Welcome to Libya
Tourism in Libya is an industry still in its infancy but one that is gradually growing. 149,000 tourists visited Libya in 2004, and this went up to 180,000 in 2007 (this contributed less than 1% of the country's GDP); there were 1,000,000 day visitors in the same year.
The country is best known for its ancient Greek and Roman ruins and Sahara desert landscapes. There are currently about 13,000 hotel rooms in Libya, a figure the government hopes to increase to 50,000. Libya can be visited as part of an organized tour, or on a transit visa, obtainable in either Cairo or Tunis. Archeological Sites Cultural tourism is arguably Libya's biggest draw as a tourism destination. There are five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, three of which are classical ruins. The Roman cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna in Western Libya and the Greek ruins of Cyrene in the East are big tourist attractions. One of the attractions of Libya's archeological sites, is that they are not as heavily populated by tourists as are other ancient sites in North Africa and southern Europe.
The Roman city of Sabratha lies 80 km (50 mi) west of the capital Tripoli. The port was established as a Phoenician trading-post around 500 BC. It later became part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanised and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, and was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. Besides the well preserved late 3rd century theatre, that retains its three-storey architectural backdrop, Sabratha has temples dedicated to Liber Pater, Serapis and Isis. There is a Christian basilica of the time of Justinian and remnants of some of the mosaic floors that enriched elite dwellings of Roman North Africa; the Villa Sileen near Al-Khoms is a good example. The mosaics are most clearly preserved in the coloured patterns of the seaward (or Forum) baths, directly overlooking the shore, and in the black and white floors of the theatre baths. There is a museum adjacent to the site which contains some excavated artifacts, whilst others are displayed at the National Museum in Tripoli.
Leptis Magna is the largest Roman city in Libya, and its ruins are some of the most complete and best preserved in the Mediterranean. The city is arguably Libya's biggest tourist attraction. Leptis Magna was originally founded by the Phoenicians in the 10th Century BC. It survived the attention of Spartan colonists, became a Punic city and eventually part of the new Roman province of Africa around 23 BC.
As a Roman city it prospered, with figures like Emperor Septimius Severus as one of its emperors. The city was sacked by a Berber tribe in 523 AD, and later abandoned and reclaimed by the desert. Although it provided a source of building materials to various looters throughout history, it was not excavated until the 1920s. Today the site has many monuments still intact. The theatre is the most obvious, and has good panoramic views of the city from its upper tiers. The Hadrianic Baths are another attraction, and one of the pools, measuring 28 times 15 metre, remains intact. This bath house was one of the largest that was ever built outside Rome. The circus, nearly a kilometre away from the main site, remains still only partly excavated. At 450 by 100 metres, it was one of the largest in the entire Roman world. It is also the only one of its kind in Libya today. The Leptis Magna Museum of Leptis Magna contains many excavated artifacts, as well as recent discoveries such as five colorful mosaics created during the 1st or 2nd century AD. The temple of Zeus in Cyrene, Eastern Libya Although Cyrene was later incorporated into the Roman Empire, it was originally founded in 630 BC as a colony of the Greeks from the Greek island of Thera. 10 miles from Cyrene is the port of Apollonia (Marsa Sousa). The city promptly became the chief town of ancient Libya and established commercial relations with all the Greek cities, reaching the height of its prosperity under its own kings in the 5th century BC. Soon after 460 BC, it became a republic, and after the death of Alexander III of Macedon (323 BC) it was passed to the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ophelas, the general who occupied the city in Ptolemy I's name, ruled the city almost independently until his death, when Ptolemy's son-in-law Magas received governorship of the territory. In 276 BC Magas crowned himself king and declared de facto independence, marrying the daughter of the Seleucid king and forming with him an alliance in order to invade Egypt. The invasion was unsuccessful and in 250 BC, after Magas' death, the city was reabsorbed into Ptolemaic Egypt.
