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Libya: IHI in Joint Venture on Hotel Project in Benghazi
I nternational Hotel Investments p.l.c. announces that it has signed a joint venture agreement with the Libyan Foreign Investment Company for the development of a 360 bedroom, five-star hotel in central Benghazi, Libya's second largest city.

The signing followed a site inspection by the Libyan Prime Minister Mr El-Baghdadi Ali El-Mahmoudi during which IHI's development plans were outlined in some detail.  The agreement now paves the way for the preparation of construction, which is expected to commence this year.  The hotel's operation will be entrusted to IHI's subsidiary company, CHI Limited.

The hotel is being constructed on a 7,000 square metre footprint on the water-front in central Benghazi.  Part of the present site housed the former, historic, Al Jazira Hotel. 

The hotel's 360 rooms will include a number of executive bedrooms, suites and a presidential suite. The hotel will offer extensive conference facilities, restaurants, business centre, a spa and underground parking for almost 100 cars.  The development will also include a number of serviced commercial offices and retail outlets which will help to transform the area into a hub of activity. 

The Libyan Foreign Investment Company is a major investment arm of the Libyan government with extensive experience in hotel investments in the Middle East, Europe and other parts of the world.

International Hotel Investments p.l.c. is an investor, developer and operator of upscale hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The company at present owns landmark properties in St Petersburg, Tripoli, Budapest, Prague, Lisbon and Malta.

For further details please contact Mr Alfred Fabri on +356 2551 4117 or mobile number +356 9947 5368.

Libya: The tourists' next destination
By Mahmood Poonja

Why should anybody consider visiting this North African country? After all, if North Africa fascinates any tourist, there are other countries including Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco &endash; all of which are popular tourist destinations. Libya is more known as the country that is led by Muhammar Gaddafi and it's possible role in the Lockerbie affair. It would surprise most people to know that Libya houses some of the most interesting archaeological ruins dating back from the Roman and Greek periods, including some of the most well known World Heritage sites. All these, with a chequered history going back to the seafaring Phoenician times and the fact that the country had been closed to the conventional tourists, Libya is becoming a curious destination for one who wants to see some of the best Roman ruins, and see it before most people. continued

US Business Delegation to Visit Libya

A fifteen-person US business delegation under the auspices of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) will meet in Libya with government and private business officials to explore possible business opportunities in Libya following an eighteen-year trade embargo on that nation.  While some individual US companies recently have entered Libya to explore business opportunities, this is the first non-oil multi-company business delegation to visit Libya since sanctions were lifted in June.  The delegation will be in Tripoli July 30-August 2.

Former US Ambassador Mark Parris will lead the delegation.  Parris served as US Ambassador to Turkey and was also on the National Security Council staff as Advisor, Middle East Affairs.  Parris now chairs the Libya Working Group for the Corporate Council on Africa.  "We are not sure what will result from this trip."said Parris. "The Libyans really haven't received such a diverse body of US companies as represented by this delegation.  We want to assess whether the country is open and ready for business with US companies beyond the oil sector.  This visit will be an excellent opportunity to make that assessment."  Parris stated that CCA has worked closely with the US Department of State and the Department of Commerce in preparing for the visit.

The delegation will also include CCA President Stephen Hayes.  "The embargo was an important tool for change, and it was effective in bringing about some fundamental changes in dealing with one another.  The past should never be forgotten, nor should we miss the opportunity now to build a better future."  Hayes noted that if this delegation concludes a successful visit, more business programs could be developed with Libya.

The Corporate Council on Africa is a non-profit organization in Washington, DC comprised of 190 member corporations.  Collectively, the members of CCA represent more than eighty percent of all US private investment in Africa.  CCA defines Africa as the entire continent and not only of the sub-Saharan nations.  Membership in CCA is approximately equally divided among large corporations and small businesses, all of which are invested  in Africa.

The Tourists's next destination (continued)Modern day Libya is the fourth largest African country. It is bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Tunisia and Algeria with over 2000 kms of beautiful Mediterranean Sea coastline. With an area of 1.75 million sq km. (three times that of France) and a population of only 4.5 million, Libya offers a large mass of land that is sparsely inhabited due to the ravaging Sahara Desert.

Libya has played host to many civilizations resulting in the remains of clear and visible writings, drawings and engravings in the caves of the Tadrart mountains and the rich archaeological treasures in Ataft, Phoenician, Roman, and the Byzantine ports of Tripoli, Sabratha, Libdah, Shah'hat, Susa, Tukrah and Talmitha. The old Islamic cities of Sirt, Darnah, and Ajdabiya, and the desert cities of Ghadames, Zuwaylah, Jalu, Ojla, Ghat and Fezzan all offer interesting insight into the indigenous life style of the Berber people. Amongst all this, Libya is the home of Sabratha, Cyrene and the incredible Leptis Magna.

