This evening we feasted like Kings;
Tuna on crackers,
'Munchy' sandwich with chocolate cream bars,
Immature Red and White Wine (Red and White Grape Juice)
It was a Libyan Degustation Menu and it was wonderful.
Since arriving in Libya, I have felt like a superstar, not since my visits to villages in Syria have I felt this welcome. Libya is a country of contrasts - dusty plains, beaches on the Mediterranean, grassy roundabouts and the ruins. Mama Mia, Roman ruins the Italians would salivate to have and the best thing about it for me is that there are no other travelers here. I can honestly say - it's all about ME!
The first thing most people ask when you mention that you're going to visit Libya is "Oh, but is it safe?" I can honestly say that I feel very comfortable here and although the whole border process was particularly long (four hours) due to an Austrian/Australian error (honestly Bridget you should have just drawn an AL on the Austrian passport and been done with it). The local people are inviting, interested, but not pushy. In fact since arriving from Egypt I have been amazed at the warmth of the Libyan people, but maybe that is because the temperature here is in the high 30s.
The heat can be overpowering, but since we are traveling along the coast, the breeze of the sea has been refreshing - except when we were in Tobruk.
Tobruk, the famous World War II site, was a place that between May to December 1941 saw intense fighting. Having visited it in the late afternoon, the heat was still stifling, as the sand seems to absorb the heat and warm the ground. The cemeteries that are dotted around this area (German, French, Commonwealth) are peaceful and quite moving. Many of the soldiers lie side by side with fallen comrades and the heartfelt messages on their gravestones often move you to tears. Poignant words like 'A Beautiful Memory Is All We Have Left' and 'He Was One Of The Many, But He Was Ours, Sadly Missed'. Each cemetery is well maintained and family members should feel a sense of comfort in knowing their loved ones are in safe hands.
But Libya isn't just about the North African Campaign, which saw brilliant commanders like General Erwin Rommel (The Desert Fox) or General Bernard Montgomery, but it is also about another type of history.
Libya is an untouched oasis. At the moment it is still isolated but it is the new frontier for the adventure traveler. Whilst walking around the Phoenician, Greek and Roman sites, I am often amazed at how there are no other tourists. Rather than the sound of hawkers, cameras and tour guides, you can stop and listen to the sounds of horses neighing, roosters crowing and birds tweeting. If I'm making it sound idyllic then that's good, because in actual fact it is. The Libyan people are a proud group of people who make this place what it is - but it is more than just a treasure trove of archaeological sites, which include Leptis Magna and Cyrene, they also have some fantastic bakeries selling baklava which would have been in the Degustation Menu this evening except for the fact we scoffed it already.
The only problem I have with Libya being so idyllic is that I know this will mean more tourists will want to come and visit, which although this will be good for the local economy, it may mean the loss of some of the charm that I have experienced so far. I know I'm being selfish, but I have enjoyed traveling with a very small group of "westerners" seeing these amazing treasures without any other tourists around, except for the local Libyan families who are also visiting the sites and who provide a warming smile and a shy wave. I feel like I have been given a secret, which not a lot of the world knows about. I want it to remain charming, untouched, a secret, but I know this is impossible. But then again, maybe no one will read this, so the secret is still safe with me¦..