1962 Libya

103. Libya 1962 – ‘An Illustrated Talk’

Hello – Welcome to WDEOD, a site full of Doris’ photographs!

Its purpose is to share the shots she took in her 50+ years of travel including her trip to Libya in 1962.

I’m trying to do a post a film – so one tour may have many posts.
To see what I’ve put up so far, use the menu (three lines up there ↑ if you are on a phone or tablet) to go to a place or a year.

In among the boxes of slides we brought back from Doris’ house when it was being cleared, were itineraries, tourist leaflets and journals. Doris has taken the time to write out some of these, I assume to allow her to give an illustrated talk to her friends.

So lights down, we’ll begin with me as projectionist hoping the slides are not upside down or back to front. Over to Doris…

“Egyptian adventure – April 1962

[Chapter 1 – Departure]

(Note – The Libya details start at Page 17 – Jump to Chapter 4)

[Page One]
It was a cold April day when the plane, which was to take me on my first journey to the Middle East, left Gatwick. As we slowly gained height, I looked out for the fifteenth century cottage where a friend resided, but the route was not over the village of Charlwood, and I was unable to recognise any landmarks. The sun shone weakly through the clouds, causing a haze which diffused and softened the outlines of the cottages clustered around the Norman churches. The copses and villages of Surrey soon gave way to the rolling downs and farmlands of Sussex and in under 20 minutes we were flying over the Channel.
Our hostess introduced herself as Janet and our pilot Captain Banting. She then demonstrated how to use the life jackets, which were placed in the pockets in front of us and we were able to scrutinise her at the same time as we watched the drill. Of medium height and slim the most notable feature was the shock of Auburn hair, which persisted in escaping from a cap and standing out like the tawny mane of a lion. She …

[Page Two]

… was most efficient, always trying to break the monotony of the long flights with interludes of teas, coffee and drinks. Soon after we had crossed the channel, Janet served the lunches. These are usually packed in boxes, chicken ham and other cold meats, salads and cheese with fruit and pastries were the popular ingredients. The cutlery, which was usually supplied was made of plastic, and whilst recognising the fact that these are the safest of implements, one can get quite frustrated sawing at the leg of a chicken. I often find it best to dig in a prong and pull a morsel off the meat. Anyway, on this tour, the cutlery was of the metal variety, so it was fortunate that we did not hit any great turbulence. Knives and forks whizzing through the air would have created an excitement which I, for one, could do without. There was little to see below, my companion Miss Brench, was reading The Blue Guide to Egypt in French and most of the others were either dozing or reading, so I allowed thoughts to wander over desire and incidents …

[Page Three]

… which had encouraged me to set out on this adventure.

[Chapter 2 – Doris explains why she went and some ancient history]

Egypt has always fascinated me, probably due to the knowledge that it was on the banks of the Nile, that one of the earliest and greater civilisations was born more than 6000 years ago. It is believed that it was in the delta area that the earliest Egyptians settled, but due to the fertility of the alluvium soil, archaeologists are unlikely to find many traces of them. The annual flooding, followed by ploughing, sowing and reaping of crops had long since destroyed the site of the pioneers of the Nile Valley, but evidence of a cultured race is shown in the statues dating back to 4000 BC.

One does not know from whence these people came. Maybe their forebears were those who roamed in the great rain forests, which covered the Sahara before the icecap retreated north taking with it the life-giving rain and leaving a great sandy waste. Great herds of cattle header roamed in these forests and the nomad tries were amply …

[Page Four]

… supplied with food. Although some 40,000 years have passed since the Sahara was thus populated, concrete evidence has been found in the form of a great number of rock paintings showing scenes of man hunting the animals.

As the rains receded and the forests died, the animals seeking food and water wandered and some came eventually to the Nile. Man, following the herds, also came to the Nile, and gradually learnt to domesticate some of the animals, also to gather the seeds of the plants and grow these in plots. The rich soil, the warm sun and the generous overflowing Nile, made this an ideal farming area, and so the people who now had little problems regarding foods, were able to give thought to other matters and began to produce finely finished implements, well-shaped and decorative pottery, which had hitherto been of a rough but adequate design.