Tourism to Libya is very limited. For about a decade there was the UN sanction on air services to Libya. With no airline operating to Libya, the daring tourists, in pursuit of viewing the rich archaeological ruins and experiencing adventure and culture in the desert, made their way by using the road border with Tunisia or taking the boat from Malta. Within just a few months from the lifting of the UN sanctions (the Lockerbie judgment was passed only on Jan 30, 2001), European airlines have invaded this country with direct flights both into the capital city of Tripoli and to the eastern resort city of Benghazi. Today, we have almost three weeks a flight by carriers like British Airways from London, Lufthansa from Frankfurt, Alitalia from Rome, Swiss Air from Zurich, Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, etc. In spite of air services flights and the fact that Egypt also has now opened a road border with Libya, the surface journey from Tunis still remains the route to experience the old and new of Libya.

A little bit on the rich history of Libya. By about 800 B.C., the Phoenicians had founded three settlements at Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea. This came to be known initially as Tirpolitania (later Tripoli, literally meaning "three cities"). and in the 5th Century, it was incorporated into the Carthaginian Empire. Whilst western Libya was flourishing, eastern Libya too had its advent when the Greeks founded the city of Cyrene (now Shabat) in the 7th Century B.C. Here too, many settlements came into being like Hesperides (modern day Benghazi) Bara (al Marj) and Cyrenaica &endash; the name given to the Greek ruled coast of Libya. About 500 B.C. this part was annexed to the Persian Empire.

After Alexander's conquest of Egypt in 332 BC, Cyrenaica, which was then a part of the Macedonian Empire, was acceded in 323 BC to become part of the Ptolemaic Empire and in 96 B.C.; it became part of the Roman Empire. After it's defeat, Carthage became part of the Roman Empire in 146 B.C. This lasted until 4th Century A.D followed by Berber and Arab rule. Later, we see intermittent period of Ottoman Turks rule until 1912, when the Italians started with their first of many attempts at colonizing Libya.

World War II brought the end of the Italian influence with General Rommel's defeat at Tobruk. In 1951, Libya saw its independence by becoming a constitutional monarchy. At that time, Libya was probably the poorest country in Africa. In 1969, an army mutiny led to the revolution that brought Col Muhammar Gaddafi to power.

Libya attractions to the tourist is in the rich archaeological sites centered along the Mediterranean Sea, in the desert in areas like Ghaddames, and experience the hospitable Berber way of life. The Berbers still retain a life style that is very much desert influenced, Arab in culture - to the extent that one would hardly believe that the country has gone through centuries of foreign domination.

The Tunisia-Libya border offers a 24 hour 7 days a week check post, and makes it not only convenient but also the most logical route. One needs to have a visa for Libya that has to be obtained in advance. Tourists are required to have a pre arranged tour program and the tour operator has to apply for the visas that is first approved by Tripoli. Once approved, the visa can then be issued by any Libyan Embassy abroad. This process does not require sending the passport abroad not having it stamped upon arrival/exit.

The border formalities for tourists are quite brisk in spite of the long lineups of trucks crossing into Libya from Tunisia. Once the border formalities are done, there are usually no more check posts for the entire tour itinerary. Road conditions are excellent, however, one does see scattered plastic bags and tires along the highways.

The first place that comes en route to Tripoli, is the magnificent World Heritage site of Sabratah (Sabrata, Sabratha) located on the beautiful Mediterranean coastline. It was founded by the Canaanites in the 6th century BC. Like Leptis Magna, Sabratah began as a settlement to service the coastal trade of the Carthaginians.

Sabratah offers a majestic Amphitheatre as it's main site with a wide variety of public baths, temples and fountains with many artistically designed mosaics both on site and in the adjacent Museum, Some Byzantine remains exemplify the revival after the invasions by the Vandals. Amongst the walls and foundations of public buildings discovered in the city, are the market, tribunal and some temples. The most prominent features of the city during Roman times was the public arenas, Temples of Liber Pater, Sirapis, Isis, and Hercules, the forum, the theatre, the tribunal arena, and the public paths. Ruins of the earliest Phoenician settlements have been found beneath the Roman town in the area between the forum and the Sea. Most of the archaeological remains are still intact after several centuries. A visit to Sabratah site can take anything from five hours and more.

