Leptis Magna amphitheatre ©
*Libya is currently in the aftermath of a civil war, and is still struggling with rebel insurgency. Safety in Libya is far from certain and most governments advise against all but essentail travel to the country.
Oil-rich Libya has had a tumultuous history and many have wrestled for control of this fascinating and beautiful land. Tucked between Egypt and Tunisia, and bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, Libya has seen invasions by Turks, Vandals, Byzantines, Romans, Arabs and Italians; only gaining independence in 1951. These various civilisations have left their mark, particularly evident in the striking Roman and Greek ruins at Leptis Magna, Cyrene and Sabratha, though Libya remains quintessentially Arabic - evident in the Medina (old city) of the capital Tripoli, the nomadic lifestyle of desert-dwelling Bedouin and Berber tribes, and the language, culture and customs of the people.
Tripoli, in the northeast, is the country's main port, and is a bustling city dominated by the splendid Assaraya al-Hamra (Red Castle), a large palace complex, as well as the walls and gates of the Medina. Filled with orange groves, grapevines, palms and olive trees, the lush city is home to several interesting mosques, museums and historical sites, as well as modern amenities. Its ideal location on the Mediterranean makes it a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. Benghazi is Libya's second largest city and is chiefly more modern in flavour, having been all but destroyed during World War II, though one can still enjoy the lively local souqs (markets), and it acts as a good base from which to explore the neighbouring Green Mountain area, as well as several Roman ruin sites along the coast.
Libya is largely an undiscovered tourist destination, due to sanctions imposed on the country through its rocky political history, including participation in several acts of terrorism (including the 1988 bombing of a PanAm flight near Lockerbie in Scotland) and the support by 'Guide of the Revolution' Colonel Mu'ammar al Qadhafi of various international terrorist and revolutionary organisations. Sanctions, however, were lifted in 2003, once the Lockerbie incident had finally been resolved, and the Libyan government ceased production of weapons of mass destruction. This has seen a rise in tourism and an increased interest in the country, with a number of resorts springing up along its Mediterranean coast. Although 90 percent of Libya is desert or semi-desert, there are breathtaking oases to be discovered, ruins to explore, cities to investigate, beaches to laze on and of course, the hospitality and friendliness of its people to enjoy.
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