Situated in North Africa, alongside Algeria and Egypt, Libya is a vibrant, reasonably multi-cultural country that has had it's fair share of disagreements with the West (particularly the US). The full name of the nation is The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, so you can see why it's simply referred to as Libya. This is not somewhere we've been on holiday, but Gibbo use to travel there for work. However, we don't question why some people would want to visit the country, as it has a number of significant historical sites. Plus the leader himself, Colonal Qadhafi, is always worth finding out about. If you are there around the end of September each year, the country celebrates its independance brought about by a coup in 1969. Colonal Qadhafi has remained in power since then.
Like most of Libya's cities and towns, Tripoli is situated on the Mediterranean coast, actually not that far from Italy, provinding a reasonable all-year-round climate. The rest of the country is basically the Sahara Desert. It's a vibrant and sometimes mad city with traffic and driving being the main cause of worry. It's a good mix between modern, stylish buildings and older, traditional souks. There's a couple of five-star hotels, including the very nice Corinthia Bab Africa (www.corinthiatripoli.com) - which is completely dry of alcohol like the rest of the country - is comfortable and has some great restaurants of different cuisines. There are also moden office buildings of government and oil companies (the main economic driver), but the rest is what you would see in other Arab countries ie. a mix of 'mom & pop' stand-alone variety stores. Like most places in North Africa and the Middle East, the place really comes alive when the sun goes down.
In terms of things to do, not that much. The Jamahiriya Museum, is housed in a beautiful old castle, which is worth a visit to find out about some of the country's history. There's the coast and ocean, but not any swimming spots that we know of. There are a number of old souks across Tripoli, all of which have a variety of goods, and many of these are housed in some great old buildings. One place that's worth meeting at, like most of the locals do, is Green Square right in the heart of the city. A big open place where you can sit and watch Tripoli go about it's business. It's also the location where the Qadhafi makes his speeches during anniversary celebrations.
Travelling around in taxis is reasonably easy and safe, although best if the hotel or business can organise one. Agree the price before you get in and don't be surprised if the driver looks about 12 years old. It helps to know some Arabic as these guys don't speak English, but you'll find a basic knowledge elsewhere. Food in Tripoli is very traditional Arabic, which is great and cheap, but there's also a number of other cuisines available driven by the immigrants from other African countries. If you are looking for McDonald's or Burger King, no chance.
Known as the biggest, best preserved Roman City in the world, Leptis Magna is only 130kms from Tripoli and well worth a visit if you like this kind of thing. With Libya still not being a main tourist destination (until they find out the value of it!), visiting Leptis Magna can be reasonably peaceful as opposed to somewhere like the ruins in Rome. Apparantly it dates back to something like the 4th century BC and has been very well preserved. In fact, as recently as mid 2005, archeologists were still making new discoveries! A number of tour companies from Europe will include this site on tours, or you can look up a local operator in Tripoli.
Amphitheatre at Leptis Magna Some of the expansive ruins
The stunning Arch of Septimius Severus
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