About 70% of Libyans live in the large coastal cities of Tripoli, Misratah, and Benghazi. Many people moved there during the 1970’s to seek work when oil production started to progress. The government used profits from oil to improve farmland and to pipe water supplies across the country. In the same year, new industries were developed such as mining and food processing. Almost three fourth of the landscape in Libya is covered in the scorching dunes of the Sahara Desert.
The capital has grown to accommodate the workers coming from the countryside and their extended families by building high rise apartments. Pipelines carry precious crude oil northward to the Mediterranean coast. Oil and natural gas make up over 99 % of the country’s exports and from the base of its established petrochemical industry.
These are the top ten not to be missed places in Libya.
In ancient times, Leptis Magna was the third largest city of the Roman Empire. It’s like walking into Rome 2000 years ago with the addition of the sea in the background which gives the place a touch of charm and added character. Located 87 miles (140 km) in the eastern part of
, it was founded by the Phoenicians but rose to importance about 1,800 years ago during the Roman colonization.
The archaeological site is well maintained and contains many preserved artifacts of great historical and artistic value. As you walk through the streets you could easily imagine the splendor of the bygone era. Inside, you can see the impressive frescoes in the
Arch of Septimius Severus
(Roman Emperor of Libya). From here you can see markers that indicate directions for Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, and Africa. It is lined with ruins of old buildings and columns. Lots of walls and details are still in their original condition. There is also a spa with several pools of hot and cold water.
You can also visit the ruined market place, where you can still find the tools for measuring the amount of oil, grain, and cloth. The other highlights of the attraction are the theater, harbor, the basilica and much more. In short, the Leptis is an exceptional testimony of the past that will leave every visitor breathless. Amid its ancient ruins, it is surprising to find an ancient archaeological site that is so rich in cultural value, full of interesting structures and stands out in its perfect location by the sea of the
The Arch of Marcus Aurelius
It is a picture perfect setting especially when camels roam on the well maintained site of the Arch of Marcus Aurelius. Right next to it is the Green Square also known as the
. It is lined with palm trees and within walking distance from the hotels, restaurant, and the center of the city, the sea, and other attractions in
Despite its antiquity, the bow and the columns of the arch still look intact and remain in good condition. It’s interesting to see old houses in the complex. An antique mosque can also be found within its premises. The restaurants serve Libyan cuisine, Shisha smoke, and authentic Arabic coffee served in metal pots.
The garden is well taken cared of and there is enough space to roam around, take pictures, and make memories. It is nice to get through the streets and see its entire magical splendor in every corner.
It is located on the outside part of the
and even at night, with the light of sunset and beyond, you can suddenly find yourself faced with a beautifully preserved Roman arch that is illuminated by a warm yellow light. This moment of tranquility is joined in by the muezzin calls for the evening prayer. The blend of different cultures and seeing other foreigners paying respect to the solemnity of the place and the call to the faithful is an overwhelming experience.
Before the revolution, the Martyr’s Square (formerly known as the
) has a more or less chaotic parking at the entrance to the
located in its vicinity. Next to the Medina and at the end of the main artery of the city, this square commemorates the sad events that occurred during the Arab Revolution. It’s very large, well lit at night, busy all around, and serves as the starting point for a quick visit to the capital. It is used from time to time for national events and to welcome state visits by other world leaders. During the Revolution, this is where most of the mass demonstrations took place.
This square is now used for the Independence Day in Libya which happens every December 24. Since their new found freedom, Libyans still rally on weekends with a burst of fireworks at the end to celebrate their total independence from the military rule of Libyan leader Qaddafi. It is now pleasantly refurbished and dedicated to pedestrians, families, etc. The Green Square also serves as the main entrance to the old town. It is lined with banks, cafes, florist tents, horse –drawn carriages, traditional houses, and photo studios that are still in business. Everything can be explored on foot or by driving around on this historical square that highlights the true dimensions of the city.
This is the attraction that retains the charm of the ancient medina that is unaccustomed to tourism. Located at the side of the square, it is characterized by several narrow streets, old small mosques and a large souk where the trades of textiles, copper, silver, gold, and clothing are the masters. There are several small bazaars where it is easy to find special antiques. The
is very colorful and animated. It is certainly fascinating for anyone who has the time to stop and go quietly into the long and wide row of shops and specialty bazaars. It is a unique and timeless place filled with stalls, streets, and glimpses of another era.