An hours drive east of Sabratah, is Tripoli, the capital of modern day Libya. The old walled Medina, is one of the classical sites of the Mediterranean. The basic street plan was laid down during the Roman period when the walls were constructed on the landward sides against attacks from the interior of Tripolitania. The high walls survived many invasions, each conqueror restoring the damage done by the previous ruler. In the 8th Century, the Muslim ruler built a wall on the sea-facing side of the city.

The dominating site of Tripoli is the castle, Al-Saraya Al-Hamra, which occupies the east quadrant of the old city. Any tour of the old city should begin at the castle, entering from the landside near Suq Al-Mushir. It houses a library and a well-displayed museum offering excellent view of the city. The Castle Museum is specialized in archaeology and artifacts of ancient Libyan history. It covers the Phoenician, Greek and Roman periods and has an expanding collection on the Islamic period.

The old city has several key elements worth visiting. The old city walls are still standing and can be climbed. The Harbour Monument stands at the gates of the narrow lane old city where there are a number of restored houses, consulates and a synagogue. There are a number of interesting mosques including the Karamanli Mosque, the En-Naqah Mosque and the Gurgi Mosque both in the old town and adjacent to it. The best known of the Tripoli mosques is the Gurgi Mosque with its elegant architecture.

No visit to Libya is complete without visiting Leptis Magna, the jewel of Libya. The city was born as a Phoenician port of call on the trading route. It joined Rome in 111 BC and enjoyed full rights as colony to Roman citizenship under the Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). The early Roman period saw the construction of the basic harbour and a forum. The city flourished under the rule and patronage of Septimus Severus (193-211 AD) who was born in Leptis Magna itself and was the only Roman ruler to have been born in Africa. Most of the major buildings at Leptis date from his time. The city started along the coast and then spread inland. All the important buildings can be reached, as they are adjacent to or just off the main paved monumental road from the present entrance of the site.

A complete inspection of the wealth of monuments at Leptis Magna requires more than a day and even longer for visitors with specialized interest. The site has been well-preserved with unequaled range of buildings as old as 1500 years. The first Roman forum, the temple of Roma and Augustus, temples of Antoninus and Cybele, basilica the Curia, are just a few of the many remains that make Leptis Magna the world's most extraordinary site and probably amongst the most well most known World Heritage sites.

Leptis Magna offers ruins from the Augustan period when the city's first forum was built. Amongst other structures, include the Temples of Antaoninus and Cyhele which was later converted to a church in the Byzantine period the Basilica, which was used as city courts and Curia which was used as a city council.

Another building still standing is the Maceliium &endash; the popular Standing Market. This is where the residents of Leptis Magna bought their daily food and wares. It is a high walled structure, rectangular in shape, with roof that provided shade to the people. In the centre is a place built for merchants to display their ware &endash; probably the origin of the trade shows. This structure was in two pavilions supported by huge octagonal shaped columns. A special area was also built for traders to conduct international trade where coins, wheat, ivory, oil, etc. was exchanged and transactions contracted. It was here that the elephants were procured that were used both by Hannibal in his journey to Italy and the Romans to slaughter in their amphitheatres.

An impressive amphitheatre also existed in the Augustan city that was built around the 1st and 2nd year CE. It had a semi circular auditorium linked to the stage structure. The exterior walls, which had pilasters, rose to a height of a three stories building. At each end of the corridors there were passages, both for the viewers and the stage show participants. Special sections in the auditorium were designated for the VIP's. The stage floor also had special storage areas built underneath to store items used in the performances. There were also some dressing rooms for the artistes.

The tourist attractions that Libya offers is not confined to archaeology only. One of the best experiences that the country offers is a visit to Ghadames desert, 300 Kms. south of Tripoli. Built in an oasis, Ghadamès, "the pearl of the desert", is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement. The main purpose was to offer it's residents a cool housing to stand against the desert heat. Its architecture is characterized by the different functions assigned to each storey - the ground floor used to store supplies, another floor extending over dark enclosed passages forming a system of passageways with open-air terraces reserved for women.

At Ghadames, one finds a tranquil old city, with covered streets that are both dark and with far lower temperatures than what one would experience in the high temperature desert outside. In order to give light, all the walls are painted white giving an additional cooling effect. The positioning of the houses is far from casual. The spatial configuration of Ghadames is unique. Its roughly circular plan is enclosed by the reinforced back-walls of the houses at the periphery. The street pattern consists of narrow and obscure corridors, which are integrated into the architecture of the dwellings at the ground floor level and mainly used by men.

