Sabratha - beautiful, deserted Roman ruins

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November 17th 2013
Published: November 17th 2013
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Libya is a spectacular country with breathtaking scenery and incredible ancient ruins. It should be full of tourists enjoying everything on offer. Sadly that's not the case, but for us it means the opportunity to explore the ancient sites in peace and tranquility.

Our friend Claudia arranged with a driver to come and pick us up last Saturday morning. Then we drove some 70km to the West to the ancient Roman city of Sabratha. The roads were empty (in stark contrast to the return journey to Tripoli) and we made good time getting there. On arrival we were a bit worried that it was closed but it was simply that with no visitors whatsoever the guardian had to be found to get someone to sell us entry tickets. Once inside we had the place to ourselves.

Going through the gate you are immediately struck by the majesty of the Roman theatre. Exploring that further was kept until the end though. Save the best till last and all that! Instead we walked along semi-reconstructed columns to find the Mausoleum of Bes. We thought it was remarkably well preserved, but out guidebook informs us that it is in fact a reconstruction. Oh well, it's nice to look at anyway.

Next we wandered through the streets of the old town. It was quite easy to find our way around. Some of the mosaic floors are well restored with views out to the sea. Probably the most memorable sight was the "loo with a view". Don't know about you but we prefer our ablutions to be carried out with a little more privacy. Isn't that why we call it a privvy???

We wandered out further past the baths of Oceanus. There's not a lot left but there are some good mosaics. Looking out over the sea we paused for a while to admire the Temple of Isis. The columns make a great backdrop for touristy photos.

We then wanted to find the old amphitheatre which gets a mention in the guidebook. Despite a one kilometre dusty, sandy walk and some great scenery, we were unable to find it. Our driver says it is buried underneath the sands but we had expected to find some evidence that it exists.

And so to the spectacular finale, the Roman theatre. The stage looks almost new with wooden boards just waiting to be trodden. Presumably it has hosted events in the recent past but it's hard to imagine any opera taking place in the current political climate. It's a shame because it would be an amazing place to see a live performance.

As we were leaving a minibus full of a couple of extended Libyan families arrived. Would our blissfully quiet visit have been the same with them running riot amongst the ruins? Possibly not!

Additional photos below
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Looking inside the museumLooking inside the museum
Looking inside the museum

Which was closed, by the way!

17th November 2013

A very unique experience to get to explore without the tourist crowds. As you say it is a shame theater is not being used. Wouldn't that be something?

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