The cave dwellers of the earliest days had discovered how to express themselves in …

[Page Five]

… a crude form of painting. Probably after killing some animal, they had attempted to clean the blood from their hands by wiping their fingers on the walls, and so produced the first shapes. Cleaning clay, after making a crude vessel showed another medium in which their artistic prowess could be used. Silhouettes of hands were probably the first decoration. Later, finger drawings of animals appeared. As today’s fishermen and hunters re tell the story of the one that got away, so the hunter of yesteryear portrayed his intended victims. His hunting was not for sport, but dire need, and so the fish he drew showed not only the exterior visible to the fisherman’s eye, but the succulent bones, that he, in his imagination, was sucking as he drew. The deer and bison, in his drawings, had thighs of great proportions, which would have provided his tribe with food for many a day. The drawings, were in fact more of a …

[Page Six]

… prayer to an unseen deity, to provide such animals.

The Egyptians had thus been provided, and wondered at their fortune. They recognised, that theirs was a good land. The Nile, which overflowed regularly brought the waters which did not come from the sky. Here was a good god. The Sun which shone and ripened their corn was a greater god. The desert, that invaded their homes, when the Nile receded was a bad god, Seth. The cow, who gave their milk became Hathor, the goddess. It appears, that all forms of life had at their head of god or goddess, great or small, the life intrigued Egyptians. All these beings were introduced in their paintings and sculptures, first of all in the homes of abode and mud.

Unfortunately the earliest Egyptian settlements can never be found. These were in the delta regions and were destroyed thousands of years ago by the floods and …

[Page Seven]

… by successive generations who ploughed and reploughed, built and rebuild over their ancestors homes. A few items, palettes of slate, terracotta figures, animals, elephant coffee, hippopotamus of turquoise have been found to prove that the art of the ancient Egyptians went back to before 4000 BC.

It was in the region of 3200 BC that the union of Upper and Lower Egypt was formed and the great granite rocks of Aswan were brought into use as a more lasting monument than the easily eroding abode. The priests had now devised a form of picture writing and with the use of copper instruments, pictures of the gods were cut into the stone and legends written. The god of writing was froth Thoth, the ibis, for only this creature had a beak, strong enough to penetrate the hard stone.

As previously stated, all forms of life, from the lowly but industrious dung beetle to the huge hippopotamus, had a supreme being at its head and …

[Page Eight]

… the priest King or pharaoh was believed to be the god of humans, the incarnated Osiris, who led his people like a shepherd, with a crook and gently chastise them with a flail. These instruments are often seen in the hands of the statues of the dead pharaohs who stand with their legs and feet together. The statues of the living pharaoh strides forth grasping the key of life in his palm.

Because of the great number of Tombs found in Egypt, dominated by the huge pyramids, many people look on Egyptians is being morbid and obsessed with the fear of death. In fact, it was the reverse. For thousands of years, with the exception to the time when the Hytsos, or shepherd King’s (probably the Jews) invaded their country, there was no major worry. The cycle of birth, life and death was one that the thinking Egyptian did not wish to believe. This life was good, why should it not continue after death. The Sun died every night, but in the morning …

[Page Nine]

… he arose, on the other side of the sky. Ra, was good, if there obeyed his commands and cherished their children and servants, as he cherished them with his life giving rays, would you not lead them to life in the underworld? And so belief in the hereafter was born. At first, it was only the Pharaoh, who received this blessing, for it was essential that the body must be preserved, and mummification was most expensive and long drawn out. The organs of the body i.e. viscera were taken out, put into preserving fluids and placed in alabaster jars, the lids of which were fashioned in the likeness of the dead man. Then the body was embalmed, but first a large scarab was placed in the position of the removed heart. One early form of embalming was to place the body in bitumen, this is the method which gave the name “mummy” to the preserved bodies, mummy being an Arabic word for bitumen.

The best preservative was the dry desert air. The body of a woman some 5000 years old, still showing dry leathery skin and ginger hair had nothing to aid her mortality, but she still exist today in the British Museum.

[Page Ten]

In fact, the careful work of the priest was destroyed more quickly than a casual work of nature. This was due to the fact, that the great god, once embalmed was decked in gold and jewels befitting to his status, and his tomb furnished with gold vessels, statues and many of his favourite possessions, and this attracted the attention of robbers, who had little thought of the hereafter and lived for today. They violated the Tombs, even those in the giant pyramids, ransacked the shrines and destroyed the mummies in their search for treasure.

