Ronald Reagan, ever the diplomat) is a Bedouin by birth who likes to sleep in a tent and doesn't really like cities. However, despite his tent-dwelling origins, if you are a Libyan and you need somewhere to live, he'll give you a house or an apartment. If you have children he'll provide them with schooling, university places and scholarships to go abroad if they are really clever – all free of charge. Hospitals likewise are free and pretty good unless you are a Bulgarian nurse ridiculously accused of infecting children with HIV, in which case you might wish you'd stayed at home. If you can live with being run by a military dictatorship, there are some pretty substantial benefits to living under Colonel G.On the other hand, you might find it difficult to keep a straight face about Gaddafi and his jet black hair (he's the same age as Paul McCartney and the dye does neither any favours) and what appears to be a face enhanced by David Guest's favourite plastic surgeon. He is – shame on me and I hope the Libyan secret service don't read this – a funny looking bloke.~H is for Headscarves and Health~Great news for the ladies; you don't HAVE to wear a headscarf in Libya, unless of course you want to go into a mosque. You should dress modestly and neither men nor women can really get away with shorts or vest tops, but on the whole, there aren't too many restrictions. We did get quite a lot of curious attention in a few places outside the big cities (mostly people taking photos) but no aggression or unpleasantness. With regards to travel health, Libya has no malaria and requires no special inoculations which is very good news. Nobody told us not to drink the water though we assumed that would be the case and bottled water wasn't expensive and was readily available. Nobody got sick on our trip (or at least if they did, we didn't hear about it) and there were plenty of small pharmacies around for any travel medicines you might have forgotten to pack.~ I is for Italians ~On 26th October 1911 Italy invaded Libya and the day became known as the Black Day, a national day of mourning that's still observed by Libyans. The invasion was 'spun' by the Italians as an attempt to 'liberate' the country from the Ottomans but lead to several decades of rather brutal rule with some reports claiming almost 1 million Libyans died during the 33 years of Italian rule. Considering the current population is a modest 6 million, that's a lot of dead Libyans to account for. Resistance fighters were rounded up and killed, concentration camps were set up in the heat of the desert and poor farmers from southern Italy were shipped over to Libya and a lot of the best farmland was confiscated from local farmers and given to the immigrants. Despite all this, the current relationship between the two countries is still quite strong and Italy still has strong trading links with Libya.~ J is for Jamahiriya ~Libya is officially called the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya so it's easy to see why we just call it Libya. The word Jamahiriya is one that was 'invented' by Gaddafi and it translates as something like 'republic ruled by the masses' or 'people's republic'. So now you know!~K is for Kebabs and Kissing~Like most of North Africa and the Middle East, kebabs are very popular. However, since I don't eat meat, I have absolutely no idea whether they are any good or not. Kissing relates to an incident that happened to us in a park opposite the National Museum in central Tripoli. My husband was approached by a young boy aged around 9 or 10 years old. The boy ignored me and the other two women with us and strode up to Tony waving a small book at him. As it was written entirely in Arabic, it was pretty daft to think that we might want to buy it but as Tony tried to gesture that he wasn't really in the market for a small book of 'whatever it was' the boy planted a big loud kiss on his cheek. As the boy puckered up and leaned in for another go, Tony grabbed his wallet and gave the kid a dinar (about 50p) to get rid of him. So much for 'don't talk to strangers' – this kid's mum clearly hadn't given him any advice.~ L is for Leptis Magna ~Libya is full of world-class UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the most famous (and most visited) of the lot is Leptis Magna. The first city on the site was founded in 1100 BC by the Phoenicians but it's predominantly known for its Roman architecture. The Romans took over around 200 BC and was at its strongest during the reign of local-boy Septimus Severus who became emperor in 193 and whose arch stands at the entrance to the city. Highlights of the city include an enormous forum, a massive basilica, a fabulous theatre and a rather spooky amphitheatre for feeding Christians to the lions. The bath house is also an amazing place to see – an enormous complex with hot rooms, cold plunge pools, massage areas and dressing rooms. And once you've sweated out all the toxins, where better to head than the communal toilets to relax and read the latest best-selling scroll? Leptis Magna is an incredible place to visit, whether you're an archaeology buff or just a half-interested amateur.