Fun things to do in Libya

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Libya

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    Tripoli medina - the mediaeval heart of the city

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jul 11, 2007

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    Much of Tripoli's charm lies within the walls of its small medina. The narrow alleys, many of them roofed against the burning sun) that twist and turn between the white-walled houses with their elaborate doorways, lead you deep into the heart of old Tripoli. You can walk here at any time of day or night, alone or in company as you like. You won't be pestered or harassed to buy in the busy souqs and in the quieter - and even empty - lanes you will feel quite safe. This is no tourist precinct - as so many old cities are these days - and although the medina has been through a period of neglect and semi-desertion, people still live and work here and there is now the beginnings of a conscious move to restore the medina as a living, working entity, not some quasi-historical showplace.

    Entering the medina through the great stone arch at the end of Green Square will bring you first to the a small souvenir souq ( even here you'll be left simply to browse in peace) and then on, past shop after shop selling exquisite beaded and embroidered silks and striped fabrics, suitcases and household goods. The gold shops seem never-ending while the laneway is cluttered with barrows selling everything from embroidered slippers to dishcloths. Past mosques and hammams; coppersmiths hammering out their dishes and pots, and minaret-topping crescents, by hand as they have done for centuries; shops selling handsome men's outfits, braided waitcoats and black felt pillbox hats; old men wrapped toga-like in their white berber blankets; women - mostly in modern hejab but the occasional old lady swathed in the traditional fringed white all-enveloping robe gripped in her teeth; stalls piled high with fruit and vegetables; an carpet-cum-curio shop - Berber blankets and rugs, silver teapots and clay lamps; an Italian church newly reconsecrated to Anglicanism ; a Greek Orthodox school; grand 18th European consulates and a blank white house wall painted with the signs of a beauty parlour - a hairdryer and pots of lotions and potions.
    Fascinating.

    Into the medina The copper souq Gorgeous fabric ... and winding alleys Covered souqs ...
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    Tea and toast ... Tuareg -style

    by TheWanderingCamel Written Feb 7, 2006

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    Take a tour out into the dunes and the desert and you will almost certainly end up taking tea by a Tuareg campfire. Bread baked in the sand - piping hot, fragrant, crusty and dense -and frothy green Tuareg tea will be offered. You'll be shown how both are made - the bread laid in sand heated by the coals of the fire and covered over, the sand bubbling like mud in a hot pool as the bread cooks beneath it until it is pulled, all covered in ash and sand from its "oven". A few sharp taps and a quick scraping away of the ash reveals the loaf which is then broken and shared - and there's not a grain of sand on it when you bite into the crust!
    The tea is made in a pot and poured backwards and forwards several times between glass and kettle, settling the fine powdered leaves and creating a froth that rivals a well-shaken Coke. Custom and good manners dictate that you must drink 3 glasses before you say "no more" - but it is delicious - sweet and fragrant.
    After tea, if you're lucky, it's time for music - drums and songs - before you leave the camp and make your way back to town.

    Kneading the dough The finished loaf Tuareg tea
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    Tripoli - Roman Oea

    by TheWanderingCamel Written Jan 25, 2006

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    Tripoli is the only city in Libya to have been continually inhabited since the time of its first foundation in something like 500BC.

    The city's mediaeval medina now covers most of the city, known as Oea, built by the Phoenicians and subsequently rebuilt by the Romans. No trace of the Phoenician city remains but a walk through the medina reveals evidence of its Roman heyday. The most apparent and grandest is the Aurelean Arch but keep an eye out as you walk through the twisting lanes of the medina and you will see pillars like the one here, set into the corners and walls of the mediaeval buildings there.

    The Aurelian Arch was built in 162-63 during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and marked the crossing of the city's cardo maximus (the main street running north-south from the harbour) and the decimus ( running east-west). Some of the relief carving on the arch is still in reasonable condition, and there are various pieces of architectural masonry in the garden around the arch.

    The arch is floodlit at night when it makes a wonderful backdrop to the very pleasant restaurant on the righthand side of the square.

    Remnant of Rome Roman crossroads
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    Tripoli - Mosques old and new

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Mar 30, 2007

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    Like all cities in Muslim countries, Tripoli's skies are pierced by the minarets of numerous mosques. The medina has no less than 38 , some so small and simple it is really only the minaret that tells you there is a mosque there at all. None are very grand but many have fine tile work, lovely doors and the different minarets all add their own touch.

    The Ahmed Pasha Karamanli Mosque, very near the main entrance to the medina, is the largest - though not the oldest in the old city. Look out for the tomb markers in the small courtyard near the entrance with their Ottoman-style turban tops . Five beautifully carved wooden doors and wonderful tile work are other lovely details here.

