"Art galleries in the heart of the Libyan desert"
The first person to coin this phrase was the German scholar Leo frombenius , after he had explored the huge masses of black rock at Birgiug, a large watershed that has now dried up completely , located in the middle of the Messak Settafet plateau, gateway to the Libyan Sahara.
Graffiti engraved on cave walls and rock paintings, like the series discovered at Ain Doua, created with a very refined technique, which document an almost tropical fauna of elephants, Giraffes, rhinoceroses, ostriches and crocodiles from the palaeolithic to Neolithic and even more recent ages, that are no longer to be found in this area.
But which also depict trees with long, slender trunks, large and small villages, shepherds with their flocks, cattle, buffaloes, and even a race of hunters sporting bows, with their huts and settlements.
Testimonies of a climate that through the millenniums has altered drastically to become both the cause and effect of the advancing desert.
A radical change in the bioclimate, but one to which man has known how to adapt to the point of creating and keeping alive to the present day an extremely fascinating and proud culture, known as the "desert culture"
Desert, however, is a word that cannot fully describe the feeling of space in the vast desert-scapes; or the myriad forms of plant and animal life that have put down roots there, and developed the necessary defence mechanisms in order to survive.
An infinite variety of landscapes, where areas of stony ground alternate with huge expanses of rock worn smooth by the wind (Hamada), salt deserts and dried-up lakes, and enormous sand dunes (called ramala, or idhan dy tuaregs ) that can reach a height of over one thousand feet!t!
There where the gazelles roam freely and the camels still render their indispensable service to man.
And where sleeping out in the open becomes an unforgettable experience beneath a sky of diamonds, brought within one's grasp by the rarefied atmosphere of the desert.
Every so often one come a cross huge depression, isolated mountainous areas resembling "bas-reliefs", and also dried-up riverbeds, the wadi, that their extreme temperatures: sweltering during the day and freezing at night.
The Libyan desert, in fact, penetrates deep into Africa in a south-easterly direction, following the ancient caravan routes that connected the oases of the Fezzan with Those of the Tibisti region and the inland areas of Chad
It also extends to the Al-Kufrah oasis, and right up to the Egyptian border.
Nature is made even more beautiful by total silence and infinite horizons, and stirred up in the spring and autumn by the whistling Ghibli ("south" in Arabic), the wind that has become a symbol of the desert itself.
A lake, surrounded by lush vegetation, flash like sparkling gems amongst the dunes, and the oasis is the only place where life is possible.
A haven of waving palms and cultivated crops, watered by aqueducts and open
Canalizing that irrigate the entire zone with geometric precision.
And where at night it is only natural to go out and listen to music, or watch dances
Performed by people who have understood that life is a wonderful gift.
It is no coincidence that Arabs in ancient times declared:" if amazement is the first step to knowledge, our desert is amazement itself."
Enough to say that Libyan, which is as big as Germany, France, Scandinavia, and Holland put together, is the gateway to the Arab Maghreb, and the link between Europe and Africa.
Is a country which, more than any other, has succeeded in remaining a virgin land.
Capable of offering tourists with a passion for archaeology and love of adventure, First-class hotel accommodation, impressive historical remains, unique landscapes, nature in all its glory, and striking contrasts.
From the poppy fields on the coast, that stretch as far as the eye can see, to the Artemisia and asphodel flowering on the Jifarah plain, the rocky desert of Al Hamada Al Hamra, the Akakus Mountains, the forests of Jabal-Al-Akhdar - the Green Mountain impenetrable stronghold of valiant Libyan warriors where water and falls abound, A "new" world that inspired Herodotus not without good reason - to say:". the new comes from libya."
In the time, in fact, the known world was divided up into Asia, Europe and Libya (which included the whole of North Africa); a world that according to Phoenician navigators sent on expeditions by an Egyptian pharaoh was surrounded by a mysterious, boundless ocean.
And there's a lot of sea in Libya: 2000 kms of unspoiled coast, its waters teeming with fish, overlooking the enormous Gulf of Sirt, Libya's inland sea, where tuna fishing is still widely practiced, and where it is no surprise to come across species of marine life that are extinct elsewhere, but which have found their natural habitat in these cam waters.
Beaches of fine white or golden sand, or crescent moons nestling amongst the rocks and an cliffs, where the loudest noise is the sound of waves lapping the shore.
And an ocean floor that is a spawning ground for gorgonias madrepores.sea anemones and the famous sponges from the Gulf of Sirt and Bay of Bamba, where Sea Watching and underwater archaeology buffs will be in their aliment as they lake an exciting dive into the past.
It was precisely along the coast that the major cities of ancient times, beacons of civilization shining their light across the Mediterranean, sprang up.
The coastal regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were slowly taken over by the Cretans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans, who declared them provinces in 75 BC, and finally by the Byzantines.
At first these settlements simply functioned as emporia, that is, ports and markets used for trading and for taking on supplies during long sea voyages, but later they were to become real city-states of primary importance, exerting considerable influence over neighboring territories.
Like Cyrene (Shah'hat), an artistic centre lauded by Pander and by Herodotus, who stayed there during his long journeys, founded in 631 BC by a group of settles who had fled the famine that was ravaging the city of Thera, and had located on the Libyan coast the eternal spring indicated by the Delphic oracle.