This did not deter the wealthy. As far back as 2700 BC nobles such as Ty and Imhotep built their own tombs, decorated these with pictures of the life around them, and installed statues of themselves. The statues were most important. The Egyptians now believe that they possessed a soul, and this was shown in the form of a bird. Ba, as the sole was known, could travel fourth, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the world, but …

[Page 11]

… they were afraid that it might forget the body to which it belonged, so the statue Ka portraying the man, together with his name was in the tomb to help the Ba to identify his rightful body.

Many beautiful statues have been found showing the dead pharaoh and the Ba birds seated by his side. Life beyond the grave was assured for the pharaoh, for he was the god, Osiris incarnate, but the nobles could not expect this as a right. Their soul, after death was led by Anubis, the jackal headed god of mummification, through many perils until they faced Osiris, god of the dead. In his presence, their hearts were weighed against a feather. If the man’s deeds in life for good, his reward was a continuation of life with the gods, but if his heart was heavy with evil, he was thrown to the crocodile headed Sebek who disposed of him. In the latter days of the middle and new kingdom after 1300 BC many nobles wrote Books of the Dead, in which they inscribed with their good deeds. Pictures of wives and children or pleading forgiveness and the goddess …

[Page 12]

… Mat would add her supplications to help lighten the heart. Indeed, many letters of papyrus show that the middle kingdom nobles were kind and generous to the servants, and pictures of family life portray loving husbands and fathers, who took their families on hunting and fishing excursions, delighting in both sons and daughters who copied their father skills.

[Chapter 3 – Marsailles and onwards]

With my mind full of these things and the knowledge that soon, I would see these marvels, the actual sites, is not reproductions, time past quickly, but we were not to reach a proposed destination, Tripoli, that night. Our plane, a Dakotar, had been delayed by fog at its home airport Exeter, further delayed at Gatwick and now facing strong headwinds we were not making the speed that normal conditions would allow. Our captain said that he would tried to land at Nice, he felt sure we would enjoy a night on the French Riviera. The weather decided otherwise. A strong …

[Page 13]

… mistral was blowing and Nice was out of the question, but we were redirected to Marseilles. The plane quickly lost height and bumped somewhat as we came down. I was very glad to suck at a fruit drop, which greatly helped to overcome the feeling of sickness that arose. As the wheels of the plane touched the ground, we felt a slight bump, and was surprised at the expert landing in such adverse conditions. Outside the trees were bending with the wind, the bushes almost flat to the ground, and we ourselves have great difficulty in remaining upright, so strong where the gales of the mistrals. Overhead the skies were a dull pink.

A coach was soon bearing both crew and passengers away to a hotel, and it was here that I met the person who was to share my rooms for the duration of the holiday. Tall, bespectacled with fair hair severely drawn back, stern of face, my roommate a Professor of Philosophy. I wondered how I, with my humble background could live …

[Page 14]

.. up to this personage.

I need not have worried. Evelyn, although a great intellect who had lectured both in American and West Africa and was now an assistant head in a girls’ college, was both kind and friendly.

After dinner, we took a short walk around the town, but were not greatly impressed and returned for an early night in preparation for the next day’s journey.

This was a long, but pleasant flight mainly across the Mediterranean, with Corsica and Sardinia on course. The deep sapphire sea below interspersed with sandy red islands, vegetation showing only as a dark shadow, whilst overhead the azure sky combined to make kaleidoscope of ever changing beauty. Once again, Janet demonstrated the life belt drill and then we settled down to read various books or make polite conversation. Two of the UNESO Courier books were passed round. These were very interesting as they gave accounts of the Nubian temples which …

[Page 15]

… were in danger of being lost for ever beneath the waters of the Nile. The new dam at Aswan would cause a great lake covering a vast area. Although this would result in many of the people losing their homes, on the credit side would be the many thousands of acres of land could be irritated by controlled release of water. The people of the area involved, would be rehabilitated in new and more fertile areas, but the ancient sites, some of the oldest and most spectacular in the world were presenting quite a problem. Many of the smaller temples have been surveyed and were already partly dismantled. Their great blocks of stone all carefully marked, numbered and cased were awaiting the day when the dam completed, they would be rebuilt on the edge of the great lake and again see the brilliant sun overhead.

