With the Nato airstrikes against Ghaddafi hotting up Tripoli is in the news everyday.I had made a few trips to Tripoli( or Trabulus as libyans call it) from Benghazi during my Libya stint,the most recent being in December last year.I landed in Tripoli by the early morning flight .The airport was quite unimpressive.I had to search around before finding a stinking toilet. A new one is built alongside as Libya was waking up from years of sanctions.It is a twenty minute smooth ride by taxi to the city .After finishing my visa work there I decided to do a bit of sightseeing.
The main tourist places in Tripoli are ,the arch of Marcus Auralius , red castle ,Green square,medina and surrounding areas. The Green square is the square known for Ghaddafi speeches.(in feb 2010 Libyan uprising the Green square was the site of a large scale massacre by of peaceful protesters by armed Ghaddafi militiaThe true details of what happened that day are still unknown.) On that day it was just a parking lot for vehicles.The area around the Green square is the commercial hub of the city. I took a stroll from the Green square to the promenade by the glistening Mediterranean ocean.A lone fisherman was trying his luck in the calm waters.
Just across from the Green square is the red castle (Assaria al-hamra).Part of the castle is closed to the public while a part houses the jamahiriya museum.Since I had time before my evening flight back to Benghazi I went for a dekko.Muammar Ghaddafi’ s rule has suppressed Libyan history to create an all encopassing personality cult.At the reception were copies of Ghaddafi’s infamous green book(everything is green in Ghaddafi’s Libya ;from buildings to the flag,to books, to the ink he signs in).Inside the first exhibit was that of a jeep in which Ghaddafi carried out the 1969 coup.Oh right I said ,a museum for Ghaddafi propaganda.But I was pleasently surprised.The museum showcases Libyan history from the prehistoric times and was a eyeopener for me.Libya has a rich and diverse history which even Libyans seem largely ignorant of.The highlight of the museum were the numerous Greeco-roman statues from the many such archeological sites in Libya.The only grouse was that many of the signs were in arabic with no english translation.I had to leave early as the museum was closing,but it is worth a half day visit.
Coming out I went for a stroll in the nearby medina suq (market) .The market is very quaint with numerous small lanes and bylanes.Libyan shopkeepers were soaking up the late afternoon sun and sipping (qawa) coffee.Gold jewellery,clothes and souvenirs are the main items on display.One shopkeeper while welcoming me to Libya cautioned me not to click photos as I could get arrested.
The area around the Green square has Italian colonial buildings and modern shops.It has a rather’ Connaught Place’ feel about.I had a shawarma at one of the ubiquitous shawarma stalls and caught the taxi back to the airport.