To look at this photo here, taken hundreds of kilometres into the Libyan Sahara,in the foreground the barren dunes of the Ubari Sand Sea and behind them the rocky heights of the Messak Settafet - the Tuareg's Black Plateau - you would never guess that lying between them is a fertile river valley. This is the Wadi al Hayat - the Valley of Life (renamed nowadays - its old name was Wadi Ajal - in Arabic, "ajal" means "the appointed hour" ie the hour of death).
The new name is certainly appropriate - the wadi is bursting with life, crammed as it is with fields of wheat and barley, orange and date groves, vineyards and vegetable gardens. This is the fertile heart of the Fezzan, a long ribbon of small oases fed by subterranean fossil water that lies very close to the surface - and the occasional flash flood - that has enabled agriculture to be practiced here for thousands of years, and that supported a Saharan civilization that gave the Romans a run for their money. Known as the Garamantes, they developed a sophisticated system of underground water channels (foggara) that enabled them to irrigate the land and establish themselves all along the east-west valley that runs right though this part of the desert. Today immense sprinklers and plastic reticulation pipes have replaced the foggara.- click on the second photo to see just how big.
Flying into Sebha at the eastern end of the valley, the sight of all this green below you (Photo 3) is truly amazing after the hundreds of kilometres of dry as dust desert you have flown over. Driving west, towards the Jebel Akakus, the fields stretch for over 150 kilometres before they gradually peter out into sparser pockets of green. Small villages along the way offer the tourist little beyond the odd general store, the occasional cafe and, at Taweiwa and Tekerkiba, campsites of thatched huts that make a good stopping place for anyone planning to visit the famed lakes of the Ubari Sand Sea.
If you are heading into the Sahara as part of your Libyan journey, there's a good chance you'll pass through Sebha at some stage. Situated some 800km from Tripoli, currently the city has the only functioning commercial airport in the Fezzan, Libya's south-western Saharan province, and most organized tours to the desert region of the Jebel Akakus make use of it for at least one leg of the journey to or from Tripoli to the Fezzan.
Libya's third biggest city, and growing fast, Sebha's importance is due to its being the air and road transport hub of the Fezzan, a military base, the centre of a remarkable agricultural industry in the desert - and the city from whence the Col Ghadafi made his declaration of the "Jamahiriya" - the rule of the masses - on March 2, 1977. 2007 saw the city hosting the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of that declaration, marked by Ghadafi's presence in the city as he took part in an unprecedented debate with Western political intellectuals. Arriving there a week later we found the city awash with portraits of the Leader along with banners and quotes from the Green Book in which he espoused his philosphies of politics and life.
According to the guidebooks, Sebha has little to offer the tourist other than a hotel room and a good hot shower before or after their desert sojourn (where good hot showers are few and far between). The Italian-built and one-time legionnaire's fort is a military institution, out of bounds and photographs are forbidden - the one here was taken from a privately chartered plane - don't try to do it if you're flying commercially. We arrived in a thick haze of desert dust, had our shower (bliss!), ate a rather indifferent meal, visited the nearest internet cafe, went to bed, woke up, had another shower and flew out early next morning. Libyan friends told us later that the old heart of the city is worth a visit - there's a souk with some interesting traditional crafts for sale. It will have wait until our next visit.
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.
Houses in Ghadames are made out of mud, lime, and palm tree trunks with covered alleyways between them to offer good shelter against summer heath.
Those covered alleyways can be visited in a complete atmosphere of darkness (pic 5) - in fact a danger tip for "claustrofebia" visitors.
The Punic Mausoleum. The overall form of the mausoleum is that of a tower (or "needle") tomb, between 23 and 24 meters in height. Two storeys high of which the principle facade is faced east and showing a relief of the God Bes (the tamer of lions).
Ptolemais has not yet been fully excavated because the site is very extensive.
A polish University started the excavations about six years ago. When it will be finished... who knows !
I visited the remains of the Basilica and the Amphitheater as well as the Museum, the Cisterns ( water reservoirs ) and the Triumphal Arch.
The Berbers live in scattered communities across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt and tend to be concentrated in the mountain and desert regions of those countries. Smaller numbers of Berbers lived in the northern portions of Mauritania, Mali, and Niger.
Living on the edge, literally, to defend themselve and save their belongings against the many invaders.
Don’t leave Libya without seeing Ghadames in the south-west. The "jewel of the Sahara" is by far the largest and best preserved in Libya. The Unesco World Heritage-listed old city is virtually deserted. It was a thriving place and one of the most significant trading towns of the northern Sahara. Ghadames receives, naturally, a lot of visitors, but when you are lost among the labyrinthine alleys it can feel at times like you are the only person in a city of Ghosts. It’s a time travel into history not to be missed.
Next to Ghadames - visit Nalut and Caboa aswell
Colonel Moammar Qadhafi has ruled The Great Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya) since 1969, and has created a system of government whereby the "state of the masses" govern through direct representation through a large number of People's Committees and Congresses.