Because of the doubt, as to whether the great temples of Abu Simbel could be saved, many tourists agents have arrange tours to Wadi Haifa and thus many ordinary folk had the chance to see these …

[Page 16]

… wonderful monuments.

These magazines, which we all found most absorbing, where the property of Mr. and Mrs. Crowson. They had written to the editor of the Courier asking for magazines with articles on the Egyptian Temples explaining that they were joining a tour of some 35 people. The Courier had generously supplied enough copies for each traveller to have the two special editions and this enterprising couple promised to send copies to any anyone interested enough to pay the postage.

It was midafternoon when we landed of Tunis to refuel, before continuing our flight to Tripoli, and for the first time I stepped out onto a continent other than Europe. I remember thinking that the African Airport was not very difficult for the European Airport and that the people were also similar, just a little more ‘suntanned’. I cannot remember whether it was here or in France, I believe the latter, that I saw to my horror, a great petrol wagon race up to the plane …

[Page 17]

[Chapter 4 – Libya]

… and proceed to re fuel whilst we were still on board. When I think of the careful precautions that are taken in our own country and then learn of the vast number of accidents, a wonder that so many people populate these other countries where caution is thrown to the winds.

Soon we were off again, the land less than an hour later in Libya.

Was this Africa? Where was the desert? The air warm, about 70, so pleasant after the bare 40 F that we had left in London. A coach quickly drove us into Tripoli, where lovely villas, set in tree screened gardens, lined the roads. Our hotel was situated on the sea front in a beautiful tree lined road and had a most attractive appearance. The reception room was octagonal with enquiries in one corner, bar and breakfast rooms and lounge leading off and a number of corridors going in many directions. The main decoration was a stream lined camel, a number of motifs in the shape adorn the reception hall. As I …

[Page 18]

… was rather intrigued with this animal, I enquired why it was so widely used and was told that this was a mehari or racing camel and gave the name Del Mehari to the hotel.

One long corridor leading out of the octagon went under the roadway, and here and there tanks of fishes and pictures of sea life were set into the walls. At the far end was the dining room built in the shape of the stern of a boat, decorated with life belt and other marine objects. As the windows opened right on to the sea, the illusion that one was aboard an ocean going liner was complete and only when going close to the windows one could see the small flower garden which grew by the restaurant and reality returned.

Other passages which opened off the reception rooms lead passed courtyards with fountains, orange and lemon trees and as we made our way to our rooms we saw some of the other occupants, all male, enjoying long drinks in the cool refreshing air. This could have been a most attractive hotel.

[Page 19]

Many of its features where charming, if only a woman had been allowed to run the place, with a few females staff to do the cleaning. But unfortunately, in the Arab countries, women are still kept apart from the menfolk at least in the lower circles from whence the maids would have been enlisted.

Our rooms were all single one(s), very small with bed and a ‘cubby hole’ to hang clothes, on one side. This cubby hole was only intended to hold suits as a set of drawers was fitted below. Opposite the latter in a recessed was the washbasin etc. At the far end a window, covered with netting, in front of which was a table. The whole cell had an area of about eight by six feet, a door at the side opened onto a bathroom. This had a bath of about 3 foot 6 inches built with a seat, my one concern here was there was another door leading to an adjoining bedroom and there appeared to be no way that one could lock this. I never found out who …

[Page 20]

… shared my bathroom and always sang loudly to show that it was occupied, but I’m not sure if this was wise. If the occupant had been a Libyan, he might have thought that was an invitation to a duet!!

Unlike the more public parts of the hotel, the rooms are furnished in a very cheap and tawdry manner, and our first impressions were, that they had not been cleaned for months!
We realised later that that was rather unfair. The storms that had delayed our flight had whipped up the sand and this had penetrated into the rooms and laid thickly over everywhere. The contrast aroused much speculation. It would appear that the bedrooms had been built first, and someone volunteered the information that these have been erected the house cycling clubs, in the days when Libya was under Italian rule.
Our three day visit to Libya had been curtailed to two days by the mistral, and the following morning we started out early in an endeavour …
[Page 21]
… to see as much as possible in this shortened time.

After a quick drive around the town, during which our young Arab guide Ali pointed out the main attractions, we set off to visit the Friday market at [Targinra]. The countryside was the most part, lush and green. Young corn and maize was already some 6 to 8 inches high; no doubt in this climate, as in the southern Mediterranean countries of Europe, two or more crops can be grown during the year.