    The Gurgi Mosque ( seen through the Aurelian arch) - the last mosque to be built by the country's Ottoman rulers in the 19th century is both gorgeously and gloriously decorated with exquisite Moroccan stone fretwork and beautiful wood carving.

    The city's Grand Mosque started life as an Italian-built Roman Catholic Cathedral. The work to convert its outward appearance into something more mosque-like has only recently been completed. You'll find this mosque on Algeria Square in the Italian-era part of the city.

    Prayer time Tomb marker - Ahmed Pasha Karamanli mosque Ahmed Pasha Karamanli mosque Gurgi moqsue A new life
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    20th century Tripoli

    by TheWanderingCamel Written Jan 27, 2006

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    Despite Libya's often fierce resistance to the Italian occupation of the first half of the 20th century, the older parts of the city outside the medina still have a faded Italianate air to them - the arcaded streets and squares with cafes under their arches and white-painted buildings with their green shutters could just as easily be snoozing under the sun of a provincial town on the other side of the Med as here. A walk down one of the streets leading off the east side of Green Square will take you into this area of the city and lead you to the Grand Mosque where Islamic crescents have replaced the rooftop crosses that once marked this as the city's Cathedral.
    The Church of San Francisco has services in many languages these days, to serve the various Christian communities in the city - Italians, Africans, Koreans - but inside it still looks and feels like an Italian church. Coffee will never replace tea as the drink of choice here - but bread is often Italian-style, pasta is a popular dish and the ubiquitous "LIbyan" soup (offered at every meal) is minestrone given a local twist.

    Where am I? Shutters and balconies Church of San Francisco Cool arcades
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    Roman grandeur - Leptis Magna

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 28, 2006

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    Leptis Magna - once the greatest Roman city in all North Africa - must feature high on the wishlist of all who have a passion for ruins. Abandonment rather than successive rebuilding on the same site has left the city in a wonderfully intact state and the excellent and sensitive work done by way of restoration makes the city an absolute joy to visit. From the moment you walk towards the great triumphal arch of Septimus Severus - the Roman emperor responsible for much of the grandeur of the city - you know this place really is going to prove to be something special. Nothing about it lets you down. Even on the busiest day ( and a busy day in Leptis is probably something akin to the quietest day for decades in most major European sites unless there's a cruise ship in port) the city is big enough absorb all its visitors and leave plenty of quiet spots for you to imagine yourself back into the world of this beautiful place.

    Most tourists visit the city with a guide, in which case they'll probably be suffering from information overload by the end of the day. If, like me, you'd rather leave the tutorials to the classroom, you can easily get all the information you're likely to be able to retain from a decent guide book and your own reading. The great set pieces of any Roman city are there - the baths (Hadrianic), the Forums (the "new" Severan and the "old), the basilica ( Justinian's conversion of the Temple of Dionysius), Nymphaeum, Cardo Maximus, the Senate, market and theatre, temples and arches and the information a guide will give you about each and everyone of them will be exhaustive (and exhausting) but the real joy of Leptis is to walk the streets alone and think yourself back in time to when this was a thriving, bustling, and important, city.

    Grand entrance -the Several arch Gorgon heads in the Forum Brick and granite - the Basilica Daily life - the market hall Cardo maximus
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    A private place

    by TheWanderingCamel Written Jan 30, 2006

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    Not all of Leptis Magna is about splendour and the display of power and might. These Romans knew how a thing or two about grace and intimacy too, as displayed in the small bathhouse known as the Hunting Baths from the exquisite frescoes that adorn the inner walls. Here the scale is much more exclusive - this was a bathhouse for a small group of people to use, nothing like the great public Hadrianic baths. Like the harbour and the ampitheatre, they are situated quite a way from the main site and, as they are often closed, if your time is limited you should check to see whether or not they are open before striking out to find them.
    Even if they're closed but you have the time, do make the trek, they are wonderfully intact (the drifting sand that covered them for centuries was a great preserver) and, after the pomp and grandeur of the main site, they are refreshingly simple and satifying to see.

    The hunt Faded frescoes
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    Small pleasures

    by TheWanderingCamel Written Jan 30, 2006

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    Don't let your eye simply be filled with the grand - and the grandiose - buildings of Leptis. Take time to really look at the wonderful details, the small things that catch your eye - exquisite carving, sometimes as crisp and as fresh as when it was new, sometimes showing the wear of centuries of wind and sand; marble market stall brackets carved with dolphins - and grasshoppers; measuring devices for fair trade in the market - lengths for cloth and others for volume, ensuring the standards of Rome were upheld; fragments of inscriptions in clear Roman capitals - still one of the most beautiful and elegant scripts of all - or simply scratched into a stone - perhaps with a Christian symbol, a secret sign; thin Roman bricks behind a marble veneer; wonderful swirls of green and cream in a fallen column; a glimpse through an small doorway of arch after arch .... beauty and wit as well as form and function, these are the things that endure, that make the city come alive as a place where people lived and worked, loved and played.

