Politics and events can shroud a country’s richest assets from its image.
Say Libya and you think Gaddafi and civil war, or OPEC or Lockerbie. You don’t immediately think of a rich Mediterranean history and the Barbary Coast.
And I hadn’t either when I pursued a visa to visit my friend Carolyn, who is working for an NGO in Tripoli. But when she said the owner of the hotel where she was staying was eager to help because he wanted to promote tourism, it got me looking at the country differently. Skeptics who think that few tourists would ever want to go to Libya need only look at the ruins of Leptis Magna or Sabratha–each only a couple of hours from the capital of Tripoli–to change their minds.
Last Wednesday, I took a taxi to the town of Khoms to visit Leptis Magna, once one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman world. And it’s still a looker. On weekends, Libyans will come here to picnic among the ruins. But the weekday I was there, I had the entire place to myself. Not another soul around. I spent two hours of solitude, walking among the ruins, snapping pictures.