We had been told, that we would see their Oasis of Tripoli. I, for one, had expected to see a large lake, shaded by palm trees, where men and women filled pitchers and cans and loaded these onto camels, or donkeys, or even carried them away on their heads. We were soon to be disillusioned. The oasis was the term given to the whole area around Tripoli, the here there was plenty of water beneath the surface of the earth, and many of the people were employed to raise this up, by various methods. Some used a noria, a kind of tread wheel.

[Page 22]

A donkey, or a camel harnessed to a chain of buckets walked around in circles, and manoeuvred the buckets to rotate and bring a constant flow of water to the surface. But the most popular system was the ramp method. We stopped to watch one team at work, carefully choosing a man, as photographing women was strictly taboo. Time after time the man walked his oxen down the ramp, and then back to the top where a well was sank into the ground. A rope, fastened to the neck of the animal was slung over a bar above the well, and fastened to a huge leather water container. As the animal approached the mouth of the well, the bucket lowered and was brought up to the surface when the walk down the ramp was completed. Then the container, shaped like a crude bottle, reached the overhead bar and was emptied into a large stone tank. Here the water was conserved until the evening and then released into irrigation channels to water the crops.

Picture some were taken of this operation, and one of the ladies rewarded the man with a packet of …

[Page 23]

… cigarettes. As we moved away, we saw another man, who we took to be the land owner, hurry over to the first one and after exchange of words the prize was handed over.

We saw this irrigation scene repeated many times, sometimes of a camel, sometimes oxen, sometimes a man clad in a hola, sometimes a girl.

tp22 18
Libya 1962
tp22 19
Libya 1962
[Chapter 5 – Oasis Market]

When we reached the village where the market was held, we were glad to alight from the coach, and mingle with the country folk looking at the various wares. Many of these were laid on the ground protected with [paper Materials?], white or gaudy coloured were mostly very cheap cotton. Wool freshly shorn from the sheep lay in heaps, also corn, and other grain. Dates of different colours were closely examined by the would be purchasers and I remembered that these were consumed in great quantities by the Arabs, especially when other crops failed due to lack of rain.

The main part of the market was enclosed in a large columnaded (sic) square with dazzling …

[Page 24]

… white walls. Most of the men, we saw no women, were also dressed in white robes, a few having a heavy mantle of rough fawn home spun, for these people, the weather at below 70° was cool.

A small turning led me into the cattle market and here I saw a small flock of sheep, two of which had been shorn from neck to waist to show the plump and pink bodies. The season of Ramadan was nigh and even the poorest people celebrate this holy occasion with a feast of lamb.

Standing by a whitewashed wall stood a camel with her small offspring and cameras will all to the fore to get this unusual version of mother and child.

rp24 09
Libya 1962 Tripoli
rp24 11 nr Tripoli
Libya 1962 Tripoli

A group of well fed dromedary stood nearby, looking down their noses with a supercilious air. Although the legs of the animals were tied to prevent them from moving away, their general condition and appearance was of a high order.

Returning to the main market area, I next viewed the array of vegetables, which included lettuce, onions and tomatoes, all of a clean and fresh standard.

[Page 25]

An array of herbs and henna was in the care of three young girls of around 14 years of age. These were the first feminine figures we saw at the market and their provocative glances encourage me to raise my camera. At once, with many giggles, they hid their faces in their hands, only to raise their heads and invite a further attempt as soon as the camera was lowered. This game was greatly enjoyed by the younger folk, but one or two older men protested and cried ‘No no Mademoiselle’.

At the poultry stall, my photographic interest was not shunned and I managed to capture a picture of a pretty girl of 10 years of age seated by boxes of eggs. A few hens lay on the ground with their feet trussed to make carrying easier for the buyer.

The fascination of market places is universal. Townsfolk visit the cattle markets, visitors to London go to Petticoat lane, and those to Paris investigate the flea markets, everyone has an attraction of its own. But those of the east and south have an added charm, that of transporting …
[Page 26]

… the visitor back through the centuries to the scenes of the Biblical days. Too soon we had to leave, for time was limited and there was much to see but I did manage to take a quick look at the mosque and see the roman columns which had been taken from Lepis magna to support the barrel vaulted roof.

