I start the morning by walking down to the old city in Tripoli and have another look at the medina. I thought it might have come to live this morning. But no it is still the holiday season hence it is pretty empty and all the shops are still closed. I walk along on the Lonely Planet walking tour – and I get lost instantly – but it doesn’t really matter it is easy to navigate in Tripoli medina and I just want to see a bit of it not anything in particular.
Apparently my guide book is illegal in Libya. The Lonely Planet Libya guide book is banned from all bookshops in all of Libya. Officially it is because of numerous factual errors such as a description of some villages which according to the Lonely Planet is Berber villages but in reality are Arabic villages.
Somehow I doubt this is the real reason for the book to be banned. I got a feeling it got a lot more to do with the history section of the book. In which there is a short description of war against Chad which give somewhat more detailed view of the conflict than the story you will be told by the official guide. The same goes for the history of Jews in Libya – Libya today is the only country in North Africa without a native Jewish or a Christian population.
I continue my walk around the medina looking for the old British and French consulates – they are both closed. But I find the arch of Marcus Arelius. The only ancient roman monument in Tripoli – even though it was one of three major cities in this area. Actually the original name of Tripoli was Oea with two other major cities nearby Sabratha and Leptis Magna.
This area was called the area of the three cities – or in ancient Greek tri for three and polis for cities – hence Tripoli. Tripoli is the only of the three cities which has remained an important city up through the centuries – this is why there is not a lot of roman buildings around they have all been replaced by new constructions made by the different nations who have ruled the area like Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans and Italians.
Around the Marcus Arelius Arch I see the first signs of something touristy in Tripoli – which on a holiday in Libya means a shop selling handicraft and one selling postcards. There are no signs of tourist walking around in the medina. I am the only foreigner in the area.
After the medina I walk out to another part of town. This is completely different. It does not look like an Arabic town anymore. It looks a lot more African almost everyone in the area is African and not Arab. The people here come from sub-Saharan Africa who has taken the long and sometimes also dangerous journey across the Sahara in search for a better life in Europe. They live and work in this part of Tripoli just waiting to catch a boat across the Mediterranean to go to Malta or Italy. Most of them will never succeed but they all dream of a better life. While they live in Tripoli there life’s is not that easy there is a rampant unemployment rate and those working will do so in low paid jobs like the porter on the hotels and such.