Continuing our day excursion from Benghazi ,after Cyrene we went on a long drive along the North African coast ;Via balbia – as the Libyan coastal highway was known when it was first built by Mussolini during Italian colonial rule in the 1930s . This road is part of the larger Cairo-Dakar trans african highway no 1 which is not yet fully operational.The highway is a lifeline to Libyans as most of the Libyan population is concentrated in towns and villages along this road.
The coastal landscape is rocky ,largely deserted with scrub vegetation .The flora is particularly interesting with all manner of fleshy shrubs with intriguing smells.To the right of the highway are hills of the Jebel Akdhar mountain range while the left is the greenish blue Mediterranean ocean.The area is largely undeveloped and holds tremendous tourism potential.Far away on the ocean we could see a cruise ship lazily making its way to its next destination. The road was also the scene of many a famous battle during world war two between the Germans and the British with the frontline moving back and forth along the road .The ‘desert fox’ Rommel and his panzer division chased the British army east from Benghazi all the way to Tobruk near the Egyptian border.(As I write this in may 2011 the road is once again the scene of the battle for Libya between pro and anti Gaddafi forces with the frontline moving back and forth.)
On the way back we had lunch at Appolonia .Appolonia was the port of Cyrene .Most of it is submerged after the earthquake of 365 AD which also destroyed Cyrene .Among the ruins was what appeared to be a dwelling of ancient times now partially submerged in the sea.There is also a pool which our guide told us is known as Cleopatra pool. After a late lunch of fried chicken and rice at a hotel there we made our way back home to Benghazi .