Only a few years ago, it

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Only a few years ago, it Powered By Docstoc
					 Sunday 1/6/2008                                                                 15 North Africa Times                                                                                 Travel

 An Alternative Travel Destination

         nly a few years ago, it        verdant mountainous peninsula              Health-wise - Malaria is a risk
         would have been difficult       which tumbles down spectacularly        in the extreme south west of the
         to imagine that some of        into pristine beaches and clean wa-     country in the spring/summer time
those arriving in the Libyan capi-      ters close to the ancient Greek site    and Schistosomiasis is evident in
tal would be American tourists          of Cyrene. Covering most of the         the rivers and streams, so take care
coming to see what this enigmatic       country is the Sahara, which is the     not to swim in them. Again, pre-
country has to offer.                   top lure for many visitors. The vast    cautions against sunburn and de-
   Let’s face it: the prevailing im-    expanses of awesome sand dunes          hydration should be taken, as the
age of Libya held by most outsid-       in southern and western Libya,          sun can get very hot here, as you
ers is hardly one of an inviting        dotted with idyllic oases and an-       can imagine.Visas and Documents
tourist destination. The country        cient rock art, are virtually incom-    - A visa is needed for travel to Lib-
only emerged from international         parable with perhaps the exception      ya for all western citizens and they
sanctions in 2003.                      of neighboring Algeria.                 are not the easiest to obtain as there
   But for someone like myself,            The tourism ministry has identi-     are not many Libyan Embassies
who struggles in vain to under-         fied more than 60 sites along the        around. Visa applications need to
stand why more than six million         coast which it wants to develop         be translated into Arabic and this
people every year choose to spend       with foreign partners, and is target-   can be done at the Embassy for a
their holidays in Dubai, Libya          ing three million tourists by 2010.     fee. Independent traveller visas are
seems to hold plenty of tricks up       That’s almost triple the meager         notoriously difficult to get, though
its sleeve if it wants to take on its   number who visited in 2007.             things are getting easier.
regional competitors and attract           There’s a Long way to go, but           Cost - Libya is not the cheapest
European visitors.                      drive around Tripoli and you see        destination in North Africa and the
   In many ways, it’s perfectly         evidence that people have faith.        official exchange bureaus do not
placed to become the next big           Dozens of small hotels are sprout-      give a good conversion rate. Un-
thing in Mediterranean tourism.         ing up, attracted by tax incentives     official currency changers on the
Next-door neighbors Tunisia and         and the rising number of tour           streets offer a much better rate, but
Egypt have already shown that           groups passing through the capital      you will attempt this at your own
it is possible to develop massive       before heading south to the desert.     risk. The Libyan authorities look
tourist industries which play a         There are Sheraton and Intercon-        dimly on these kinds of “crimi-
crucial role in the local economy       tinental hotels on the way, with        nal activities”. Daily costs for the
and create thousands of jobs. Mo-       more international brands expect-       budget traveller will have to be at
                                                                                                                         Zens Temple, Cyrene
rocco has done the same. Algeria        ed to compete in what is presently      least $80 a day to be realistic; this    to Tripoli and Cyrene is a ruined      the best examples being around
has bags of potential, but for now      a very lucrative market.                will include local transport, food       Greek settlement to the east of        Ghadames, a charming Oasis town
is simply too unpredictable to at-         So if Libya gets its act together    and a nights accommodation.              Benghazi. Both are captivating         close to the Tunisian border. The
tract all but the most adventurous      and provides its attractions with          The Sights - Tripoli, the capi-       day trips and the well preserved       mud brick housing around the
of travelers.                           the promotion they deserve includ-      tal of Libya is a fascinating place      sites are refreshing when com-         town really takes you back to the
   But Libya has arguably more          ing the Gaddafi-themed souvenirs         with some lovely examples of the         pared to similar sights across the     days of old and is a great place to
to offer than all of these places.      then it could well give the more        traditional architecture and culture     Mediterranean, which are usually       escape the crowds of the capital.
For a start, it’s safe, stable and      established Middle East tourist         of the region. Everyone who visits       packed with tourists. While the           Further to the south by the Niger
within a stone’s throw of Europe.       destinations a run for their money.     Libya will visit the city for at least   chances are you will share your        and Algeria borders, is the Acacus
It also boasts a staggering variety        The best time to visit is winter     a while and this is no bad thing         experience with a tour group, it is    Mountains which has some of the
of world-class attractions. The old     and spring when the temperatures        as Tripoli is its heart and it really    still possible to find yourself alone   best prehistoric art in the whole of
Roman city at Leptis Magna is a         are not so high and stay at a moder-    gives you an inside look into the        in your exploration, surely a dream    Africa. Organised tours can be or-
UN World Heritage Site and even         ate level. The summer time brings       odd totalitarian regime that runs        for Hellenistic and Roman history      ganised in Ghat, the gateway town.
in Italy would be classed as a prime    30C on the coast and as high as         the country. There are two famous        buffs. The superb desert scenery       Please note permits will need to be
tourist attraction. On the eastern      50C in the desert interior, a little    classical sights in Libya, Leptis        around the country is enough to        organised in Tripoli to visit the ex-
coastline is the Jebel Akhdar, a        too hot we think!                       Magna was a Roman ruin close             make you want to visit on its own,     treme south.

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