A few years ago, a quick jaunt around Gaddafi’s back yard would have been the traveller’s equivalent of bungee jumping on a rope your sister tied, but with Libya looking to re-establish itself on the international tourism scene - and a array of exciting and little-seen sites to be uncovered - the least visited part of the Mediterranean is becoming – dare I say it – fashionable.
From Roman ruins to Ottaman artefacts, cosmopolitan capital Tripoli is a classic Mediterranean port town. Drink sweet mint tea and soak up the exotic Arabic vibes, or stare through the palm trees at the towering sandstone walls that line the harbour. The overwhelming seaside columns and courtyards of Leptis Magna, meanwhile, are like a Roman ghost town, stretching for street after street through statues, facades, pools and even its own colossal amphitheatre. Nearby you’ll find newly built, affordable and stunningly intricate resorts along the rocky coast or nestled against sporadic, Disney-style Saharan oases.
Taking a camel out into the vast expanses of the Sahara can be a lonely but life affirming experience. Many head for Waw al-Namus, where towering black volcanoes and a turquoise lake - so attractive it could easily be a mirage - break up the shimmering, relentless miles of sand. In Ghadames you’ll find an old caravan town with whitewashed walls and narrow, repressive streets; a perfect place to hide from the overwhelming heat and top up your camel.
Then there are the Berber buildings, hollow and muddy shells of ancient storehouses and crumbling homes. There’s the fading ancient Greek town of Cyrene, the couscous and spicy fish soup, the colourful Tuaregs wondering the desert and markets, and the sweet home-grown dates served fresh from their towering palms.
While Libya’s new found love of the international traveler has made it an of-the-minute place to see, it’s still best to check the safety situation in advance, and avoid the border regions, especially those with Sudan. Go quickly, and beat the crowds to an astonishingly beautiful corner of the world that most still consider too dangerous to visit; it should be on their ‘must see’ list.