Could Libya, the African country ruled by dictators for decades and ravaged by riots for the last few months, be back on the tourist map? It’s hard to imagine this country as a tourist destination now, but you’d be surprised what awaits…
Can Libya rebuilt itself as an oasis for Western travellers after we’ve seen the bloody images of a civil war for months on the news? Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, Libya’s struggle to rid itself of a despotic government took ages compared to the political uprisings in its neighbouring countries. The road to rebuilding Libya will be a long one but there’s nothing stopping this Mediterranean country from getting back on its feet in a year or two.
Libya has it all
Sea, sun, beaches plus a rich cultural heritage. What more could you want in a holiday destination? It will take time to assure Western travellers that this country is safe to visit now that Gaddafi and his regime are no longer. The country has already begun the process of getting ready for new investors and tourism.
The country’s huge supply of oil will no doubt be an attractive asset to Europe and America as well as foreign investors. Add the country’s incredible ancient ruins to the mix and you’ve got yourself the next best African adventure destination.
Getting in was the hardest part
Libya has always been one of the hardest countries for foreigners to enter. Gaddafi and his government didn’t do much to make tourists feel welcome, quite the contrary. It was so hard to enter the country, you’d think they didn’t want foreigners to come and spend their money in Libya.
Previously American and European tourists had to apply for their entrance visas only through travel agencies which were registered and licensed in Libya. Then those travel agencies had to file the visa applications with the government, including the applicant’s passport and an Arabic translation of their personal details. Visas could only be applied for up to 14 days before the planned arrival date and often notice of approval wouldn’t come until two or three days before that date.
Libya was not exactly a stress-free travel destination, especially when it came down to booking flights to Tripoli and making travel plans.
Why go to Libya now?
Libya has been the home to so many different cultures over the years: Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Cathaginians, Arabs, Byzantines, Turks, even Italians. Each group left their mark on the country in so many different ways.
Leptis Magna – This ancient city’s ruins look as if the Romans just left it. Remarkably preserved, this is worth seeing even if you’re done ‘the whole Greece thing’ already. Being uninhabited for 1,500 years, Leptis Magna leaves little to the imagination like other Roman cities on European soil. The arches, gates, forums, market place, temples and baths are all still intact. It’s located 130km to the east of Tripoli.
Garamentes – The desert is ruthless yet the Saharan tribes survived it. They learnt how to live with its intense mood swings. Today you can visit caves whose walls were painted by the earliest Libyan tribes, believed to be 12,000+ years old. The hunters and nomads used to use these caves for shelter.
If Libya is quick to get back on its feet and resolve its political situation, it could be the next top destination for adventurous travellers. While there are few decent hotels now, it shouldn’t be too long for more to pop up as interest in the country grows. Thinking of travelling to Libya, learn some Arabic. Few Libyans speak a European language which could make it tricky for travelling in less tread places.
What do you think of Libya as a travel destination? Would it interest you?