[Chapter 6 – Sarbratha]

Returning to Tripoli, and we visited the castle which stands as a fold on the coast. From its crenated walls we looked down on the lovely tree lined coast road and saw the two columns bearing the emblems of past empires to which this part of Africa had belonged. The Phoenician ship, emblem of the Carthagians who had settled in this area and the Roman twins, Romulus and Remus, sucking at the she wolf, the symbol of the Roman empire which overthrew them in the Punic wars.

The castle museum exhibited many of the Roman treasures, including beautiful carvings of Hadrian and his family, which had once adorned the arch which still stands in the town. On the museum walls were large mosaic pictures which had once graced the villa temples and palaces of Lepis magna, Ola and Sabratha. These were the towns which became known as the three towns or Tripoli. All were once …

[Page 27]

Phoenician, and then Roman. Of the first occupants, little remains but a few burial places. Maybe the ruthless conquerors resolved to lay his enemy once and for all, but from the ashes of these old towns, large and beautiful cities were raised and we saw much evidence of the splendour of the Roman era.

rp27 21 50
Roman mosaics in Tripoli museum – Libya 1962

Sarbratha was the first sight to be visited, before entering the city site we visit the small museum which housed many extremely beautiful mosaics. One octagonal in shape, portrayed the head of Neptune with bluey green hair waving around his face. This had once been the centrepiece of a bathroom floor.

rp27 22 Libya Sabratha Neptune
Libya 1962 – Sabratha Neptune (Roman god of the Sea)

The most complete ruin is the theatre and here we sat in the auditorium listening to our guide described the scenes which had taken place here 2000 years ago. Two gratings below which water had flowed were built on the stage and these had aided the acoustics. A large edifice was built at the back of the stage, with columns and an open arches, through …

[Page 28]

… which the sea could be seen. Dolphins and draped figures of marble adorned the front of the stage.

Another building which made use of the sea as a backdrop and was the temple of Isis. It seems strange to see the temple of this goddess 2000 miles away from her home, but we learnt that the Romans had adopted her and had also brought granite from Aswan for the columns, that were to grace her sanctuary.

[Chapter 7 – Leptis magna]

The following day we visited Leptis magna, a larger and more impressive Roman City, probably the most complete of all Romanic ruins. We entered the city by the ancient paved roadway. On either side, the banks created by the excavations, rose to some 12 feet, and were covered with mauve mesembryanthemums, the flowers of which were as large as the palm of a man’s hand.

As I walked under the arch built by Trajan I thought of the Emperor’s who had connections with Leptis and England. Hadrian, the great builder, Marcus Aurelius, whose meditations are still considered among the world’s …

[Page 29]

… classic writings, and Lucius Septimus Severus, the only African to attain the Imperial throne. Born in Leptis magna, he died in York. As Hadrian did before him, he built a wall in Britain to protect Southern Britain from invasions from the north.

Standing on the uppermost years of the auditorium of the theatre, one can still well imagine the presence of one of the Ceasars and his entourage, for here is surely one of the most magnificent theatres of the ancient world. From the Temple of Cyrene, the goddess it gazing over this vast auditorium, the enormous stage flanked by the two giant Apollo’s, eyes fixed on the forest of polychrome marvels columns which rise beyond. I do not know what form of building these columns once supported,. It surely was a temple of great dimensions, for from this source, the builders of Versailles, the sham Greek ruins of Virginia Water and many of the mosques in the nearby African villages have acquired the columns to adorn their own erections. We had already seen one example, in the mosque at Taguira where 48 Leptis columns now supported the barrelled roof.

[Page 30]

The marketplace, also provided many items of interest. Scoops in the giant granite cross bars showed the method for measuring corn, and linear measures for cloth appeared to be similar to our own present day yard and foot lengths.

Large marble slabs supported by uprights bearing the carved effigies of the commodities they once displayed, fish and poultry, were in almost perfect condition. Having seen the places which were engrossed with food for thought and food for body, we next visited the temple of spiritual guidance. Built in the oriental style of the early century AD, as seen from the detached columns carved with effigies of Pan and Bacchus, it was later had added to or made into a Christian church by Justinian.