The city consists of seven neighbourhoods, each inhabited by a tribe with its own mosque and a central open public space. Houses have square plans and are generally two story high connected by terraces at the attic level. A typical house of Ghadames is "an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement which is representative of a culture and which has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change."

Author Tore Kjeilen, wrote in 1996, "Ghadames ... is the result of a complex knowledge on how to deal with extreme temperatures. The positioning of the houses are far from casual. Every angle, every wall, every opening in the roofs over the alleyways, are parts of the same organism."

Though Ghadames still stands intact, people have moved into modern settlements nearby. However, come summer, they take refuge in the old city when the heat becomes unbearable, In spite of modern technology, the traditional cooling system is considered more effective.

In earlier days, the lifeline of Ghadames was dependent on trade through the Sahara. Today the 10,000 people living here are dependent mostly on agriculture. Tourism is another source of revenue that is gradually gaining ground. Ghadames now has a three-day interesting tourist festival held annually in October to coincide with the harvest. During this festival, display of local traditions and horsemanship, desert safaris, traditional dances. are some of the many events that take place.

The architecture of Ghadammes has been of interest to people for many years. James Richard , observed in 1848, "Both houses and streets are admirably adapted for the climatic, protecting the inhabitants alike from the fiery glare of the summer's sun, and the keen blasts of the winter's cold."

In it's December 1997 report on World Heritage, UNESCO reviewed, "Ghadames, "the pearl of the desert", as one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement. Its architecture is characterized by the different functions assigned to each story - the ground floor used to store supplies, another floor extending over dark enclosed passages forming a system of passageways, and the open-air terraces reserved for women." Ghadames has also been a serious study by the Aga Khan Architecture Award.

The eastern part of Libya, from the resort city of Banghazi to the Egyptian border, continues to offer internationally acclaimed archaeological sites at places like the Spartan city of Tokra (Teuchira), the mosaic center of Gaser Libya, Cyrene of Pentapolis (houses the famous and majestic Temples of Zeus and Apollo), the port of Sousa at Apolloinia, the city of Tulmaytha (Ptolemais) famous World War II site of Tobruk, and a lot more.

With so many archaeological sites including some UNESCO declared World Heritage Sites, Libya also claims the 8th wonder of modern world! This, though not yet recognized, is an interesting massive attempt at getting water to the desert people called the Great Man-made River Project. Based on research that there is considerable groundwater in the aquifers of Kufra, Sirir, Wadiel-Shatii and the Haswana Mountains &endash; estimated to equal over 200 years of discharge from the Nile River.

Probably the world's largest irrigation system, it has so far involved 2 million cubic meters of water being transferred to the cities of Benghazi and Sirt in huge pipelines, 7.5m long, 4m in diameter and 7.3 tons in weight. The project, initiated in 1991, uses carbon steeled pipes wrapped with 18m long wires, and with a quarter million pipes expected to be used, it will mean that the wires used will be more than the length needed to go around the earth 130 times over. Definitely, a novel project and the pride of all Libyans, but one that has received no international coverage, but in any case for what difference it is making to the desert people, should qualify as the 8th wonder.

With all this adds the very hospitable Berbers of Libya. The make the best attraction to the tourist. Unlike some of the Islamic countries, Libya is very relaxed in terms of dressing code for women, alcohol consumption, movement of tourists within the country, etc. The sense of security is of acceptable standards, accommodation in major cities like Tripoli and Benghazi is of high quality, with smaller places, including Ghadammes, having limited and an average quality of accommodation. Food is plenty with lots of salads and vegetables and of course meat and poultry. The best time of the year to visit is the spring and fall.

With Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco having already been popular tourist destinations for long, Libya is the latest find in North Africa. Information on tours to Libya is still difficult to obtain.

The only tour operator in North America offering tours to Libya is Western Canada, based Bestway Tours & Safaris
1 800 663 0844

Some European operators also offer tours to Libya, but Libya is still a destination for one who would is interested in archaeology, history, culture and above all new destinations. There are also sites in the Internet that offer information and photographs of different places in Libya.

Additional information:


Due to the lack of natural barriers, the climate of Libya is greatly influenced by the desert to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.

In winter, the northern areas and the mountain peaks to the south can be fairly cold. During summer, it is general hot which can be as much as 27 &endash; 31C at areas like Jefra Plains and even higher in the desert. The coastal areas are pleasant at 25C. Rainfall is erratic with average drops of between 40 &endash; 50cm. in the coastline