~M is for Museums~We saw a LOT of museums in Libya and to be honest, I was getting pretty weary of them by the end of the week. The problem is that most of them have a rule that you have to go round with a local guide and some of those guys really don't know when to stop. There's also a serious problem with lighting in some of the museums. I could understand if these places were full of delicate light-sensitive things that needed to be protected but 2000 year old artifacts that survived being buried, got through earthquakes and survived the worst abuse of some very naïve archaeological digs (dynamite – really good stuff for clearing the ground if you're a French archaeologist apparently). The museum at Leptis Magna was the worst for this – it was like trying to go round a museum with your sunglasses on. The other problem was labeling – most of the museums don't have English (or any other European language) labels.~ N is for No Booze ~Libya is dry so you need to be happy with spending your holiday totally sober. You can get alcohol free beer and it's not a bad quality – they even import Becks alcohol-free beer all the way from Bremen and can still sell it for less than you'll pay half a mile from the brewery. I really enjoyed my first glass of wine on the flight home!Close
I like to take holidays in the sort of places that make my American friends nervous. This time we chose to take a one week tour of Libya. We generally prefer DIY trips but I really wouldn't have a clue how to organise a trip…Read More
I like to take holidays in the sort of places that make my American friends nervous. This time we chose to take a one week tour of Libya. We generally prefer DIY trips but I really wouldn't have a clue how to organise a trip around Libya and the sheer simplicity of letting someone else sort out the visas and transportation won out this time. There's not much tourist infrastructure so doing it yourself is really tricky. However, the good news is that as citizens of one of the few countries that Colonel Gaddafi isn't in a mood with at the moment, we found the country almost empty of tourists which was nice for us but a shame for the locals~Tourism in Libya~I found this on a Libyan government tourist website. It's a definition of tourism:"Introducing the civilisation and historical process of the Libyan Arab People and depicting the material and moral accomplishments and transformations of the Great Al-Fateh Revolution with respect to the potentials of the Great Jamahirya, such as tourist sites, natural, cultural and industrial resources and the civilisational achievements therein and providing its honourable image/picture at international level"As slogans go, you'd have to say that it's not exactly snappy.So enough of the revolutionary ideology and a quick introduction to why Libya really is a pretty cool place to take a holiday!~A is for Africa and Arab~Libya used to see itself as an 'Arabic' country in the sense of the emotional links to the Arabian Gulf. Then Gaddafi fell out with the Middle East (he's prone to falling in and out of love with countries like a teenaged girl with popstars) and decided to take his ball away and play with the Africans instead. All over the country you'll see 'inspirational' posters and murals extolling the joys and progress of a strong, united Africa. Yeah, like that's going to happen! Nice idea. I believe the Colonel started strutting around in animal skins at one point, trying to get down with his African brothers.The reality is that there's no place in Africa that I've ever been that feels less like Africa. And no place in the Middle East that feels less like the Middle East. Close your eyes in Tripoli and this spotlessly clean city could be almost anywhere. Go to the coastal areas where the great Roman and Greek ruins are, and you could be anywhere on the Mediterranean coast. ~B is for Blue and Byzantium~The colour of my holiday was blue – in a thousand different shades from turquoise to navy blue with everything between. The sea and sky almost seem to have been designed to make your photos look more impressive. I'm really not sure you could take a bad picture in such a photogenic country.The reason we (and most tourists) went to Libya was for the ancient ruins. I can't claim I knew much before I got there, or that I'll remember all that much in a few months time but the history of the area is dipped in all the major historic movements between roughly 2300 and 1400 years ago. The Phoenicians were there for a while but didn't leave too much of a mark, then the Greeks rolled in, followed by the Romans. The Byzantines (or early Christians) built some fabulous churches, sometimes basing them in what had previously been Roman or Greek temples. And in turn, the Muslims came along after and converted the churches to mosques. Such is life and civilisation!~C is for Cyrene~It's hard to choose a favourite from amongst the multiple historic sites we visited but for me I think Cyrene was the best. Founded by the Greeks in 630 BC, it's a stunning place. We had an outstanding guide who succeeded in making the place come alive, walking us round the ruins of the old city, telling us about how people lived, why things were placed where they were, and how everything fitted together. As we marvelled at the size of the place he pointed to a field in the distance where a small theatre was cut into the hillside. "There's another city over there, even bigger than this one but we've hardly scratched the surface of what's there" he told us. A flock of goats calmly wandered around chewing the grass and neglecting to be impressed by 2000 years of history beneath their hooves.