"Cyrenaica" Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar by TheWanderingCamel

Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar Travel Guide: 27 reviews and 116 photos

Libya's green heartland

Anyone who thinks of Libya only in terms of endless desert and the smattering of Roman ruins - albeit very important ones - on its north-western shores is in for a huge surprise should they venture into the mountain regions behind the eastern city of Benghazi. This is the Jebel Akhdar, the Green Mountains, a world of lush meadows and thickly forested deep ravines spreading from the heights down to a really beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coastline.

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!

Layers of history - ancient ...

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.

...and modern

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.


  • Last visit to Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar: Mar 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (26)

Travelogues (1)

Comments (21)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Aug 4, 2010 at 5:56 AM

    Great page!

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Feb 15, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    Excellent page with so much info to absorb. The more you share about Libya, the more I want to visit some day. Cyrene sounds especially worth seeing, and I loved your description and photo of the church at L'Atrun, and of the road to Tobruk in particular,

  • mikelisaanna's Profile Photo
    Sep 22, 2009 at 11:00 PM

    Excellent page. I learned a lot form reading your tips.

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Jul 9, 2009 at 6:59 AM

    Take a bow, Leyle. A marvellous, informative page. Who knows what other treasures lay hidden here. Excellent pictures.Abdullah Elafi cuts a dashing figure indeed. My wanderlust is growing daily.

  • nepalgoods's Profile Photo
    Jun 20, 2009 at 1:24 AM

    Wow! So much informations and love ly stories! Great reading. Thank you!

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Jun 8, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    Leyle, oustanding page with gorgeous photos and very detailed commentaries. I haven't heard of these hotel hijacking methods. Also the "guides" seem to have an interesting job. Well done.

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2009 at 4:54 PM

    Beautiful photos of your return trip to Libya! It sounds like both Omar al-Mukhtar and then the 'Rats' at Tobruk put up fierce resistance! Those weathering statues of the ancient race are amazing too!

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    May 30, 2009 at 10:56 PM

    The need for a "plan" is evident. The escort tip is excellent. Abdullah Elafi sounds wonderful. Loved the Temple of Zeus. WWII Tobruk was an astounding tale. Marvelous stuff!

  • FruitLover's Profile Photo
    May 28, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    Thanx for the postcard, Leyle, fascinating indeed. Well done as usual. I need 50 more years to live to follow your worldwide destinations.... now I'm studying Dubrovnik & Montenegro....

  • May 27, 2009 at 9:45 PM

    this is a really fantastic page, as per usual. such amazing archaeological sites! libya is fast becoming a place i 'must' visit.

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