One of his most famous dreams is the river project, serving water to the people or the so called "Great Man-Made River Project" is bringing water to the people and providing water for municipal, industrial and agricultural use in northern Libya.
This marble sculpture of the three mythical daughters of Zeus, personifying grace, beauty and charm, dates back to the third century BC.
Goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility. They ordinarily numbered three, from youngest to oldest: Aglaea ("Beauty"), Euphrosyne ("Mirth"), and Thalia ("Good Cheer"). In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae.
A thing to do is strolling around in the narrow streets of Ghadames. But if you have the chance, visit a traditional house inside. Respect the islam tradition, so take your shoes off, but enjoy the furniture, the colors and the hospitality of the inhabitants. They will offer without doubt a mint tea.
Picture 1 : Entrance, look at the door, made of palmtree wood and look at the door knocker.
Custom is to knock once, if you are male. Knock three times if you are female. This knocking tradition allows the owner of the house, he or she to cover the face.
Picture 2 : The honeymoon suite. Used only twice. After the wedding ceremony by the married couple. And the second time by the widow of the couple. She will stay and sleep in this room for 4 months and ten days. After this period the family knows that she is, or she is not pregnant.
Untouched by tourists for many years, Libya has a lot to offer and opens new frontieres.
It boosts some of the most beautiful and unspoiled desert areas of the Sahara, rugged mountains and some magnificent cities and prehistoric sites.
If you are looking for a real wilderness experience then consider the Wild Sahara trip. Here there will be several days during which you might not meet any other person in the desert and certainly at most campsites there will be no sign of other people. "The Acacus Trekking" program is the most popular destination. (This is a tip of my fellow travellers, thx folks, a pitty i couldn't join the fantastic journey till the end because of a wrong booking, but i tasted he Sahara atmosphere in Ghadamis)
For many years Libya has been almost completely untouched by tourists. Actually the country receives about 100.000 tourist per year- to be extented in 2015 by more than a million tourists All started about 5 years ago (The UN embargo was finished, the Colonel and leader himself looked at the west instead of the east and south. It boosts some of the most beautiful and unspoiled desert areas of the Sahara (95 pct of Libya), rugged mountains and some magnificent, ancient cities and prehistoric sites ans owasis.
Untill 2007, believe me, Libya is not prepared for mass tourism. Fortunaly or unfortunaly
Jebel Nafusa, western Libya, a treasure of Berberian traditions.
- Qasr al Hajj :
The way from Tripoli to Ghadames, by bus, is long (500km), but believe me you will be able to visit some intermediate places, my first contact with the Berberian traditions was Quasr Al-Hajj. One of a topic, next to Ghadames of course.
This village is home to Libya's largest and most spectacular example of Berber architecture, "en route to Ghadames"
The "Quasr"- Fort was builded in the second half of the 12th century
as a fortified granary for the local nomads ( you will see many of those granaries in the Nalut area)
Different from the many other granaries is that this one is not located near an edge of the mountains. It looks like an arena, but only one entrance and a guard (bookkeeper), day and night and paid by the local gouvernment.
There is still a small population living around the granary. You will find two graves near the village center.
- Cabao : The local guide showed us how grain, oil and other belongings from the nomads were stored in the granary while they were on the road, leaving the city for a couple of days or even weeks. He did a good job showing us the way of stocking valuables
While the ancient Greek port of Apollonia has had much of its structures disappear from landslides, like the great earthquake of 365, it remains a very attractive place, although not that impressive as Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Cyrene itself.
Most of what remains today dates from the Byzantine era (5th/6th century AD) when the city was known as "city of churches".
Duke's palace was once the biggest palace of Cyrenaica. The Byzantine governor lived here with his maitresse Theodora.
Apollonia was the harbour for Cyrene and counts 5 churches, therefore named the city of churches. The western church is located next to the entrance and gives an overview on the former defending wall, and the entrance of the harbour. You will need a little bit of imagination whenever visiting the rich archeologic sites, dating from the Roman/Greek era.
Churches, bath rooms etc. always had a floor and roof construction, nowadays disappeared.
But to understand the architectural "picture", just add those constructions into yr imagination.
The Apollo sanctuary is the last important part you can visit leaving the Cyrene sight
Enjoy history :
- The Apollo Sanctuary or the well itself (mystic history but so important for local customs)
- The Baths of Paris (Greek, Roman or Byzantian caves/baths)
- The Necropolis (spreaded all around in and outside the site)
- The Theater (minor attractive)
Meseera El Kubra Street, Off Omar El Mokhtar Street, Tripoli, 10000, Libya
Good for: Solo
When our KLM flight was cancelled on 21 Feb 2011 we were put in the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel, and...more
Al Fatah Street - The Corniche, Tripoli, Libya
Good for: Business
More Regions in Libya