Jan 192013

On day three, we once again got a not-too-early start at 9am for the drive to what was promised to be the highlight of the trip: the ruins of Leptis Magna. Leptis Magna is located around 130 km to the east of Tripoli, and the road is in pretty good shape the whole way. The drive took nearly two hours, but that is because the suburbs of Tripoli just sprawl and sprawl, and it was a good while before we were able to get any decent speed going.

Leptis Magna was initially founded somewhere around 1100 BC by the Phonecians, and really finally grew under Carthage around 400 BC. Around 200 BC it was conquered by the Romans in the Punic Wars, and that’s when it really began to thrive, and it’s that period that most of the ruins seem to be from, although some go back to the times of Carthage as well. Around 400 AD the Vandals conquered Leptis Magna, and it declined relatively quickly.

Approaching the ruins, the first ruin we came across was the Arch of Septimus Severus, built in the year 203 AD. It is restored, and thought to be a gift from the Emperor when he returned to Leptis Magna as a gift.



Continuing past the arch, the next area was the Plastra, a 3rd century courtyard for several different sports.  It was in front of the Hadrian Baths, built under Emperor Hadrian between 126-127 AD.



Of course, the baths wouldn’t be complete without latrines!  Anyone for a group poop?



After a bit more of a wander, we came upon the Old Forum, the Severn Forum, as well as the Basilica.  The old forum dates back to around 300 BC, while the Severn Forum was build in the 3rd century AD along with the Basilica.

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After the forums, the next area was the market, which was built under the Phonecians somewhere around 8-9 BC.  The round areas in the middle of the picture were kiosks where vendors would sell their goods.



Coming out of the market, we walked along a path that was likely lined with residential buildings that have yet to be excavated.  The path eventually went under two different arches, the arches of Trajan and Tiberius.  (There’s a joke, because if you take the picture in the other direction, you also get a TV tower, so it’s the ‘Three T Arches’ street.  I made the effort to get the pic without the tower lol.)



The final major stop in the main part of the city was the Theatre.


Built in the first century AD and restored in the 2nd century AD during the time of Emperor Agustus, it was where greek tragedies would be re-enacted.  It seated nearly 5000 people, and used to be filled with statues, but they have all either gone missing or been relocated to museums at this point.  A view of the stage in the theatre:



…and looking out at the audience from the stage:



After the theatre, we wandered back to the entrance area, where I went to some of the kiosks to buy a Diet Coke (made in Libya!) and some postcards while my guide to time out to go pray.  I had a coffee as well while waiting, and after a quick bite from the kiosk we got back in the car and drove about 2km down the road to the next part of the city which was recently discovered.

The ampitheatre was built in approximately 56 AD under Emperor Nero according to inscriptions found at the site, but excavation only began around 1960.  A couple of shots of the impressive ampitheatre:

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…and of course a shot of me in front of the ampitheatre:



We got back to the hotel around 3pm eventually, and I had a little bit of last time to explore the old town and markets, although I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy.  I got a coffee and wrote out my postcards (which still, 17 days later, haven’t arrived) while waiting to go to dinner at 7pm.  At about 630 my guide showed up at the hotel, and asked if I’d “mind” eating at the hotel’s restaurant since they’d “found some other guests for that night.”  Hmmm, ok, whatever.  It’s something new.  It’s worth noting from the time I arrived at 7pm until I left at 830pm, there were no other guests at the restaurant.  I was getting chills, runny nose, and cranky at this point, which I should have realised at the time were the first signs of a cold.  I just wanted to get back to my room, crawl under the covers, and sleep.  In retrospect, this is probably why I didn’t enjoy Leptis Magna quite as much as Sabrata, despite it being a much more impressive archeological site.  Anyways, a picture of the hotel restaurant:



…and the table setting for the set menu.  Note the plate of fried anonymous stuff int he centre of the table, lol:



Finally, the piece de la resistance, the “mixed grill.”  There was a pounded flat chicken breast and a similar steak, along with two very unusual meats that I couldn’t quite place.  One was some sort of small bird, and the other I’m pretty sure was lamb of some sort since it was on rib bones and looked kinda like a partial rack of lamb, but it shall forever remain a mystery.  This is also a good time to point out that every single meal I saw in Libya came with french fries.  No clue why, but there you have it.



By the end of the meal I was starting to have serious chills, and was actually thankful I was at the hotel restaurant.  Back to my room, wrapped myself in every blanket in the room, and turned on the small space heater.  It was around 10C at night and quite chilly, and the hotel was mostly stone construction so got pretty chilly.  Off to bed early, since I had to leave quite early the next morning for the airport.

  4 Responses to “Day 3 in Libya: Leptis Magna”

  1. Jason-

    The current issue of National Geographic is on all of these sites in Libya! Were you their tour guide?


  2. Hey Jason –

    Your blog and pictures are amazing. Can I ask you which company or agent you used in Libya? I was hoping to arrange a similar trip last fall and e-mailed several companies but either did not receive a response, or was told that they were not doing tours at the moment, or that the government was not issuing tourist visas, etc. I would go tomorrow if I could arrange a tour, so any contact info or suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks!!

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