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Libya Day II Part 1

Leptis Magna. Unesco World Heritage Site. Roman Ruins. The oldest blinking buildings I have ever seen. Things predating Christ by quite a margin. East of Tripoli, about 110km. Buried under sand for a millenia or so, excavated by Musselini in the 20's. Apart from his dubious associations in the WWII, he seemed to have accomplished one or two worthwhile feats, like unearthing the most prestine and well-kept ruins you'll live to see. 3km sq of cobble stone, marble, granite, ruins of such quality, it leaves you astounded pretty much the whole time.

But first we drove east towards Egypt on the highway. It's amazing. Tripoli is one sprawling, stretched out peace of urban development, all along the coast. You never actually leave urban or suburban areas. For more than a hundred km's it's just buildings. You pass into Al Khoms and other towns without realizing you left Tripoli. More on Al Khoms later.

Anyways, we arrived at Leptis Magna sort of suddenly. Most of us needed a toilet rather urgently and was surprised to find that the toilet facility cost us 1 LD. That is R6.50. The other option was having your hand chopped off for urinating in public or public indecency charges in a Muslim country, so we all sort of paid willingly. Then we encountered the charming ablution facilities. Libya's public toilet systems still leave a lot to be desired. In South Africa we're used to clean toilet facilities, especially at UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Well, here they seem to still argue, your crap, your problem.

Anyways, enough about the Leptis Magna tourism corridor, and more about the really really cool ruins.

Marc Anthony, I think, was responsible for a lot of these buildings. The arches in the back are still standing after two thousand years. The road leading through it extends for 1.5km right to the beach, where later I had an illegal swim. What is amazing of these ruins and its uncommercialised nature, is that you can still touch everything, get onto whatever you like, and really experience it. In the court area, I was able to go and stand still in the judge's chair. Inscriptions in marble, still as clear and refined as daylight, clearly showing the name "Marcus Antonius" is scattered through the area.

There is so much to see there, it is amazing. I was clicking away at like a madman. Finally we made it to the ocean-side, 1.5km down the site. Here someone had the idea to catch a quick swim. Only to be met by security after we got out to say it was illegal. But they were really nice about it. I've always wanted to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. I never thought I would do it from the African side. Well, I did, and the water was amazing. The rocks under the surface was scathing. After the quick refreshment, we went on to the slosh slosh to the rest of this huge site.

After seeing the main site, we moved on to the Amphiteatre, about 2km's away. But more about that, and the really nice little lunch we had in-between next time.

In "Long Way Round" with Ewan McGreggor, you can see some awesome footage of this site. Really it was amazing. 80 000 people living and working in this area. What became apparent to me walking among the ruins and the marble and granite and HUGE buildings, was that we have little grasp of how powerful and rich the Roman empire must've been. We don't have a modern equivalent to the ridiculous amount of money, man power and man-hours they had to their disposal to build such place, so far from Rome. The details in the walls and decorations, the mosaic floors, the incredible architectural details..., it gives me the impression the Romans must've been an exremely proud, and probably very obnoxious and arrogant, but very successful people. Their God-syndrome is very evident.

I wish I can post more images, but it's better that you go and see at


Sandy McMillan said…
Enjoyed your comments on Leptis and the marvellous photographs. Visited myself on Saturday November 28, but paid only quarter LYD for the toilet!
Danie Nel said…
@Sandy - thanx, it is an amazing place. Well done on getting a better deal for the ablution. Maybe demand/supply was at the right ratio for you.
Danie Nel said…
See Sandy's well written report on Leptis Magma at:

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