On Saturday, the Libyan Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts, Abdel-Salam Abdullah Taki, said that the Ministry is keen to revive the tourism flow to the North African country after a 10 year-hiatus. It revealed that a group of 800 European tourists will visit Libya next December.
In press statements, the Minister added that such tourist visits highlight Libya’s recovery and would enable foreigners to learn about the heritage and culture of the Libyan people.
He noted that international and diplomatic delegations were received in Tripoli about a week ago, to attend the Stabilization Conference on Libya, which was held in the Libyan capital.
The Minister stressed that Libya is a rich country that enjoys a diversity of landscapes and cultures that have been shaped over many years.
On October 18th, Libya hosted its first group of foreign tourists in a decade, with an excursion to an oasis town deep in the desert previously off-limits to visitors due to years of war, according to France 24.
French traveller, Jean-Paul, who first visited Libya more than a decade ago, was among some 100 mostly European tourists on the trip.
He said he had long wanted to return to the “magnificent country, with extraordinary scenery and very welcoming people.”
“Events meant for 10 years that wasn’t possible — then we were told we could finally come back on a supervised trip, with a security detail,” the 57-year-old said.
“People here are very welcoming and you get the feeling that Libyans really want to see tourists again.”
Police sirens echoed around the oasis of Ghadames, its old white buildings set amid a sea of palm trees, as the convoy of dozens of four-wheel-drives ferried the Italian, French, Icelandic and Swiss tourists through town.
Libya had been mostly off-limits to tourists throughout the four-decade rule of Moammer Gaddafi.
When the long-time leader was overthrown in a 2011 uprising, foreign visitors mostly continued to stay away as the country plunged into lawlessness and armed conflict.
Today, thanks to a year of relative calm following an October 2020 ceasefire and a United Nations (UN)-led peace process, the first group of tourists since 2012 were able to visit, on a tour paid for by the state.
Tour guide Ali Al-Kouba says he wants to “break the wall of fear” for foreigners wanting to visit the vast Libyan Sahara.
Italian traveller and tour operator, Giovanni Paolo, who wore a Tuareg-style yellow scarf against the desert wind, agreed.
“We were sure we’d be welcome in this wonderful country,” he said.
The visitors arrived via a border crossing with Tunisia which had opened in September after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They spent a night under the stars before heading deep into the dunes and rocky stretches of the southern Libyan wilderness.
Finally they reached Ghadames, the “pearl of the desert” some 650 kilometres (400 miles) South of the capital Tripoli.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-listed oasis city, a pre-Roman Berber settlement and a key stop on Saharan trade routes, has a unique multilevel architecture with whitewashed, covered alleyways beyond the reach of the brutal summer sun.
The tourists wandered through the old city taking photos of its traditional houses, propped up with palm trunks.