We decided to head out at 9am again on the second day, since once again it would involve quite a bit of driving. The plan was to take the airport road south out of Tripoli, stopping by the ruins of the Qadaffi compound on the way, and then heading to the Nafusa mountains and the town of Garyan.
The former Qadaffi compound (known as the Bab Al-Aziza) sits on a roundabout on the airport road on the south side of Tripoli, right before you leave the main part of the city on the way to the airport. It used to sit on several square city blocks, taking up a huge amount of real estate. NATO airstrikes did quite a number on this place, but ever defiant, one of Qadaffi’s sons sneaked out through its network of underground tunnels and actually gave a press conference at a hotel on the other side of the roundabout. Eventually, near the end when Tripoli fell, revolutionaries burst through the gates and pretty much took anything that wasn’t bolted down. Now, the entire site is a huge heap of rubble more or less.
The remains of the main headquarters building:
The site of the former compound entrance gate which was stormed by revolutionaries. Not much left except rubble and a bunch of rubbish.
After walking around the compound for a bit, it was back in the car for the drive into the Nafusa mountains and the mountain town of Garyan about 100 km south of Tripoli. Garyan was taken quickly by revolutionaries at the start of the revolution, but quickly was retaken by the Qadaffi forces and revolutionaries didn’t regain control until near the end of the war.
The major attraction in the Garyan area was the Troglodyte dwellings. The word troglodyte has been around for over 2,000 years in its root form in north african languages, and literally means cave dweller. These people lived in underground houses/compounds where several families would live together. Part of the reason is this construction style enabled them to stay cooler in summer, and warmer in the winter. Nobody is thought to be living this way in Libya anymore, although there are still supposedly some people living in them in Tunisia. This is also what the houses in the first Star Wars on the planet of Tattooine were based on! The Libyan government has “preserved” one of these houses in the Nafusa mountains as a tourist site.
Some views from above:
We went down a winding path…
…and entered the courtyard of the dwelling.
Of course, there was a “traditional” room restored so that tourists could see just how such a family would have lived:
A view out of the courtyard of the dwelling of the sky above:
We spent around an hour here, a good half of which was spent trying to find the keyholder who could unlock the door to the courtyard and ensure that they collected our entry fee! It seems the custom is when a car approaches, the local children scurry off into a nearby town/village and round up the guy with the keys so he can wander over and unlock it!
Afterwards, on the way into Garyan town, we stopped at a local pottery market which was conveniently set up (it appears) for tourists. The only problem is…there wasn’t a single tourist anywhere, and shop after shop full of pottery. I did find a couple of fun ceramic mugs and a decorative plate with the new Libyan flag, so as a tourist trap it definitely didn’t totally strike out, and prices were somewhat reasonable.
We stopped in the town of Garyan to have a coffee to fortify us for the drive back. Across from the small “cafe” was interesting local graffiti of Pac Man in the colours of the revolution:
On the way out of Garyan, we took the “old road” out of the Nafusa mountains. This was much windier and narrower than the road we took up, and I think driving down the mountain took at least 3-4 times as long as going up. However, the scenery was awesome:
We got back to Tripoli early afternoon, and I just wandered around the city and I’ll admit – took a bit of a nap before heading out to dinner. My guide and driver showed up around 7, and I was given a choice of a “fish restaurant” or the turkish place we’d gone the first night. I wasn’t feeling like chancing a “fish restaurant” (it’s the one thing that seems to consistently get me food-wise when traveling in developing places) so opted to go back to the Turkish joint. I mean serious, who can resist cow’s liver kabobs?!