Although the marble facing have become detached from the main fabric of the building, the actual shell is still in very good condition. The ends of the vast basilica were bowed and on either side two columns ornately carved with pagan figures, fruit and animals drew attention to the importance of this area. There was no sign of the altar which must have stood here at one time, but before the identical area at the opposite end, stood a …

[Page 31]

… beautifully carved pulpit. Between the columns, still standing, were heaps of fallen masonry. Some of the great marble arch ways were complete, and looking at the stonework, pink and white, one can imagine what a magnificent building this had once been.

Going through a high doorway, we found ourselves in an enormous forum. I cannot remember seeing any standing columns, but laid out in the form of a square, where the arches, which had once been supported by them. To me, they were is unique, for I had never before seen the head of medusa are used in Roman architecture, and here, each end of the curved arch was finished with such an effigy.

Having spent an interesting morning in one of the most important Roman cities in Africa, will return to the nearby town of Homs for lunch. After our meal, a few of us decided to spend some time on the beach and then make a survey of the town, whilst the main body of the party returned to the ruins to visit the wonderful mosaics housed in the museum.

blp30 01 Libya 1962 Leptis Magna
Libya 1962 Leptis magna

blp30 07 Libya 1962 Leptis Magna Fish Market
Libya 1962 Leptis Magna Fish Market

[Chapter – Homs]

Unfortunately we, the beach contingent found the …

[Page 32]

… weather too cold to swim, but took a paddle instead drying our feet on towels generously supplied by the lunch hotel.

In the town, we saw some very colourful gardens with beds of Antirrhinum, petunias, Marguerite’s and Heliotrope. Two bright golden beds of marigolds were in the shape of a star and crescent, the Muslim emblems. A group of small boys invited us to take their photos, but as soon as we raised our cameras, they ran away.

31 Libya 1962 Homs
Libya 1962 Homs – Flower beds in shapes of symbols
32 Libya 1962 Homs
Libya 1962 Homs

A small domed building attracted my attention, and thinking it was a mosque, I went to investigate. As I drew nearer, the words Barclay’s Bank could be seen over the doorway. I suppose, I should not have been too surprised.

All over the world, people have learnt the wisdom of saving their money and putting it into the security of a bank. But mostly, the bank is among the most modern buildings in the town. Homs is an old town. Most of its whitewashed buildings are typically Arabic, denude of windows and having a single large entrance. This and the sight of the few passersby dressed in biblical robes, one slumped on the back of a donkey, dozing as he was carried along, had taken me back in history and away from …

[Page 33]

… matters of today. Therefore ‘Barclays Bank’ brought me back with a start.

Although Homs may be old fashioned, there were two incidents in Tripoli that night which showed the inhabitants of that town were welcoming western ways. After dinner in company of the two classics mistresses and an attractive widow, I went for a walk along the promenade. We found ourselves followed by a taxi, and as we returned to the hotel, the occupant called to Mrs C. Apparently he was staying at the hotel and she had already been in conversation with him. He invited her to go to a nightclub with him. This she declined. Back at the hotel, we sat in the bar having a nightcap before retiring. Twice Mrs C. was summoned to the telephone. Her admirer was very persistent and at last she agreed to accompany him to the club. Near our table were three or four Libyans and they had too tried to get into conversation with our party. For myself I would have enjoyed talking to them. One learns so much more by being friendly to the people of the country one is visiting, but my companions, both …

[Page 34]

… staid and scholastic were very of fended. They called for their bill, only to find it had already been paid for them by the men. Rather ungraciously they tried to press payment on the Libyans and when this failed retired to bed. For a brief moment, I thought I would try to explain that these ladies would have rebuffed a similar action in their own country, but decided against this. For one thing, I was spending the next two weeks in the company of the teachers, for another had retained by them to remain by myself with these with the men may by misconstrued by them. Although emancipation of women folk was taking place among the more educated, proper introduction and social manners must take place before the two sexes met. With the young men, female company, even that of an older women was a refreshing change, and no doubt American films gave the false impression that ‘pick ups’ was the accepted thing in western countries.”

End of Libya part – next Egypt

If you would like to see where else Doris visited, select somewhere from this map:


  1. The photo of the woman with the child at [page 31] most likely been taken in Egypt. Judging by the clothing of the woman and the man on the bicycle. (Ordinary Egyptians were so rare in Libya during the 60’s , the first wave of Egyptian workers entered the country in 1970) .

  2. Wondering whether Doris took any photos of Tripoli Cathedral (no longer exist) or the castle, She wouldn’t miss such great sites.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.