Libya – Leptis Magna

Libya certainly seems to have suffered more than its fair share of misfortune over the years.

I was there in 1988 for six months – not that I’m suggesting that was one of their misfortunes – which should have been a good opportunity to get to know one of those countries that chose to be rather secretive and closed off to the outside world. It didn’t work out that way, of course.

As Westerners, we found it very hard to penetrate Libyan society and, to be honest, we really didn’t try that hard. There were almost no opportunities for socialising with local people, we were regarded with great suspicion by the authorities (although so were most of the general population, of course), and so we ended up in our enclaves even more than is usual in most ex-patriot societies.

But despite that, I discovered that the majority of the Libyans I did meet were wonderful, warm-hearted people. A few were slimeballs, but the same goes for the Westerners – many were great folk, but a few of them were also slimeballs, including the so-called friend who amused himself one evening by spiking my drinks with near-neat alcohol, knowing I was driving home afterwards. If by any freak of chance you ever read this, Shaun, you really are a shit.

It was always said that, as unpleasant and bad as Gaddafi undoubtedly was, there were others around him who were even more seriously dangerous and unhinged. Unfortunately, it seems that a number of them and their colleagues are still wreaking havoc in the country, along with the twisted followers of Isis and various other militias.

But the purpose of this post is to put up some photos that I took in Leptis Magna, which was a huge Roman city a couple of thousand years ago, and is located on the Mediterranean coast near the town of al Khums, some 125 km east of Tripoli. It is the largest extant Roman city outside of Turkey, and is a Unesco designated World Heritage site. I had visited Rome in the past, and I was astonished to see the extent of the remains at this site, which easily dwarfed those in the Roman capital.

Libya was certainly a place where I generally felt uncomfortable taking photos, and so I took very few other than these ones. The quality of the photographs, though, are generally very poor, I’m afraid, since all I took with me was an incredibly cheap camera. I was warned that there was a good chance that anything you took into Libya might get confiscated or simply stolen. The prints have also faded badly over time, and so these are presented purely for general interest.

I do have some more photos of Leptis Magna somewhere, which might be in better condition, so I will try to hunt them out for another time.

Leptis Magna is another one of those ancient sites that is under threat of destruction by the fanatics of Isis, and although I have followed quite a few threads on the internet, I am unable to find out whether there has been any actual destruction there yet. What I do know is that a group of very brave Libyans have formed a kind of militia to protect the ruins. I can only hope that they, and the ruins, are all well.

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Roman  Amphitheatre

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Roman basilica – converted to a church in the fourth century AD

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Roman baths

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Along a Roman street…

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Through doorways and buildings…

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…and along another Roman street.

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60 thoughts on “Libya – Leptis Magna

  1. Absolutely stunning, Mick – I really had no idea! I looked into it further and learned that the city was devastated by the tsunami caused by the undersea Cretan earthquake of 365. I also learned that some of the ruins are now located in Windsor Great Park, for goodness sake!

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    1. Blimey, Hariod, I certainly had no idea of that! Probably that Lord Elgin fellow, again. I’ll have to look it up, too.

      But the site is (or, at least, was) certainly more stunning than my poor photos suggest. If I can locate the others, I hope that the colours have faded less even if they are slightly fuzzy, too.

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        1. Thank YOU, H. Most informative. Next time I am at Virginia Water I will check it out. Once, when I was very young ( well 15) I cycled there with my friend Alex to see if we could bump into Elton John. We never did, but I wonder why I didn’t notice the ruins back then……

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                1. Yes I know, its tripe isn’t it. I saw it when it was posted but couldn’t find the edit button. Mike was too polite to alter it, and so it became a guessing puzzle for those ” more bright!”. I think I meant to put ” some less Brighter Bloggers ( say that after a drink or six!) might believe you. Anyway the moment has passed. Another missed moment from the office of JV. 😦

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                    1. I wanted to say, nah, half of cider and leave it at that.. but in truth I am rather partial to both of those….Bombay is less calorific and as you have all seen the size of my a**e, then you will know I should be sticking to the Gin. Thank you for not suggesting I am a chardonnay girl… hic hic

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                    2. Good grief girl – Chardonnay? – never! Although actually, there is one good use for it if ever you’re lumbered with a bottle, and which will sound terribly bourgeois of me, but anyway: organic carrots with thyme, slow-braised in Chardonnay (no water).

