Tripoli, the Capital of Libya

Marcus Aurelius Arch from 165 A.D

Tripoli, also called Tarabulus in Arabic is the capital and largest city in Libya. The city was founded by the Phoenicians in year 700BC and because of its long history there are many sites of Archeological significance like the Roman gates that you will find next to popular cafés in the city center.

After the Romans came the Ottomans, then came the French and finally came Ghadaffi- all of which have left their marks on the city.

The streets in the old town, Medina are narrow and going there as a foreigner you will get looks from everyone you pass. A part of the old town is called Sook Al-Musheer where armed militias were in control. It was crazy to see people walking with wheelbarrows full of money. I did not dare taking a picture and noone dares taking the money as everyone involved in the currency black market are armed to their teeth. We sat down at one of the caffees and watched people deal thousands of dollars right in the open, a crazy but safe experience that you would not find elsewhere.

Generally speaking, Tripoli felt very safe and we visited many cafés and restaurants which were just like the ones at home. We were walking for hours through the areas with Italian colonial architecture, through old streets from the Ottoman times to the corniche and modern style downtown, mainly built during the 32 years of rulig by the dictator Muhammar Gaddafi. Alcohol is forbidden, but the restaurants served food similar to the Algerian and coffee and shisha which people enjoyed even throughout the night.

One of the most touching experiences was to visit the Tripoli war cemetary right next to the Talata Shopping Center which was completely destroyed during the fightings of the 2011 revolution. A guarded cemetary for WWII veterans was an oasis of calm, whereas the buildings and graves outside the walls had been completely destroyed. You could see that people had been living inside the old tombs and graves of Italian soldiers had been dug up and smashed, probably in search of valuables. The grave robbers had only taken the valuable parts of the watches and left hundreds of their golden wristbands around the graves. It was simply sad to see how these dead people had been disrespected and I hope stability in the country can bring investors who can clean up this mess and create new structures on top of these war wounds.

Tunis 22 years later

Last time I was in Tunisia was in 1996 with my parents. This time I was just passing going through the capital Tunis, spending two days before going to Libya and two days after.

My couchsurfing hosts took me to a town called Sidi Bou Said where all the buildings were painted in the same white and blue colors. The view of the ocean there was also really nice, with different shades of turqouise blue.

On the International Womens Day August 13th there was a massive feminist protest that we joined. What was special this year was that the gay commity had come out with their flags too, demanding that homofilia should be decriminalised. A historical moment for Tunisia, which I celebrated with my couchsurfing hosts and their friends until late night.

Denied Entry to Tunisia

Annaba Lighthouse

After a night in Annaba, exploring the Saint Augustine Cathedral, the Lighthouse and the “Corniche” promenade it was time to move on to Tunisia which was just a two hour taxi drive away.

When I arrived at the border I was expexting a quick stamp before moving on into Tunisia, but no. After seeing my Libyan visa the immigration boss decided that there was doubt about my visit to Tunisia and that they would therefore not let me pass.

After trying to reason with the immigration officer, I was escorted back to Algeria where the Algerian border guards told me that this should not have happened and advised me to stay overnight to try again in the morning. I was given pizza and water and at 9am, after watching the border guards being changed I tried again with my second passport and got in with no questions asked.

Saint Augustine Church in Annaba

It did not take long walking along the road before someone picked me up and drove me to the border town of Tabarka where I could catch an onwards bus to Tunis. After spending a couple of hours by the beach and walking up to the fortress for some fantastic views I had quickly forgotten the night sleeping on a bench between the two borders.

Tabarka beach and fortress

The Bridges of Constantine

The third biggest city and a spectacle in the North, Constantine is a natural fortress created by the river Oued Rhumel which has carved out a deep gorge making it the perfect city for defense against intruders.

There is remarkably little to see, considering how long and interesting story the city has, but there is something special about the city. Its a bit like the flying Island in Gullivers Adventures and just walking though the old city and exploring the seven bridges was enough to keep me occupied for a day.

I didnt spend the night, but returned back to El Eulma. It did not seem like there were a lot of hotel options, so Constantine might be easiest to do as a day trip from Setif, El Eulma, Skikda or Guelma. Its not a place I would go back to, but a unique place that I am happy to have seen.

El Eulma and Setif

It was not the first time a couchsurfing host had offered me to stay for free in a hotel instead of on his couch, but in El Eulma my host had an uncle who was running a hotel and said I could stay there.

School for boys on the left and school for the girl on the right

He was a professor who had summerholiday and was eager to show me around his home town Eleulma known for being a hub for goods coming in from Europe, China etc. I noticed that there were only men on the streets, and when I asked I was told that the women had their own streets where they could shop groceries and clothes for children. There was also an old school with sign for girls and boys which I all found quite interesting.

We also visited the local theater where a group of youths were making puppies for an upcoming show. Their teacher was a famous Algerian actor who was happy to explain everything and give us the grad tour of the teater including the rooftop which had the most beautiful view of the city.

The next day we went to Setif which was just another business city with shopping centers, fun parks and modern restaurants. What I really found interesting though was to see a statue of a naked women right next to the mosque.

A statue of a naked women next to a mosque in Setif