Sunday 1/6/2008 15 North Africa Times Travel LIBYA An Alternative Travel Destination O 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.