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Honeymoon in Libya

Libya. Warm sun, warm hearts. A great country with a great history, a country of breathtaking beauty.

High mountain chains are just one of the beauties of its fabulous landscape with green fields and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. The desert, watered by magnificent oasis, extends far into Africa. Fabulous villages and cities scattered amongst meadows, with oasis everywhere. Historical monuments forests, towering mountains...

...and a warm Libyan Arab welcome. Libya's strategic, geographical position and profound history make it a vital link between the eastern and western parts of the Arab world, and between Europe and Africa. The country has known its ups and downs, but the historical monuments are a testimony of the great Libyan civilization of old. Look at the engravings of the AKAKUS mountains, the drawings in the MATCHANDOUSH caves.

The cities of JARMA, ZAKAKRA, and SABHA' in the south, and the historical city of GHIRZA in the centre. Libya has played host to many civilizations, and has enriched civilization in its turn, with writings, drawings and engravings in the caves of TADRART mountains, and archaeological treasures from ATAFT. The Phoenician, Roman, and Byzantine ports of TRIPOLI, SABRATAH, LIBDAH, SHAH'HAT, SUSAH, TUKRAH, and TALMITHA. The old Islamic cities such as SIRT, DARNAH, and AJDABIYA, and other cities in the heart of the desert, including GHADAMES, ZUWAYLAH, JALU, OJLA, GHAT, and FEZZAN. Not forgetting the palaces and fortresses of GHARYAN, MIZDAH, AL-QARYAT, YIFRAN, JADU, NALUT, MISALLATAH, and AWINAT. The first site most tourists visit is TRIPOLI, Libya's biggest city, the queen of the seas.

It is an historical site. the city of Islamic civilization, Arab art and handicraft, where every monument tells a story. TRIPOLI has changed little since its foundation in the first millennium BC: it is still a lush garden filled with olive trees, palms, grapevines, and orange groves. The city has a wealth of old and new monuments. Travel east or west, to nearby LIBDAH or SABRATAH, and soak up all the history.

Shopping is a great pleasure, especially in the popular markets where you can buy a great variety of Libyan handicrafts such as traditional clothes, carpets, handmade gold and silver jewellery, copper and silver dishes, leather goods, and pottery. Every kind of aquatic sport is practised in the resorts along the coast, where you will also find the port of BENGHAZI, which combines magnificent buildings with large, open spaces.

benghazi

In nearby SULUQ stands the mausoleum of OMAR MOKHTAR, hero of the Libyan Resistance during the Italian occupation. Take the highway east to the magnificent cities of the Green Mountain: DARNAH with its falls and splendid coast; AL BAYDA', a quiet city high up in the mountains; ancient SHAH'HAT (Cyrene) and beautiful SUSAH (Apollonia), TULMAYTHAH, TUKRAH, RA'S AL HILAL.... Libya offers you two thousand kilometers of splendid beaches, and some beautiful small cities each with its typical architecture and special characteristics, like AUWARAH, TUBRUQ, MISRATAH, AZ ZAWIYAH, AL-KHUMS, and ZLITAN. Explore Libya's desert in WADI ASH SHATI, the plain of AWAYNAT, BRAK, MURZUQ, and the oasis of AL KUFRAH, ZALLAH and BAZIMAH. Then cool off in AL BAYDA' or near AL MARJ, or on the plain of DARNAH.

As you go further and further into the desert, all you meet are waves and waves, "the great sand sea", but then there are the refreshing oasis. The history, the monuments and tales told by the locals make this place unique. It is a feast for the senses.. The jewel of the desert is GHADAMES, a mélange of natural beauty, important monuments and a distinctive architectural style for which it is famous. Libya may be the land of ancient civilizations, but it also looks to the future. It is a country of peace. Libya, a land touched by history.

Destinations

Benghazi

Situated on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Sirte, Benghazi ranks as the second largest city in Libya and a major commercial center.

The city today displays little of its ancient heritage, as it was pretty much pummeled into ruin during WWII.
Benghazi makes a great base for exploring the lush Green Mountain area and the numerous Roman ruins along the coast, and there are good bathing beaches within a quick drive.

With a good pair of walking shoes, you can cover central Benghazi easily on foot. The covered souqs are open daily, but they really come alive on Friday morning, when the whole city seems to convene for a shopping spree.

The main covered market, the Souq al-Jreed on Sharia Omar al-Mukhtar, sells all manner of clothes and household goods, while not far off the street becomes a pedestrian precinct or small shops and cafes.

Leptis Magna

Leptis Magna has deservedly earned a reputation of having the most complete and impressive Roman ruins in the entire North Africa. Leptis Magna was originally a Berber settlement, whereafter the Phoencians made it into a trading point. From the 6th century BC Leptis Magna was probably subdued by Carthage. It became part of the Roman empire in 111 BC.

leptis-magnaWhile the setting of Leptis Magna cannot compete with what is found in eastern Libya, the harbour area is still very nice, together with Wadi Labna, even if it is almost filled with sand now. It is much because of the sand that Leptis Magna is so well preserved, for 800 years the site was entirely protected by it.