In the years that followed Cyrene became the most important Greek city in North Africa, but was subsequently torn apart by internal strife that paved the way for the period of Roman occupation, which reached its apogee under the Emperor Augustus.
Cyrene thus became the leading city of entire region, until a series of violent revolts in the 2nd century AD brought about its gradual and inevitable decline.
A history enriched by diverse cultural influences and events that live on in the
Unchanging majesty of the ruined Temples of Zeus and Apollo (sacred to the Delphic oracle), in the Tolemaion, the Theatre, and the monumental Agora and Acropolis.
Like Sabratath, founded in the 9th century BC by the Phoenicians as a trading centre, later to be absorbed- like many other cities by the Roman Empire in the 2nd century BC.
Sabratah is made even more magnificent by its imposing and virtually intact Theatre, whose perfect acoustics still permit the performance of shows, concerts and plays; it's Amphitheatre: Forum, and temple of Isis.
Or like Leptis Magna (Libdah),a Roman city that under the gens septima became one of the most prominent in the ancient world, in terms of strategic importance and city planning.
Libdah was founded by the Phoenicians at the mouth of the Wadi Libdah in the 1st century BC.
The city's architecture is magnificeny, even though it only dates to the 2nd century AD, when Septimius Severus, a citizen of Libdah who became Emperor, bestowed upon his native city the dignity it merited.
This gives us the possibility today of admiring the Amphitheatre and the Equestrian Circus, the Theatre and the remains of the Market, and an extensive Imperial area, near the Port and Baths, that Septimius had built, with its columned way, Forum, Basilica, Nymphaeum, and series of monumental Arches.
But Libya's silent treasures are something else.
We only have to mention Apollonia (Susah), the original port of Cyrene that became the capital of the region in the 5th century AD, and Teuchira Arsinoe (Tukrah), a city of Spartan origin that was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty, and later became a Graeco-Roman settlement and the most important Byzantine garrison in Cyrenaica.
Then there Oea, the Tripoli of today, and Euesperide, now known as Benghazi.
There is not one of the civilizations that flourished in the Mediterranean which did not leave its mark on Libya.
First came the Phoenicians, then the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines. But finally the tyrannical years of Byzantine rule ended in the 7th century AD when the Arab Muslims came to Libya to spread Islam, the religion of right and justice, and Libya became a part of the Islamic Nation.
A history that has its roots in the Garamantes culture, which actually goes back as far as 5000 BC.
Cities that are often located inside the oases, but always in a strategic position near the caravan routes.
At Jarmah, site of the capital inhabited by the ancient Libyan people.
And at Awjilah, founded in prehistoric times, which took the name of the family from the Arab peninsula who governed it for a long period.
The most important city of that era until the coming of Islam, it was used as a base for the conquest of the remaining parts of Africa.
A journey that could not but continues to Ghirza, a city that flowered in the 1st century AD in a semi-desert area, and went on to assume a leading position despite the Roman presence.
1ts ancient splendour is still visible in the ruins featuring sepolchres in the shape of a temple, whose style is rich in Hellenistic elements.
To then arrive at Ghadames, known as "the jewel of the desert", famous for its houses with their incredible architecture and decoration.
Where white seems even whiter, and the sky even more blue.
But Libya today also means modern cities, ports, airports, hotels, economic infrastructures, universities, centers of Islamic culture, and important industrial centers geared to change.
In Tripoli which actually dates back to the 4th century AD a cross-roads where historical events and architectural styles meet, encompassing the monumental
AL-Saraya Al-Hamra (Red Ffortress), which is in many ways a symbol of the city. And the chaotic, winding streets of the old town.
The sacred mosques, real gems of Islamic architecture, and the stalls in the Sug, one of the busiest and most crowded in the country.
In Benghazi, located between the sea and the coastal lakes, both highly-rated vacations spots. It is an extremely important cultural and economic centre, which plays a major part in administering the oil fields discovered in the Saharan hinterland.
Names that evoke different histories, diverse characters and destinies, but which all give the same meaning to hospitality.
A sacred word in the land of Libya that is so faithful to its traditions reflecting the spirit of the Libyan people.
You can taste it in the local dishes the pastries and the cuisine in general, which is a little spicy and quite delicious. Take Cus-cus, for example, a typical North African dish, or a traditional Libyan platter called Bazin.
Or choose from a host of other plates that are a real feast of fish, lamb, vegetables and rice.
In Libya you also sample cuisines from all parts of the world: the Middle East, Italy-or any others you might fancy!
You can see it in the handcrafts. Here craftsmen value age-old techniques that they still use to create, with loving care, exquisite hand made articles, like ceramics from Ghadames and the Fezzan, Kilim carpets, shoes and leather goods gold and silver filigree, embossed copper dishes, beaten brass trays, and magnificent cloths.
You can feel it in the folklore, where feasts and traditions of ancient origin live on, enlivened by music and popular dances like the Al-KASKAH, Al-Hatabah, the Jebel, the Bedouin dance and the sword dance, a stunning blend of grace and agility that symbolizes courage.
Libyan is all this. And more.
A world that still has to be discovered, so near to the heart of Europe and the rest of Africa.
It is maybe one of the few places in the world capable of offering all kinds of excitement to people who still have a heart, and the desire to dream.
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