    Exquisite carving Christian stone message Arch behind arch Gorgeous stone Fish market stalls
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    The Grim African

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 30, 2006

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    Why all this splendour in what was an major city but still not of an importance to warrant such grandeur? Leptis Magna was the birthplace of Lucius Septimus Severus, Emperor from 193-211AD, and on his being proclaimed Emperor ( a process that involved being tossed skywards on the shields of his army) and in a period of relative peace, he returned to his birthplace and set about a programme of enhancement designed to turn Leptis into a second Rome. Under his direction the harbour was expanded, the new Forum, with its fabulous Gorgon heads - some 75 of which remain - and the civil basilica (later to be turned into a church by the Christian Emperor, Justinian) were built, the Cardo Maximus was extended and widened and the city began to take on the shape we see now in its ruins.
    The jewel in all this building is undoubtedly the great Triumphal Arch that tells the story of Septimus' victories and achievements, his family and his place within the might of Rome. Spanning the entry into the site, it's the first thing you see as you walk down into the city and it sets the scene perfectly for the marvels to come.

    The bronze statue of Septimus Severan ( the Grim African) outside the museum is a modern reproduction, the somewhat more weathered original is inside along with a positive treasure trove of artifacts from the ruins.

    Septimus Severus - the Grim African Septimus Severus' triumphal arch
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    Seaside Sabratha

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 30, 2006

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    If Leptis is all imperial grandeur (Septimus Severus came from there and set about leaving his mark on the city with some gusto) Sabratha is the face of a very pleasant colonial existence. The coast is higher here so there are more sea views and the place was much smaller so things are on a more domestic scale. It's more ruinous than Leptis - a massive earthquake in 365AD wrought great damage on th city and being built of sandstone rather than limestone the ruins have weathered more - and gets fewer visitors - we virtually had the place to ourselves on our visit - gorgeous in the late sunshine. Apart from the theatre, which is fenced around, it's a very open site. There's an amazing amount of the original flooring left in lots of the buildings as well as lots of the marble facing on some walls -including the very splendid octagonal latrine at the seaward baths. Life must have been quite idyllic here - for the ruling class at any rate.

    There's a glimpse of the Punic city that predates the Romans here at Sabratha in the Mausoleum of Bel that stands out quite clearly as you move through the north-western sector of the site. It may be a reconstruction - the original was dismantled by the Byzantines and the stones used in the city wall - but it is well done and is very striking.

    You'll find the usual features of any Roman city here - Cardo Maximus, Forum, Civil Basilica, Senate, various temples, several baths ( the seaward baths are in particularly good condition and their location, overlooking the sea, is splendid), and a magnificent theatre. The ampitheatre, as is usual, lies at some distance from the centre of the city.

    Whilst the rest of the city is considerably weathered and you will need a guide if you really want to know the in and outs of it all, again there is much to be said for taking the place as it stands, making use of your own guidebook and the signs that are there and working it out for yourself.

    Punic mausoleum
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    Sabratha's glory

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 30, 2006

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    Weathered and worn as Sabratha may be, the city has one absolutely outstanding feature - its magnificent theatre. Begun in 190AD, it stood, and was in constant use, for nearly 200 years. The terrible earthquake of 365AD saw it fall into disrepair and ruin for some 1600 years until Italian archaeologists begain the painstaking task of restoration in the 1930s.
    Now the theatre's facade stands to its 3-storeyed full height, the beautiful carvings are all in situ around the great curved stage and although much of the seating is gone, it can, and does, accommodate audiences of 1500 for performances in an unrivalled setting of sea views and ancient stone.
    Around the precinct of the theatre there are two very well preserved baths - the Theatre baths and the Baths of Oceanus where the marble walling is particularly fine, though you will have to make your way to the museum near the entrance to see the beautiful mosaic of the head of Oceanus that once adorned the centre of the mosaic on the floor here.

    Spectacular theatre Three tier stage Stage decoartion Missing a head
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    Sabratha museum

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 30, 2006

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    Small but perfectly formed must be the way to describe Sabratha's Roman museum. (There is a small, separate, Punic museum at the site too but I wouldn't bother unless you're a student of obscure Phoenician bits and pieces)
    Stunning mosaics, a fragmented fresco of glowing colours and a column still with its deep purple painted capital looking as fresh as the day they were placed in the private house from which they were excavated fill the the eastern wing. More mosaics, including a huge one (the 'Peacock mosaic")of such intricacy and delicacy it's hard to believe it is made of millions of tiny tesserae; sculptures and bas releifs of gods and goddesses, grave goods - all set the scene for an appreciation of just how gracious and luxurious life must have been here for those at the top of the pile.

