03/2007 - Libya – 1st part: the ancient and modern cities

2-week trip to Libya visiting Cyrenaica , Benghazi, Libya Qsar , Cyrene, Museum of Cyrene , Apollonia , Tripolitania , Tripoli, Jamahiriya Museum , Sabratha Museum, Sabratha, Leptis Magna , Leptis Magna Museum , Villa Seleen ,

After years of wait , I finally succeeded in in visiting Libya .

After a lot of research on the internet I chose an Italian agency that offered trips through their Libyan corresponding agency.

The quality/price ratio was excellent, although I would exhort the Italian agency – www.viaggioinafrica.it – to supervise constantly the work of the Libyan agency in order to avoid sudden and unforeseen poor services, as it happened .

After this introduction, let’s go to the beautiful Libya.

It is a superb country for its archaeological sites, both of Cyrenaica and of Tripolitania, and its desert part is exceptional.

And in the desert, with its magnificent and continually different views, we met a team of Tuareg (drivers and a chef) who offered us an excellent professional service and were very nice and talkative.

Unfortunately in Libya we found bad weather. I will describe it in the daily course of this diary.

Our Libyan guide, who spoke a perfect Italian, proved to be always very helpful …. and had the patience to satisfy our continuous unpredictable requests.

Being him a “freelance” I welcome the opportunity to suggest his name ( Hamza Al Bosevy ) and give his e- mail: hamztte@yahoo.com .

Benghazi is not an attractive city for tourists. We visited the Souq (marketplace) and Al Mukhar Museum; we saw the characteristic lighthouse and went for a walk in the nearby streets.

We left to go and visit the most interesting archaeological sites of Cyrenaica . Suddenly Libya betrayed us. The dreaded Ghibli, a warm wind, started to blow bringing the sands of the desert.

In the photos, I tried to show the “red ” present in the atmosphere.

We visited the magnificent mosaics located in the Museum of Qsar Libya.

There are fifty mosaic panels of exceptional beauty.

The Ghibli wind disturbed us a lot, especially in Cyrene. We chewed sand and our eyes were full of it, especially during the visit at the Gymnasium , the Basilica, at Jason Magnus and Hesychius’ s houses.

Then we entered the Agora where we admired the Temple of Aesculapius , the naval monument , the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore where  two Roman statues are opposite to two Greek ones .

Finally, the Temples of Zeus and Apollo where they grew the medicinal herb “silphium” that made ​​the fortune of Cyrene . Going down towards the valley, we met the Greek Baths, then we visited the holy city with numerous monuments among which the Greek Theatre stands out for scenographical importance.

Then we visited the Temple of Zeus , impressive and well preserved.

Due to the considerable amount of material discovered in recent years by Italian archaeologists , it was recently opened the Museum of Cyrene rich in findings of great historical and artistic importance .

The Ghibli wind stopped and the rain began to fall .

And it was under a pouring rain that we visited Apollonia. We saw the Western Basilica, the Central Church, the Governor’s Palace and the Byzantine Greek Theatre where the palm represented in all the pictures was  lying, dead , on the stage .

Tripoli welcomed us with a beautiful sunny day .

The Green Square and the monuments of the colonial area are all historically significant. Beyond them, it stands the Al Fatah skyscraper,  symbol of modernity , which is located not far from the Roman Arch of Marcus Aurelius,  symbol of antiquity. Nearby there is the Sidi Abdul Wahab White Mosque.

We made a very interesting visit to the two most important mosques of Tripoli : the Gurgi Mosque with a beautiful interior and the Ahmed Pasha Karamanli Mosque, which could not be visited inside, but full of  numerous typical courtyards.

The Suq (or Suk ) is divided into market sectors, each one has a name: Suq al- Attara , Suq al- Rabaa , Suq al- Turk . Each sector offers colours and glimpses of particular interest and I hope to have presented them at the best.

The Jamahiriya Museum preserves wonderful findings which belong to the Libyan heritage.

The museum is very well organized: it is divided into five levels, with an excellent lighting and a very good expositive choice.

We went to the west side of Tripoli to visit the wide archaeological site of Sabratha which hosts numerous monuments to be visited, all of special interest. I remember the Baths of the Ocean and the Baths of the Sea characterized by beautiful mosaics .

The theatre of Sabratha was the largest in Africa with a capacity of five thousand spectators.

It is particularly spectacular the backdrop of the stage with a triple row of columns, while the pulpit, absolutely magnificent, is decorated with very well preserved bas-reliefs.

The visit to the archaeological site of Sabratha ended with the Roman Museum , very interesting, and the Punic Museum, of minor importance .

In addition to the statues and frescoes, there are particular interesting mosaics which come from the Basilica of Justinian .

Then, we went to the east side of Tripoli to visit the archaeological site of Leptis Magna, a city with many monuments, all of exceptional beauty . I mention the most significant ones : the Septimius Severus Arch, the Baths of Hadrian, the Forum of Severus and the Market place.

The Museum of Leptis Magna is less interesting than that of Sabratha. Nevertheless, there are numerous artifacts and almost all statues are of great beauty, especially that of the God Neptune.

Finally we visited a Byzantine sumptuous villa, situated in front of the sea: Villa Seleen .

It is a big villa with many rooms, all filled with beautiful mosaics (unfortunately the state of preservation is unsatisfactory).


The visit to the Libyan cities, both the modern and the ancient ones, is finished.

I invite my readers to read the second part of the trip: Libya , Part II.



The photos of this trip can be seen in the musical slideshow through the following link:

www.viaggiaresempre.it – Libia 1^ parte