A Day Trip In Libya

Libya is a country replete with examples of modern, Italianate, Roman and Arabic architecture, all within day trip distance of Tripoli.  Some of the best examples of the Italianate architecture is in Tripoli itself and Libya's second city, Benghazi.

We've shown shots from Leptis Magna in previous posts, and recently we visited Qasr AL Hajj, a fortified granary about 130Km from Tripoli.

The black and white picture is a view through some of the adjacent ruins to the wadi in the background.  There are small ruins of outlying buildings etc. throughout the area as well as  many abandoned, as well as a couple of well preserved examples of the local Troglodytes.(more on these further down)

It's an interesting place, built in the 13th century by a wealthy merchant, one Abdallah Abu Jatla.  Originally, it had some 114 rooms, the same number as there are verses in the Qur'an although subsequent family squabbles (inheritance issues, the same all over the world, isn't it?) and the addition of cellars.  The "rent" for one of these storage rooms was 1/4 of your yearly harvest, Abu Jatala was a bit of a local philanthropist and donated the "rent" to teaching the Qur'an to the local peoples.
It feels a bit like a set from a Star Wars movie, it doesn't take much imagination to imagine all sorts of other-world creatures inhabiting this place.  

Or a scene from Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O'Toole playing Lawrence, long flowing robes, swirling around his legs as he takes aim at a Turk during the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire.  It's that sort of place, a building that lets your mind run wild with possibilities.
It's really quite well preserved with  plenty of scope for wandering and imagining what it would have been like in the days when it was pretty much the commercial hub for the local area.  Some of the cellars (added at a later date) still have earthenware containers that have been left by local farmers.

On our way to Qasr Al Haj we stopped at a local troglodyte, one of the original homes built 6-8 meters into the ground.  There are plenty of derelict examples around the which are either fenced off or are used as animal shelter when needed.

The best preserved of the local troglodytes is open as a tourist attraction and is of interest to both local and "expat" tourists.  The gentlemen who runs it is extremely interesting to talk to and was proud of the fact that his "house" was older than western history in Australia.

This is the view from the surface, not particularly impressive but when you take a look at what they have had to dig through, remember this is a parched land, stony desert that's baked as hard as iron during the summer.  The effort to dig this would have been immense but worth it when you actually descend into the house where it's 22C all year round, according to the owner.

The rooms are all accessed through the central open air courtyard and it's easy to imagine the ebb and flow of daily life, there's plenty of rooms for the family and an elevated store room for supplies, well out of the reach of domestic animals and rodents looking for an evening snack.
The entrance (left) acts as a cooling wind tunnel as well as the access point for the courtyard.  The breeze that comes through this tunnel is extremely refreshing, and would no doubt have been a welcome relief from the heat at the height of summer.  

The central courtyard as well as being the centre of the house would be great as the focal point for the family activities.  It doesn't take a lot of imagination to envisage a BBQ with a cold beer being enjoyed after a hard day doing whatever it is we do to keep the tax man happy. (Beer????????????? I forgot where I am for a moment)

Cheers and have a great weekend!