~D is for Deserts, Desserts and Delays~A large part of Libya is desert and it's an enormous country, much of it made of little more than sand and rock. If ancient history isn't your thing, there are plenty of desert experiences to be had. Food wise, desserts are hard to come by and most meals don't include anything sweet at the end of the feast. And finally delays – we spent 8 hours at Tripoli airport thanks to Buraq Air. No explanations, no apologies, and no idea what was happening. After 3 hours and two cancellations they put us on a plane. Then they took us off again. Eventually they put us on another plane. What a total and utter waste of a day of my precious holiday.~E is for Eggplant and Earthquakes~Baba ghanoush – surely the dish that aubergine (egg plant) was created for and one of the finest of culinary experiences. Meals typically start with a plate full of dips and some soft freshly baked flat bread. Amongst the dips there's usually yoghurt, hummus, tahini, and the fearsome bright red chilli paste. But the king of the dips is the baba ghanoush but watch out for the garlic, it can be very strong.Earthquakes played an important role in the aesthetics of Libya's ancient heritage sites. You might well think 'how nice of those ancients to build so close to the sea' like Benidorm hoteliers until you spot that actually there's a whopping great theatre right next to the sea and surely they'd never have been able to hear the actors. Fact is that a massive earthquake in the 3rd or 4th Century put large parts of the ancient cities under the sea. As a diver, the urge to instantly sell my home and all my belongings and go and set up a dive centre on the Libyan coast was enormous.~F is for Food~ I've had holidays in North African and Middle Eastern countries that left me bored silly with the food and frantically seeking anything that wasn't carrot and potato (Morocco) or stale bread and rice (Iran). Surprisingly as a non-meat eating fishitarian, I didn't struggle in Libya. We had two gluten-intolerant ladies in the group and they survived too (though admittedly with the help of a lot of cereal bars and rice cakes they'd brought with them). Variety was good, prices ranged from ridiculously cheap in road side Turkish cafes to stupidly optimistic in 4-star hotels, but I didn't go hungry.Close
Written by HobWahid on 03 Feb, 2005
Tripoli is the historic main city of Lebanon, the city that, until the French period, was the main port of Lebanon and one of the largest in Greater Syria. That all changed, though, during the French Mandate. The French, wanting to establish a majority Christian…Read More
Tripoli is the historic main city of Lebanon, the city that, until the French period, was the main port of Lebanon and one of the largest in Greater Syria. That all changed, though, during the French Mandate. The French, wanting to establish a majority Christian state, overlooked Tripoli for Beirut as a candidate for the new capitol because of its majority Sunni Muslim population. Today, though, Tripoli maintains much of its spirit and is the most historically interesting city in Lebanon. With old souks, mosques, a Crusader castle, and a friendly atmosphere, Tripoli is perhaps my favorite city in Lebanon.Because of its position far to the north and because of its majority Muslim population, Tripoli thankfully escaped most of the ravages of the Civil War. Today, it is divided into the medieval town and the modern town, two towns with completely different atmospheres. The modern town (al-Mina), located out on a peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean, is a city in the vein of Beirut. It has towering office buildings and apartment complexes, chic restaurants and shops, and a much more modern flare. While there isn’t much in the way of history to see here, al-Mina is worth a visit for its restaurants and because of its lovely Corniche. The Corniche, though not as large as Beirut’s, is equally as interesting and the perfect place for an evening stroll on summer evenings, when local families come out to do the same.The Medieval city, dating from back to the Crusader era, when the city was a Crusader stronghold, is the far more interesting sight in Tripoli. The city itself is not as large as ones you will find in Aleppo or Damascus, but it is still an impressive sight. Its compactness makes it a little less intimidating than other old cities in the area and makes it so you can see all the sights in a day. There is no real way in which one should approach the old city, and the best thing to do is just wander - eventually you will stumble upon all the things you want to see. The city contains a number of mosques, the most impressive being the Great Mosque, as well as numerous khans, churches, and baths. One khan worth seeking out is khan es-Saboun (the Soap Khan) where you can see traditional soap-making practices and pick up any one of over 100 scented soaps for people back home (the mint and jasmine are my favorites).Hovering above the old city is the Citadel of Saint Gilles, a Crusader castle named after Raymond Saint Gilles, the Crusader ruler of Tripoli. While the castle itself is not as impressive as those found in Syria, it still is worth a visit and its position above the city makes for great views.Other than that, there is not much more to do than walk and perhaps stop at the Hallab Bros. sweet shop for the best sweets in the Arab world.Close
Written by SaraP on 05 Nov, 2003
Not much is known about Libya beyond the newspaper articles about Lockerbie and Gaddafi -- many people don't even know where it is! I thought a few facts and a little context might help . . .
Libya's total size is 1,759,540 sq km (about…Read More
Not much is known about Libya beyond the newspaper articles about Lockerbie and Gaddafi -- many people don't even know where it is! I thought a few facts and a little context might help . . .