Cyrenaica became part of the Ptolemaic empire controlled from Alexandria, and became Roman territory in 96 BC when Ptolemy Apion bequeathed Cirenaica to Rome. In 74 BC the territory was formally transformed into a Roman province. The archeological site lies near the village of Shahhat. One of its more significant features is the temple of Apollo which was originally constructed as early as 7th century BC. Other ancient structures include a temple to Demeter and a partially unexcavated temple to Zeus. There is a large necropolis approximately 10 km between Cyrene and its ancient port Apollonia. The Cyrene Museum also lies on the site. Tripoli The inside of the Gurgi Mosque in the Tripoli Medina. Tripoli is the de facto capital of Libya and was once known as the "White Bride of the Mediterranean". Throughout history, the city exchanged hands many times, and several historic mosques and other sites in the medina attest to this. The Turkish and Italian colonial periods left a distinctive mark on the city's architecture.
Easily the most dominant feature of Tripoli is the Red Castle, Assaraya al-Hamra, which sits on the northern promontory overlooking what used to be the sea - a motorway and 500 m (1640 ft) of reclaimed land now separate the two. The large structure comprises a labyrinth of courtyards, alleyways and houses built up over the centuries with a total area of around 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft). Inside, there is evidence of all the city's (and thus the citadel's) ruling parties: the Turks, Karamanlis, Spaniards, Knights of Malta, Italians and several others who all left their presence in its arts and architecture. Martyr's Square in the heart of Tripoli is where the medina and the Italian quarter meet.
The entrance to the Jamahiriya Museum is on Martyr's Square, next to the castle. These facilities were built in consultation with UNESCO at enormous cost, and the exhibits within are laid out chronologically, starting with prehistory and ending up with the revolution. The most impressive parts are the mosaics, statues and artifacts from classical antiquity, which make up one of the best preserved collections in the Mediterranean. The medina is the heart of Tripoli and provides the best sightseeing and shopping opportunities in the city for tourists. The basic street plan of the medina was laid down in the Roman period when the walls were constructed as protection against attacks from the interior of Tripolitania, and are considered well planned, possibly better than modern street plans. In the 8th century a wall on the sea-facing side of the city was added. Three gates provided access to the old town:
Bab Zanata in the west, Bab Hawara in the southeast and Bab Al-Bahr in the north wall; the city walls are still standing today. The Bazaar is also known for its traditional ware; jewellery and clothes can be found in the local markets. Unlike neighbouring countries, Libya is known for its lack of hassle in the souqs.
The old walled city also contains virtually all of Tripoli's historic mosques, khans (inns), hammams and houses. Other nearby attractions include the city's zoo and many of the nearby beaches. Since the rise in tourism and influx of foreign businesspeople, there has been an increased demand for hotels in the city. To cater for these increased demands, the Corinthia Bab Africa hotel located in the central business district was constructed in 2003 and is the largest hotel in Libya. Other large hotels include the Bab El Bahr hotel and the Kabir Hotel as well as others. Sahara Desert The Sahara desert represents more than 90% of the Libyan territories and is an important Libyan resource with many tourist attraction landmarks. This includes historic arts, agricultural, urban constructions and habitations in oases and desert lakes.
Such a diversity in desert tourist phenomena in Libya gives several opportunities to perform entertainment, cultural and scientific activities to satisfy the desire of the adventurer tourist and the amateur sportsman tourist through the desert paths. Moreover, the natural beauty distinguishing the Libyan desert and its calm, isolation and simplicity of life present unlimited photographic opportunities. The oases are considered in general among the most important desert tourist landmarks distinguished by their natural beauty. The oases are surrounded with sand dunes, and sometimes with lakes, which make all thereof distinct tourist attractive landscapes. This is in addition to the richness of such oases of their cultural heritage and old cities having distinct style, as the oases are the permanent green areas in the desert.
The most important oases in the area are Ghadames oasis, Ghat oasis, Wadi Elhayat oases, Wadi Eshati oases, Jufra oases and Kufra oasis. The desert mountains and hills in south Libya add other aesthetic aspects to the desert beauty. Among the most important and famous mountainous areas is Akakus mountains, located in the southwest part of the country, near the Algerian borders, extending north until Awinat area, and south until south Ghat, in parallel of Wadi Tenzruft. This area is characterized with the fascinating landscapes due to the natural caverns. It is distinguished also with its multi-colour rocks giving its very declined borders a fascinating beautiful view.
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