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                    3. yes, Lidl ( you probably don’t know that place, H, but its similar to Waitrose without the Bull Sh8t prices,) does some lovely organic carrots but I didn’t know about the herbs and wine. Lovely and I shall try some tonight…..if you think that it may be ok to substitute chardonnay for Blue Nun!! 🙂

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                    4. Oh yes, there’s a Lidl in Glastonbury, and an Aldi in Shepton Mallet. Waitrose is over in Wells but I only go in there if I’m visiting the cathedral for some musical event. Tesco’s is for nutters in pyjamas so I tend to avoid that unless desperate. Blue Nun – yes, that would work; got a bottle left over from the sixties have you?

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  2. I just hope the fanatics don’t destroy the ruins, Mick. I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about the Buddhas of Bamiyan being destroyed by the Taliban. It’s nothing new, of course. Iconoclasts and fanatics of one kind or another have been indulging in the same kind of mindless destruction throughout history. Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better about it, however.

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  3. I thought your photographs were pretty good actually, Mick. I could still see the both the beauty and the tragedy in these ruins. The Libyans have done really well to have preserved them this well in the given circumstances.

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    1. Thanks, Ellie. But, yes. They’ve done well to even preserve any sort of society under the dreadful conditions there now, unfortunately. That some of them are willing to risk the dangers inherent in protecting these monuments under the present circumstances is little short of heroic!

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  4. Amazing that it’s still in such good shape! The Romans were something. I wish I could travel back in time and see these places intact. I hope they don’t get destroyed. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Thanks for sharing, Mick.

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  5. They are wonderful pictures and I love the remnants of an age old civilisation. I have shown your Blog to my Libyan student and we are discussing the pros and cons of a dictator. I think its all a terrible shame… bit like Persia really. Anyway, more in a minute.

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  6. Nice shots – I didn’t know there were Roman ruins of this magnitude in Libya. Hopefully those ISIS idiots don’t get the idea there’s some religious connotation to them and bomb them too.

    One wonders what current artifacts of ours will survive 2000 years from now?

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  7. Thanks for sharing the photos, Mick! I hope that things improve in Libya, as well as other countries that are struggling with living under oppression. Sometimes we forget just how good we have it, and a reminder does us some good.

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  8. I replied earlier today and someone came into my office and I closed the window. Cant be seen doing this in office time 😦 I had a friend who worked there ( for an American oil company) in the 1970’s. She said they had great fun as Ex Pats etc but of course no real mixing with locals which she was disappointed about. They were ferried around in the car. Lots of being followed as well, but that was just par for the course. I daresay you found that as well. However my Libyan students see their country falling apart and cry. They now feel that awful though the Dictator was, he did keep the country stable; they had food; water; electricity and access to Banks. No they have nothing – not even an airport! They both wish for the return of the old days, even though Alaedene at 17years snuck out of the bedroom window and ran away to fight the Uprising. However the pictures are lovely and its still fascinating. I do hope that the fools now running around destroying everything will stop and appreciate what they have before its too late. Libya is a beautiful country – or it was. Lets hope someone stops this madness soon… in the meantime, if you have more pictures I would be delighted to see them please ( well, after you have written your next chapter 🙂 )

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    1. That does sound very much like my experience. I wonder which oil company that was your friend worked for? Perhaps the same one as sent me out there. Yes, being followed around was par for the course, as was being stopped regularly at road blocks, with a Kalashnikov shoved through the window at you with a demand for ‘papers’. At those times it was very useful to be able just say ‘Lae Arabia’ (as in I don’t speak Arabic) as most of the police spoke no English, and really couldn’t be bothered to make a fuss with you. Having said that, they generally left us alone, as long as we didn’t try doing stupid things like giving alcohol to Libyan friends. It was common knowledge that we all brewed the stuff, but as long as it stayed in our homes, they didn’t care.
      I will look for those pictures (although, obviously, that will take me away from my writing!)

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  9. Really ‘Magna,’ my Dear Mick. …Most Unfortunate that the so called ‘modern’ cities, at least in India, are not built like that. And I hope they remain there, to keep teaching us lessons from the past. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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