Libya's total size is 1,759,540 sq km (about the size of Alaska) it's almost exclusively desert; it's saved however by its long coastline (1,770 km) between Tunisia and Egypt to the west and Algeria to the east (with Chad, Sudan and Niger to the south). A former Roman colony, as Leptis Magna and Sabratha demonstrate (see above), Libya (Tarabulus in Arabic and Roman Oea -- one of the three Roman cities -- "Tri" = three; "poli" = cities -- the other two being Leptis and Sabratha, both also on the Tripolitanian coast) has often been a spoil of war.
Its ancient heyday was between 46BC and 429AD when it under flourished under Roman influence; considerable magnificence is in evidence today (though sadly most of the splendour of ancient Oea has vanished -- the sole remnant is the arch of Marcus Aurelius and a few Roman columns in the Medina -- see Medina walk entry above).
It has sustained invasion by Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, the Knights of St John, and most recently Italians (who invaded in 1911), before finally declaring its independence in 1951. Shortly after, in 1959, it struck oil and reinvented itself as a wealthy monarchy but this didn't last -- within 10 years, King Idris was overthrown in a coup by Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qaddafi (Gaddafi). He launched what he called "Jamahiriya" (state for the masses -- hence the republic's official title, Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) following the "Third International Theory"; that's supposed to mean ruling by various democratic committees but, in practice, he has always ruled alone, an unopposed dictator, by reference to what he calls his "Green Book" (the Libyan equivalent of Mao's Little Red Book, available in translation in mainstream shops in Tripoli or at the airport), an alternative to Communism and capitalism, with adherence to Islam.
Gaddafi used oil funds during the 1970s and 80s to promote this ideology outside Libya, including supporting foreign subversives and terrorists to hasten the demise of Marxism and capitalism. Libya became an international pariah, blamed for both the 1993 Lockerbie bombing (2 Libyans suspected of organising the incident were handed over in 1999 for trial in The Hague under Scottish law -- in January 2001, 1 was found guilty of killing 270 people) and a French plane over Niger. UN sanctions were imposed, though relations between Libya and Western countries has gradually improved; they were effectively suspended in 1999 and officially lifted in September 2003.
Things are definitely looking up though -- whilst the country is still treated with considerable suspicion and caution (and only time will tell whether that continues to be deserved), the Libyans themselves seem to be doing pretty well and are a charming and unassuming race, in the main treating western visitors with courtesy and a marked lack of curiosity (which was a pleasant change from almost all other northern African states). The roads are fairly well maintained (though the locals drive like maniacs and a taxi ride such as from Tripoli to Sabratha or Leptis Magna/Al Khoms is not for the faint-hearted) and transportation not ridiculously expensive.
Gaddafi's most ambitious modern-day project is the so-called "Great Man-made River" project -- intended to bring water from underground deposits (some 2km below the surface) beneath the desert to the water-thirsty populace on the coast (where most of the population is concentrated). Stage 1 is completed and the inhabitants of the far east coast, including Tobruk, celebrated in style. Apparently though, neighbouring countries have complained that Libya's draining their reserves too and, moreover, that the water deposits will be exhausted in 50 years. Others say that the money would have been better used in funding coastal desalination plants -- Gaddafi is not to be gain-said though and the project continues . . .
Written by Our Nice on 27 Nov, 2007
A green forest hug great history over mountan so you speek about Cyrene in Libya so what you know about it .Founded in the year 631 s borders. M through some adventurous Alaghericokan Patos first Governor of the city, for a period of 40 years.…Read More
A green forest hug great history over mountan so you speek about Cyrene in Libya so what you know about it .Founded in the year 631 s borders. M through some adventurous Alaghericokan Patos first Governor of the city, for a period of 40 years. During the height of prosperity from agricultural and commercial activity in the fourth century BC.Now do you want more about it . Dating back to the city each successive empires on the rule of northern Libya Republicans Year 414 BC to Alexander the Great and rulers Greeks year 332 BC to Romans 96 BC to the Byzantines 324 to the Islamic conquest of 635 .and know you need to know Characterized by the city precinct and the Greek temple Snorter (Io) and the Temple of Apollo and other temples and Agora and the Shura Council, the citadel Alakraboles. At Covenant Romanian introduced some modifications to buildings constructed Greek and many new buildings, including Roman baths, theater and gallery Hercules and many temples and monuments, and the outer wall built centuries in the first and second birth, and there are several churches belonging to the Byzantine era.i hope you visit it one day Close