The road from Sebah to Ghat (the main access route to the Jebel Akakus) passes through a string of small towns, the largest of which is Germa. Apart from being the biggest of the towns in the Wadi al-Hayat, the town, as it appears from the road, doesn't seem to be any more than yet another sleepy outpost with perhaps a few more amenities than the...more
That's the reaction of everyone when you tell them about the Ubari Lakes, extraordinary bodies of water that are to be found lying amid the barren dunes if the Ubari Sand Sea. These lakes fulfil the quintessential vision of a desert oasis - a calm, still body of water rimmed with palm trees and reeds and surounded by wave after wave of golden...more
Barren and dry as the desert is, there is still vegetation to be found there. A small variety of plants have managed to adapt themselves to the meagre traces of water available to them. The dunes are all but totally devoid of vegetation (watch out for tiny dics with a surprisingly sharp thorns though that seem to be everywhere in some spots...more
The Garamante people who dominated the Fezzan in the last years of the pre-Christian era introduced the camel along with the horse. First as a beast of burden and increasingly a mode of human transport as the desertification of the region increased, the camel came to be the defining creature of the last period of Saharan rock art. The Camel Period...more
Scattered on rock faces, hidden under overhangs, the rock art of the Jebel Akakus is an marvellous body of work that not only spans a period of some 10000 years but also tells the story of the changing face of the Sahara, from a time that saw elephant, giraffe, hippo and other megafauna roaming what must have been a lush savannah where man lived as...more
As with any civilization, the introduction of the wheel and the arrival of the horse brought huge changes to the Saharans of the Jebel Akakus. Now it was possible to cover large distances, to move people, animals and belongings quickly. Depictions of chariots (photo 1) and carts (photos 2)appear on the rocks and the era is known as the Horse Period...more
Over countless years, the sand-filled winds of the desert have created some extraordinary rock formations in the Jebel Akakus. Huge natural arches (photos 1 and 2) carved out of the sandstone, gravity defying pillars of black basalt (photo 3), a trio of massive rocks that look for all the world like some giant's loaves of bread left to prove in the...more
By the time things had moved on to what is now known as the Pastoral period (6000-2000BC), the region of the Jebel Akakus must have been an idyllic place. People were living in settled communities, cattle were domesticated (photos 1) and there was time for ceremony and ritual in people's lives (photo 2 shows a man blowing a horn, other in...more
The first depictions of man in the Akakus paintings is referred to as the Round Head Period and covers the period 8000-6000BC. Faded and indistinct as many of them are, there's a charm to these figures that I found very endearing, with their almost abstract forms and strange large headdresses. Hunters and gatherers in the early stages, familiar...more
For reasons of safety, permits to travel in the Akakus are only issued to a minimum party of 2 vehicles, so even though there was only MrL travelling with me, we travelled with 2 drivers and a cook. A journey into the Akakus means camp-kitchen cooking in wonderful surroundings at every meal - we also had an excellent cook. An hour or so before...more
No restaurants or other catering facilities exist. You have to bring what you need. The best thing is to hire a cook. He will fix everything for you. Couscous or pasta together with onions, tomatoes etc and occasionaly chicken. all served with bread, water and non-alcoholic beer.more
Whilst camel treks and trailbike safaris (photos 4,5) are two of the options on offer for getting around the Akakus, most people will spend their time here in a 4x4. Toyotas are favourite choice of the Tuareg drivers who operate in the area - Land Cruisers for the client and pickups for the gear. Some of the time you'll be driving on a hard piste...more
PermitsA permit is essential for any tourist vehicle wishing to travel within the Jebel Akakus. These permits are only issued to a minimum of two vehicles. Independent convoys are required to be accompanied by an official guide. Your Libyan travel agent will arrange this for you.When to goExtreme summer heat and bitterly cold winter nights mean the...more
Access The Jebel Akakus lies in the south-west corner of Libya, almost 2000 kilometres from Tripoli. Whichever way you look at it, simply getting to one of the gateways to the region - the towns of Al Aweinat and Ghat - involves a minimum of 2 days travel once you have arrived in the country. Getting thereAlthough it has an airport, currently,...more
... that's the nearest thing you'll find to a shop (photos 1 and 3) once you leave the towns and villages of the only road to the Akakus behind. In fact, we didn't find anyone selling anything once we left the road, and even in Al Aweinat we only saw one trader with a few items of jewellery for sale. I had bought a couple of things from the sellers who had set themselves up at the Ubari Lakes but thought I'd wait until later to get anything else .... mistake!!
We didn't get to Ghat, no doubt there are opportunities there in the souk to buy more, but if you're not heading as far west as that, and you see something you like along the way, my advice is to buy it when you see it.
What to buy: Tuareg "silver" (usually a silver/nickel alloy, with a pretty low silver content) jewellery and crosses (photo 2)on black glass bead strings and camels, gazelles and big-eared desert foxes; spoons and small utensils made of wood inlaid with "silver", tasselled and woven leather pouches of various sizes, calabash bowls , cloth and model palm frond huts made up the bulk of what we saw but as we only saw the one small group, I wouldn't like to say that's all there is. I would imagine the brightly decorated Tuareg mirrors and woven grass food covers seen elsewhere in Libya would be available somewhere.
What to pay: I bought a little fox and a graceful gazelle - total 25LYD. I had thought to buy some of the leatherwork later, but later didn't come for me.
This is not the place to bring your smart new suitcase - your bag is going to get very dusty - but do be sure you have something that seals very well. Desert nights can get very cold - even as summer approaches - so bring something warm but lightweight for chilly evenings and early mornings.Pack a hat and sunglasses - the sun and glare make both...more
The tuaregs, 'the blue people' live generally as nomads in the central Sahara. This caravan was found close to the Akakus mountains
Fondest memory: There's something about deserts - they really get into your blood - they certainly have got into mine. Don't ever think they're just a boring expanse of nothingness - the everchanging colours, shapes and shadows; the play of light and shade across angles and sweep of the dunes (photo 1)and extraordinary rock formations; the pearly glow of the sand in early morning (photo 2); the fire of the sun on the rocks and dunes at sunset; the brilliant clarity of the stars at night; a string of camels seen through a sandstorm (photo 3); the miracles of water in the desert seen at oases (photo 4) and wells;a veritable maze of different animal tracks around a rocky outcrop or a clump of bushes; long spells of absolute silence and stillness - so many magical moments and memories that will stay in the mind's eye forever.