    Oceanus Peacock mosaic
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    Fortified granaries of the Jebel Nafusa

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Sep 16, 2006

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    The fortified granaries (qasrs) in the Berber hill towns of the Jebel Nafusa are both extraordinary and fascinating. There are three that are in a state to be visited by tourists - Qasr al Hajj, Kbao and Nalut.

    It was Eid al Kabir when I visited Qasr al Hajj and, unfortunately, the qasr was locked so I had to be content with a walk around the outsid, peering through the great palm trunk doorway. It was enough to see what a fantastic place this is. Built in the 12th century, it is he only qasr still in constant use. It's a huge structure, its outer walls broken only by a few tiny "windows " and the door I mentioned. Inside, the walls are built up in layer upon layer of storage rooms, used by the different families of the town as safe keeping for their precious crops of wheat and barley and such - and massive clay jars of olive oil. The old town is deserted now and the people of Qasr al Hajj have move to a new town up the road but the qasr, surrounded by a well-tended garden, is in kept in excellent repair.

    Kbao, on the other hand, is a wonderfully evocative ruin. Sitting high above the equally ruinous old town, the qasr here is also centuries old, a strangely organic pile of stone and mudbrick cells, piled one of top of each other as high as four or five stories in places. Some of the cells still have their old palm tree doorways whilst others even retain the platforms at the entrance that allowed the owners a somewhat precarious access. Totally abandoned now, the qasr is always open and entry is free.

    Nalut's granary is neither as ruinous as Kbao nor as well-maintained as Qasr al Hajj. Here a stone marker tells of it being rebuilt in 1240 and it was only finally abandoned in 1960. If anything, it has an even more organic feel than Kbao, the cells being built along two narrow alleys, some carved into the rock, others piled one on top of the other in a jumble of doorways leading into cells of all shapes and sizes. Nalut is kept locked but the guard is usually on site to open up for visitors.

    Qasr al Hajj Kbao Nalut Nalut - granary entrance Nalut
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    Ghadames -

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Feb 1, 2006

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    The ancient caravan city of Ghadames sits in a huge oasis on the northern edge of the Sahara, right at the point where the borders of Tunisia, Algeria and Libya come together. For thousands of years the city dominated the movement of the caravans that crossed the Sahara, bringing ivory and gold, precious gems and exotic animal skins, dates, spices and slaves, a cornucopia of valuable trade goods out of the heart of Africa to be traded right across the Mediterranean. Heading the other way were equally valued and valuable goods from Europe and the lands of the Silk Route.Ghadames was where they came together, the traders from the coast meeting the caravans from the south ... and Ghadames grew rich on the trade. The native Berbers converted from their pagan beliefs to Christianity and then to Islam as conquerers came and went - Rome gave way to Byzantium and then came the Arab conquest. Ottomans and Italians came and went too.

    Through the centuries at least three cities were built here - today there are two cities to
    see in Ghadames - the modern town of 10,000 lying outside the oasis, concrete houses with electricity, air-conditioning, satellite dishes and running water (more of that later) and the old city - a unique and wonderful place, well worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage listing.

    The new town is where you will find a bed, eat most of your meals, visit the museum -and internet cafe. The old town is what you have come to see.

    Ancient oasis town Enter the city... down shadowed alleys ... to small town squares ... out into the gardens
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    One world for the men...

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Feb 6, 2006

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    Life in Ghadames was lived on traditionally segregated lines. The covered alleys and open squares of the old city were strictly the domain of men. Here they would make their way around the city in the cool shade, the main streets lit only by small openings in the roof - the smaller ones quite dark with no nbatural lighting. Benches built into the walls of the main streets made good places to stop to rest or meet away from the fierce sun while the squares they led to were used for bigger gatherings and celebrations.
    There are several mosques within the old town including one, the Atik Mosque, which was probably the oldest mosque in Libya until it was destroyed by the Allied bombing of Ghadames in 1943 which destroyed a large section of the town and killed many people - and completely missed its Italian military targets! The mosque has been rebuilt but there are large sections of the town that are still in ruins.
    One of the most attractive squares is the Maziqh Square - generally called Al Tut for the large mulberry tree growing in there. Climb the stairs here onto the rooftops from where you will get a great view across the old town and an idea of how the women made their way around the city.

    Town entrance Through the souq... and the covered passages... Tut (mulberry) Square Deeper into the town
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Libya Hotels

See all 18 Hotels in Libya
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    When our KLM flight was cancelled on 21 Feb 2011 we were put in the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel, and...

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    Meseera El Kubra Street, Off Omar El Mokhtar Street, Tripoli, 10000, Libya

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Solo

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    Al Fatah Street - The Corniche, Tripoli, Libya

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Couples

    Hotel Class 5 out of 5 stars

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Libya Things to Do

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