Day 81: Tobruk to Benghazi
Cyrene was continuously occupied for over 1200 years, until the Arab invaders of the seventh century, not much interested in classical cities, let it fall back gradually into oblivion.
The Italians returned to the province of Cyrenaica in the 1920s but met spirited resistance to their colonising from a local leader called Umar al-Mukhtar. In 1930 General Graziani was sent out from Rome to deal with the opposition. Mukhtar was captured and hanged, and those who resisted Graziani's policies were rounded up in concentration camps.
So hated did the Italians make themselves in this short period that there is now almost no indication they were ever here on the Green Mountain. Al-Mukhtar, on the other hand, is still remembered as a hero and received the ultimate accolade of being portrayed on screen by Anthony Quinn.
As we descend from the plateau towards Benghazi, the olive groves, junipers and stands of cypress and Aleppo pine grow fewer and the number of roadblocks increases.
Like Tobruk, Benghazi is a city of infrastructure, girdled by a network of underpasses, ring roads and flyovers, all largely free of traffic, and as the road signs are only in Arabic it's impossible to tell where they're going. The woods and fields of Jebel Akhdar seem like a dream as we cruise slowly through a bare and featureless cityscape to come eventually to rest before the concrete and glass terraces of the Hotel Tibesti. I would have said at the doors of the Hotel Tibesti, or even at the portals of the Hotel Tibesti, but the architects of this magnificent late 1970s pile miscalculated the height of the concrete roof above the entrance and all tourist buses have to park and unload in a nearby road, making it a good walk to the hotel lobby through a taxi rank, a small garden, past ornamental fountains and up a substantial flight of steps.
Choose another day from Sahara
- Series: Sahara
- Day: 81
- Country/sea: Libya
- Place: Benghazi
- Book page no: 218
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