My Travel Guide to the Arab World
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Map of Libya

Libya

Libya in Arabic
Flag of Libya

Time zone: GMT +2
Capital: Tripoli
Area: 1,759,540 square kilometers
Population: approx. 5,8 million
Currency: Libyan Dinar (LID)
Click for Tripoli, Libya Forecast

Libya is a huge country of vast deserts and green mountains and it has the longest Mediterranean coastline of any North African country.

Libya's long-time isolation has made it a treasure for visitors looking for sites untouched by mass tourism. The country has a lot to offer, and has begun developing its tourism infrastructure, as plans have been laid to attract increasing numbers of foreign tourists.

Libya's geographical position serves as a bridge between the Middle East and the “Maghreb” states - the Arab countries of northwest Africa, to which Libya is culturally linked.

A note about visiting Libya: In view of the current serious security situation in Libya, any non-essential travel to this country should be avoided.




Road distances in Libya
From Tripoli to:
Ajdabiya: 855 km Misratha: 211 km
Al Kufrah: 1,713 km Murzuq: 918 km
Benghazi: 1,015 km Sabha: 776 km
Ghadames: 610 km Sabratha: 77 km
Ghat: 1,343 km Sirt: 450 km
Leptis Magna: 122 km Zuwarah: 118 km
From Benghazi to:
Al Baydah: 200 km Tubruq: 461 km
Al Kufrah: 1,020 km Umm Sa'ad (Egyptian border): 613 km
Derna: 291 km    

Tripoli

Tripoli is in the northwestern part of Libya. It is the country's capital, and its largest city and seaport. The city has a wealth of old and new monuments.

Tripoli in Libya
The small-town character of the old town in Tripoli.
(©istockphoto.com/Tobias Helbig)


The Old City

The old walled city of Tripoli, the Medina, dates back to Roman times. The basic street plan was laid down in the Roman period when the walls were constructed on the landward sides against attacks from the interior of the surrounding Tripolitania. The sea-facing walls were constructed during the 8th century.


The Castle

The castle, As-Saraya Al-Hamra, is located on a pre-Roman site in the eastern part of the old city and still dominates the skyline of Tripoli. The castle was once the residence of the ruling families, and contains public and private quarters. Any tour of the old city should begin at the castle, entered from the land side near Souk Al-Mushir. It houses a library and a museum and has excellent views over the old city.

The Castle Museum is devoted to the archaeology and ancient history of Libya. It also has a collection of materials on the Islamic period, and the top floor contains an exhibition of modern history.


Other monuments of the Old City

The old city has several other sites worth visiting. The old city walls are still standing and can be climbed. The Harbour Monument stands at the gates of the old city on the edge of the former Corniche road, adjacent to the castle. There are a number of restored houses, consulates and a synagogue in the narrow streets of the old city.

The Mosque of Ahmed Pasha Karamanli, is located at the entrance to the main souk. This Turkish-style mosque was built in 1711 by the Ottoman Governor of Tripoli. The interior of the mosque contains some beautiful stucco work. In a separate room are the tombs of Ahmed Pasha and his family.


Modern Tripoli

Modern Tripoli began to spread out from the confines of the old city as early as the 18th century and possibly before that. The city was further developed by the Italians, who built administrative buildings and residences for the colonial staff. The main commercial streets lie in the centre of Tripoli, and most lead off Green Square in front of the castle.

Shopping is a great pleasure in the popular markets, where you can choose from a great variety of Libyan handicrafts such as traditional clothes, carpets, handmade gold and silver jewellery, copper and silver dishes, leather goods, and pottery.


Leptis Magna

The Roman amphitheatre at Leptis Magna
The Roman amphitheatre at Leptis Magna.
This magnificent archaeological site is 120 km east of Tripoli, not far from the town of Al-Khums. Leptis Magna has a lovely picturesque setting overlooking the Mediterranean. Leptis Magna was originally a port, built by the Phoenicians in the first millennium BC. In the 6th century BC, it was administered from Carthage. It later became a Roman settlement.

The Roman emperor Septimus Severus (193-211 AD), was born in Leptis Magna, and the city flourished during his reign.

Many of the ruins from the Roman time have been preserved. Main monuments to see are the The Triumphal Arch of Septimus Severus, the Hadrianic Baths, the Nymphaeum, a detailed basilica and an amphitheatre.

The ruins of Leptis Magna have been extraordinarily well preserved, and constitute an impressive range of monuments. A visit to the site requires a full day. Visits during the summer months are not recommended, due to the excessive heat.


Benghazi

Benghazi is Libya's second largest city, and the main seaport in the eastern part of the country. The city has a more modern look than Tripoli, partly because the city has been rebuilt after it was heavily bombed during World War II. Benghazi is a major commercial and cultural centre. Although the city itself is not of particular interest to tourists, there are a number of beautiful beaches in its proximity which are popular with tourists.


Tobruk

At the beginning of World War II, Libya was an Italian colony, and Tobruk’s strategic position led to it becoming the scene of several military battles. In 1941, British and Australian forces captured Tobruk from the Italians. This prompted the Italians to call for German support. Germany sent panzer divisions, and laid siege to Tobruk until June 1942, when the allied surrendered. In November 1942, after the Second Battle of El-Alamein, Tobruk was recaptured by the Allies, and remained in their hands until the end of the war.

Tobruk is historically linked with the name of the German lieutenant general, Erwin Rommel, who laid siege to and captured the city during World War II. Here you may visit his underground headquarters, also used by Montgomery during the British control of the city.


Cyrene

The ancient Greek city of Cyrene is situated 245 km east of Benghazi. “Cyrenaica”, the classical name of eastern Libya, was derived from “Cyrene”.

Cyrene was founded in 631 AD by Greek immigrants from the island of Thera (nowadays known as "Santorini"). The city gradually developed into a kingdom, noted for its love of science and philosophy. Famous among the philosophers of Cyrene were Callimachus, Carneader and Aristippus. The kingdom of Cyrene reached its grandeur about 400 BC.

By 75 BC, Cyrene had become part of the Roman Empire. Revolts broke out, and the city's process of decline began. By the 4th century AD, Cyrene was uninhabited. The ruins were largely left untouched, until excavated by Italian archaeologists in the early 20th century.

This huge site basically consists of two main areas; the Sanctuary of Apollo, and the Agora area, which was the actual city centre.

This extraordinary site is situated in a beautiful, lush forest area in the Jebel El-Akhdar mountains.


Ghadames

Ghadames is a genuine desert oasis town, 680 km southwest of Tripoli, near the borders between Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Ghadames inhabitants are of different origins, many being Touaregs, the proud Berber people of the Sahara.

Ghadames offers a mixture of natural beauty, important monuments and a distinctive architectural style for which it is famous. The old town's whitewashed mud walls and corridor-like covered walkways provide a genuine experience of a traditional north-African Medina. The Jemaa al-Kabir mosque is another attraction, where it is said that the minaret can be climbed for magnificent views of the city.


Fezzan (the southwestern desert)

Oasis in Libyan desert
An oasis in the Ubari Sand Sea in Fezzan.
(©istockphoto.com/Amanda Lewis)
The villages of the Fezzan, such as legendary Murzuq, represent traditional desert oasis life yet untouched by mass tourism. For desert safari enthusiasts, the sand seas of the Fezzan are a challenge hard to match.

For excursions into the Fezzan, the starting point is the city of Sabha, the administrative capital of the South. There are daily domestic flights to Sabha from Tripoli.

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