At the most Leptis Magna can have had as much as 80,000 inhabitants, and its splendor profited from the love the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) felt for his native town. Much of the best at the present site dates back to this period. The town had a steady base of income from slave trade, gold, ivory, metals, plus agriculture which was richer in those days.

The number of great monuments of Leptis Magna makes it a bit difficult to point out highlights. But the theatre is clearly one, and it has a splendid view from its upper tiers. Its diametre is 70 metres. Large parts of the structure has kept on to its ornamentation, and in the theatre there are many statues left.
The Hadrianic Baths are still impressive, and one of the pools, measuring 28 times 15 metre, remains intact. This bath house was one of the largest that ever was built outside Rome itself.

The circus, near a kilometre away from the main site, remains still only partly excavated. With its size of 450 times 100 metres it was one of the very largest in the entire Roman world. And it is the only of its kind in Libya today. Nobody should miss out on the important museum of Leptis Magna, now open.

Leptis Magna is added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, as one of 5 sites in Libya.

Sabratha

Sabratha, in the Zawia district in the northwestern corner of modern Libya, was the westernmost of the "three cities" of Tripolis. It lies on the Mediterranean coast about 65km (40 miles) west of Tripoli (ancient Oea). The extant archaeological site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Sabratha's port was established, perhaps about 500 BC, as a Phoenician trading-post that served as a coastal outlet for the products of the African hinterland. Sabratha became part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The Emperor Septimus Severus was born nearby in Leptis Magna, and Sabratha reached its monumental peak during the rule of the Severans. The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of AD 365. It was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. Within a hundred years of the Arab conquest of the maghreb, trade had shifted to other ports and Sabratha dwindled to a village.

Besides its magnificent late 3rd century theatre, that retains its three-storey architectural backdrop, Sabratha has temples dedicated to Liber Pater, Serapis and Isis. There is a Christian basilica of the time of Justinian and remnants also of some of the mosaic floors that enriched elite dwellings of Roman north Africa (for example, at the Villa Sileen, near Al-Khoms), although these are most clearly preserved in the coloured patterns of the seaward (or Forum) baths, directly overlooking the shore, and in the black and white floors of the Theatre baths.

There is an adjacent museum containing some treasures from Sabratha, but others can be seen in the national museum in Tripoli.

Ghat

Ghat is almost as far away as you can get in Libya, and it is very close to the centre of Sahara. Getting out here is perhaps the safest and easiest way to get that far out into the world's largest desert.

The old city is found on a hillside, but as many other places in Libyan Sahara.
The history of Ghat stretches back to the 1st century BCE, first established by the Garamantians (of Germa), as a defense to the south. Ghat was a central post on and important trans-Saharan route, connecting in the north to Ghadames and Tripoli. Ghat was ruled by its own sultan, who was, however, not an independent ruler, but subservient to the sultans of the Ajjer.

Ghat was captured by the French authorities of Algeria following numerous attacks into Algeria around the turn of this century by the local Tuaregs. Even today, many locals speak French.

Not far out of Ghat, the real Sahara begins. Stunning nature with the strangest mountains meet the sand dunes. The beautiful Acacus mountains to the east range not among the highest mountains of Sahara, but are by many considered to be the most beautiful.

ghat

Waw Namus

Few destinations of Libya demand more travelling than Waw Namus, but when you get here you are practically in the very centre of Sahara. And when you are in the centre of Sahara what would be better to come across than a crater lake? It is quite a drive south into pure desert from the village of Waw Kabir, before ascending the mountain of Waw Namus, which is an extinct volcano.

The landscape you eventually find looks almost like on the moon. 

Apollonia

While the ancient Greek port of Apollonia has had much of its structures disappear from landslides, it remains a very attractive place, although not impressive like is the case with Leptis Magna and Sabratha.

Apollonia served as the port of Cyrene, 18 km away, and the landscape between the two sites would alone defend the detour out here. Apollonia is a Greek settlement that is very much formed according to the topography, with a beach cut by rugged rocks, inland from it there are hills, all giving Apollonia a very nice setting. Apollonia has several churches, a small theatre carved into the rocks, public baths.

nalutThe museum of Apollonia is small and friendly, but there will be more exhibited here when excavations of Apollonia are more completed. Still the acropolis remains unexcavated. There are also underwater ruins, that can only be explored by getting a trip with a local boat. Snorkeling is sadly, but understandably, not allowed.

Nalut

With Nalut, the Nafusa Mountains really comes to its westernmost end. Nalut is perhaps the most rewarding of all ghurfa villages in Libya, with its twisting streets. The entire town is situated on an escarpment with a great view in eastern direction. The old town has a huge ksar, made up of 400 chambers or ghurfas, used mainly for storing and protecting grain and oil. The ksar is more than 300 years old, while the mosque, Alala, is even older.

Entrance to the inside of the ksar is through a covered tunnel. There is an admission fee at 1LD.

Nalut is now being turned into a centre for desert travelling, where still the majority of travellers are Libyans.

Source: www.libyaonline.com

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