Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leptis Magna...Yes, It's in Libya

We've all seen pictures from Libya.  We've seen them on television and on the web and in the paper.  They're pretty scary.  I'll admit that.  But, have you ever traveled to a place that you've heard on the news is scary?  I don't mean someplace that you will be killed, but someplace that's in flux and just becoming a solid free country?
It's not what you hear all the time.  Sometimes, you'll go there and find people who are just itching to tell you their story of freedom and conviction.  Sometimes, you'll find people who want to know all about where you come from, because they weren't allowed to have contact with people from your country until last year.  Sometimes they just want to show you the beauty that you never get to see on television.

They call it Leptis Magna.  It is an ancient city previously inhabited by the Romans.  It's perched along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between Misrata and Tripoli.  Although the city has been around since the time of the Phoenicians, the Romans really made it spectacular.  Lucius Septimius Severus, a hometown boy became emperor and this was his favorite place on Earth.  It's probably the most in tact Roman ruins on the planet, and there are tons of things to see.

The theater is almost completely in tact.  It's almost as though it's just waiting for the people to arrive and the show to start.
The Four Season's Mosaic is just one of the many works of art that are still completely in tact from Leptis Magna.  The whole place is like an open museum.  It's a whole city lost in time.

You can see where the town forum use to be.
 The Romans even had bath rooms...well they had entire bath houses, but they're plumbing ideas were very forward thinking for the time.  There was a trough of water that ran below these seats.  You can figure out the rest.

They had roads, temples, basilicas, and many homes for their citizens.  It was a large city and a modern one for the time.  It stands today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is probably what has kept it safe during the Gaddafi era.  One of the perks of visiting the site of Roman ruins is the fact that it is in Libya.  Let's face it folks, there aren't a lot of tourists yet in this land, and that makes it someplace that isn't crowded.   Many times you can visit the ruins and have the whole place to yourself.
 Misrata, Libya  And then there's Misrata.  We're all used to seeing this city torn to pieces from the revolution.  It's coming along.  It still has a long way to go.  There are certain sections of town that look like a modern city.
There are other sections that still need work, but the locals are hopeful of their future.  The area is still largely in flux, because they are still in what they call a gray area as to where the country is actually going politically, but they hope that whatever is ahead, it is better than Gaddafi.
 The healing has begun.  As is necessary for any people that has been through hard times, the Libyans have made a War Memorial Museum to honor those who gave their lives for freedom.  This is not like any museum I've been to.
This museum, in addition to having many artifacts that they will protect for all time, has some things that you won't see anywhere else that I know of.  There are wall after wall of pictures of the people who were killed in the conflict while fighting for their country's freedom from tyranny.  They are honored in prayer by their visiting friends and family.  There are home made weapons out front.  It's the only exhibit I've ever seen of makeshift weapons from a war.  We all know that it was necessary for the rebels to make their own weapons, since there was no way to buy conventional ones.
I think the most shocking thing that I saw in this museum was the television.  They show footage of Gaddafi's  last days.  They show him being dragged through the streets in his blood stained shirt, crying.  It's sobering to say the least, but just like the museum at Auschwitz, it seemed necessary.  It's the victim's way of assuring that this will never happen again.
But what is it like to visit a place like  Misrata?  Well, you can visit the market, meet people, go to the beach, and enjoy the scenery just like you would anyplace else.  It's just that you will being doing this in Libya.  Isn't that enough to call this one an adventure?
So, get in touch with a Libyan tourism company.  Can't stress that enough.  You will need to make special preparations to visit this country.  I would only go with a local company.  There are tricky visas to get, there are language barriers, and the militia still has iron clad control over most areas of the country.  What does that mean?  Well, you will see people with machine guns in camo on the streets.  They are there for your protection.  There will be a ton of checkpoints.  They are there for your protection.  How dangerous is it?  Not as dangerous as you would think.  I'll be honest, I wouldn't go to Benghazi.  I don't know that I would spend a lot of time in Tripoli.  There is still a lot of unrest there.  But Misrata seems more calm and ready to move along.  The people are warm and friendly and love to tell their stories of triumph in the revolution.  It's a must see and do.

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