"Cyrenaica" Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar by TheWanderingCamel
Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar Travel Guide: 27 reviews and 116 photos
Cyrenaicans hold their historic and cultural individuality dear, cherishing their local customs, their dialectic and culinary differences, their role in resisting the forces of Fascism. Tourism is in its infancy - hotel and restaurant facitities are adequate but a certain level of tolerance is required at times , and getting here isn't all that easy. However, the inconveniences pale beside the rewards - not the least of which are the pleasures of exploring some of the world's great Classical ruins and feeling you have them all to yourself - amazing!
The Greeks settlers who came here in the 7thC BC were just the first in a long line of colonisers but, long before they set foot here, this region was where man's occupation of North Africa began and there is evidence of an ancient indigenous culture with its own mysterious cults and beliefs.
It is the Greeks and their Classical successors who have really left their mark on the Jebel Akhdar however. Barce, Tocra, Ptolemais, Apollonia and, grandest of all, Cyrene, were their cities. Collectively known as the Pentapolis, such was their wealth and importance that the Greeks divided their known world into three parts - Asia, Europe and Libya. These were not the only Greek cities in North Africa, there were several other smaller places but little very remains of them and generally it is the Pentapolis cities that are the main focus of a visit to the region.
Barce has totally disappeared, but the remains of the others are certainly splendid enough to hold their own against Roman Leptis Magna and Sabratha on the other side of the country, and as Greek rule gave way to Roman, and Byzantium followed Rome, more layers of history were added.
The spread of Islam saw a steady influx of Arab tribes into Cyrenaica over several centuries, finally forcing the Berbers away from their lush pastures and into the desert fringes but, just as the Berbers fought long and hard against the Arab invaders before finally being usurped, so the Arab settlers in their turn fought just as determinedly, carrying the spirit of rebellion and refusal to bow to foreign masters against first the Ottomans and then the Italians, right on into the 20th century. The price they paid was terrible - it is estimated as much as half the population of Cyrenaica perished during the Sanusi rebellion against the Italians in the 1920s.
The last battles fought over this corner of North Africa were not between the Libyans and their would-be colonisers however - much more was at stake in the most recent fighting to take place in the Green Mountains and their desert rim. 1940 to 1942 saw the armies of Germany and Britain turn Cyrenaica into a theatre of modern warfare that was to produce two of the greatest leaders of WW2 - Rommel and Montgomery - and make heroes of men their enemies mocked and named the "rats of Tobruk".
Now the fallen from those days lie in silent witness to the futility of war, an almost equal 6000 plus from each side and, more than sixty years since the fighting stopped, the seaward hills are punctured with concrete gun emplacements and the empty wastes of the battlefields are littered with blackened scraps of the armoured vehicles they fought in.
Much of Cyrenaica's history is written on its stones, be they the columns of a Greek temple, the mosaic floor of a Byzantine church, the caves that provided shelter for native freedom fighters or the marker of an unknown soldier's grave. Visitor numbers are tiny, though that is sure to change over the coming years. Come soon and the chances are you will find, more often than not, you have these extraordinary places to yourselves. We certainly did.
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