It’s like stepping back in time as you enter, from the tailor shops, carpets and Pashminas, to the jewelry shops, the smell of the spice shops, antique trays, teapots and cups, and restaurants that serve the traditional mint tea with pastries, the Medina is the best way to appreciate the Libyan culture in all its simplicity. It is densely populated and full of shops of various kinds. The buildings are all decadent and in need of renovation, as well as the streets, full of holes and pitfalls. However, the charm of Medina remains intact because it presents the absolute truth of the locations and time. Some historical buildings and old monuments alongside the Medina are worth a visit.
Tripoli’s Jamahiriya Museum
Museum of Libya
was inaugurated on September 1, 2009 and exists as a veritable showcase of the country that wants to show itself in the eyes of the nation and the rest of the world as modern and international. The museum is located near the
. Measuring 3,000 square meters with 18 exhibition halls, the museum provides a broad overview of Libya. It contains important archaeological finds which testify to the historical path and the origin of the country. 3-4 hours is all it takes to understand everything in it.
The mosaic and stone that has been excavated from the
is a must see. The car that Gaddafi was using at the time of the revolution is also on display. There are also exhibits about oil and how it helps to support the economy of Libya now.
Picture taking is allowed in certain areas but with an imposed camera fee at the entrance. During the Arabic Revolution the building was partially damaged and destroyed, but it has gone renovations since then and is now equipped with modern amenities like, an interactive slideshow of the important events and chronological presentation of its political and cultural history that dates back as far as 600 A.D.
The Pottery Stalls of Gharyan
The city of
is about an hour’s drive south of Tripoli / Libya. From the capital city, a large ceramic market is in front of the roadside in an open terrain. Locals, as well as Tunisian and Moroccan pottery are offered. It is advisable to leave the car at one end of the market and pass once through the market and buy goods on the way back. After extensive shopping, you can eat well in Gharyan or drink coffee outdoors. The original name of this attraction is “
“, which means underground apartment. The unique dwelling consists of a central pit that is approximately 6 m deep from which horizontal spaces were dug into the soft layers. This bay apartment in Gharyan is still family-owned and you can get there to have tea or organize a celebration.
Cyrene – Al Bayda
The ancient ruins of
are one of the most beautiful sites about ancient Greece and the Roman Empire in Libya. The vast necropolis remains important on several levels. It is rich with exceptional archaeological sites such as the
. This site is not to be missed for all travelers passing in Libya.
To best enjoy the ruined fortress, a guide is necessary to gain factual knowledge and explanation about every part of the former Greek colony. The mystical
fort of Cyrene
is located about 1/2h drive away from the town of
. The remains are a little smaller but less restored and half swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea. A luxury hotel was built near the Apollonia site. From this point, you can see further east along the coastal side of Latrun. Do not fail to visit the two well preserved Byzantine Temples that overlooks the sea and many rock tombs.
More famous as the city of the oasis, the place is literally white all around. Most of the traditional buildings along the Saharan parts of Libya are made of mud and crushed stone and strengthened by long wooden beams. The
is an ancient place that is full of white wall painted plaster adobe structures and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The attraction is a good break to beat the heat of the
Most of the residents of this old town have moved to the new town on the orders of the government more than 20 years ago because of the lack of water. Today, it is surprising to see that there are business establishments that have flourished on this remote and withered old city. There are restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops for tourists. The Ghadames is worth all the trip and long drive in the Sahara.
The Roman Sabratha is situated about 70 km west of Tripoli, with a natural harbor in an excellent location on the seafront. It is easily accessible via the
. Once at the destination, you can walk through an impressive archaeological site. The three-story theater from the third century is particularly well preserved with approximately 5000 seats.
Impressive are the various mosaics and an upright column with its Punic lion figures. The bathrooms and toilets (marble benches) are particularly beautiful. The amphitheater for gladiators gives a very good idea of how Libya used to be during the Roman rule and occupation.
The path to the
usually leads via a flight to Ghat. Tours can be pre-arranged because of the necessary permits that need to be processed before you arrive. Because the site is near the Algerian border that is patrolled by their national guards and mobile rangers, the need for securing a permit in advance is a must. There is only one way to move into the mountains, but there are many routes. The Akakus Desert consists of a mountain which presents itself in all stages of decay. One of the highlights of this tourist site is the countless “stone figures” that were formed by the erosion. Furthermore, the entire mountain is surrounded by red to orange dunes out of which natural black towers made from rock naturally forms. Heads, animals, mythical creatures, oversized mushrooms, etc. extend over a seemingly endless landscape.