Today, on our second full day in Libya, we travel to the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna, 120km east of Tripoli.
It looks like Fatid (from Numidia Tours) will be our tour leader throughout our stay in Libya, and again, we also have a member of the Tourist Police on board. Part way to Leptis Magna we pass through a check point, and papers are given to the officials before we proceed.
Like Sabrata, Leptis Magna is a huge ancient city located on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a much bigger city than Sabrata. There is a huge arch at the entrance to the city erected by Septimus Severus, who was the emperor of the Roman Empire for several years, and who was a resident of the city at the time. There is a huge theatre, impressive roads, a harbour, and temples galore.
On the return trip back to Tripoli we pass through two more checkpoints. As we travel in Libya over the coming days, we become used to these check points. It appears Libyan citizens are not free to travel their country unless they have good reason to do so. I expect if their papers are not in order, they will be turned around and sent back at these check points.
Today on our first full day in Libya, we travel to the ancient Roman city of Sabratha, about 80km west of Tripoli.
Sabratha’s golden age can be traced to the era when four Roman emperors reigned: Antonius Pius (AD 138-61), Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (AD 161-80), Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (AD 180-92), and finally Septimus Severus (Ad 193-211).
Sabratha was part of the Phoenician, Greek and Roman empires, among others. The first thing you see as you walk through the gates is the Sabratha Theatre to your right across a meadow, with glimpses of the blue Mediterranean Sea behind it. This theatre is without a doubt the most impressive Roman stone theatre to be found anywhere, including the theatre in the sister city of Leptis Magna. It has been beautifully restored, and the location close to the shoreline of the Mediterranean sets off the beautiful stonework. Theatrical productions continue to be staged here today, and I can understand why, since acoustics are impeccable in Roman-designed theatres.
Despite everyone expecting to feel jet-lag from our long flights yesterday, the group did very well covering this huge site. I really didn’t appreciate the scale of this ancient coastal city.