Jan 172013

I had arranged with my guide the night before to pick me up at the (very quiet) hotel at 9 the next morning, and we had a decently long drive planned to see a couple of sights before returning to Tripoli for a short walking tour of the old city. As I mentioned, I was the only guest in the hotel but that didn’t stop them from setting out the whole breakfast buffet just for me. Fresh orange juice, breads, jams, cheeses, and instant coffee….argh. Somehow, I managed to survive on instant coffee for four days, which was a minor miracle in itself!

Our first stop for the day was the town of Zawiyah, located around 50km to the west of Tripoli. Between March 6 and 8, 2011 there were large-scale protests in Zawiyah, and rebels/protesters took the town. After some very nasty fighting Qadaffi troops took it back on March 10. Protests picked up again in a few days, and continued through August when Qadaffi troops were finally forced to abandon the city on their retreat towards Tripoli. All around the main town centre were buildings that had been heavily damaged by the fighting. A government building:


Believe it or not, this used to be a school before the revolution:


…another random shelled building:



Given it’s now been over a year since the revolution, it’s clear there’s still lots of rebuilding left to be down in Zawiyah.  Another interesting feature of the town was the pictures of revolutionaries and protestors who’d been killed in the fighting.

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We spent about 45 minutes wandering around the centre of the city, but beyond seeing the above results of the fighting for Zawiya there were no sites per se to be seen in the town.  We got back in the car, and drove roughly another thirty minutes to the historical site of Sabrata.

Sabrata was founded around 400-500 BC by the Phonecians, and reached it’s peak between 250-350 AD under Roman rule, and it was during the 3rd century that the remarkably-restored theatre below was built:

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As you can see in the picture above of the theatre’s stage, there was a political rally going on.  I know rule #1 of traveling in unstable places is to avoid demonstrations and political events, but my guide was certain it was safe, and plus…it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site so of course it would be safe…right?  The occasion for the speeches and rally was Libyan independence day.  This wasn’t the recent revolution, however, I learnt during the trip that “independence” meant from the Italians and the occupying forces after World War II – Libya’s freedom from colonial control  A shot of the people in the theatre attending the rally:


…and a short video of a local politician stirring up the crowd.  A bit of an adrenaline rush  😉


After watching the rally for a bit in the ampitheatre, we wandered the ruins. The strangest part was, like the hotel, we were the only people anywhere. Nobody else at all. These ruins were absolutely amazing, and if they were in Italy there would be thousands upon thousands of tourists everywhere. Yet, here, they were completely ignored. A few shots of the ruins:

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…and one self-portrait in front of the ruins:



There were a couple of spots where nearly perfect mosaic floors had also been uncovered.  Two views:

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Another panoramic view of the ruins:



…and finally, part of a wall that had been recovered in near perfect condition.



In total, we spent about two to three hours wandering the site…even though nothing was in perfect condition, there was so much to see that just slowly wandering the site you kept coming upon little surprises.  That, combined with the location right on the water, made it absolutely awesome to see.  My guide promised that if I was impressed by this, just wait until I see Leptis Magna in a couple of days.

After the archaeological park, we stopped at a Turkish restaurant (are you sensing a theme here?) in the town of Sabrata for a quick lunch.  Some sort of kabobs in a wrap, and again it was quite tasty.  It’s a good place to note that hygiene standards (at least in the places my guide chose) appeared to be quite good.  All the restaurants not only had washrooms, there was soap, and they were reasonably clean.  Not once did I get any sign of any foodborne illness the entire time…I was somewhat impressed!  Small miracles, I know.

We drove back to Tripoli after lunch, and by this point it was mid to late afternoon and we had just enough time for a short wander of the old city.  We wandered in and out of small alleys, taking in all the vendors and shoppers, but again not once did we see anything even remotely resembling a tourist.  Best I could tell, there just weren’t any here at all!  A couple of places we saw in the Old City (in addition to the Marcus Aurelis Arch I posted already).  A mosque at the edge of the Old City:



…and a random fountain:



After the wander, it was getting close to dusk, so we sat at a coffee shop and had some coffee and people watched for about 30 minutes.  It was just a five or so minute walk from the hotel, so I went back to rest up for a short bit after coffee, and then my guide took me to dinner.  I said took me because after I’d ordered (and he’d paid) he said his farewell for the evening “assuming you can find your way back.”  Yes, no problem, so I enjoyed yet more kebabs just off of the main square before calling it an early night.  Lots more to explore in the morning!


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