Travel: Something to Declare

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Bargain of the Week

A guide to Libya

In 1986 I travelled around Tunisia, visiting the stupendous ruined Roman cities of Sbeitla, Dougga and El Djem. I cast an occasional glance across the Mediterranean towards Tripoli, thinking of the far more spectacular ruins that lie within the Popular Socialist Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah, once the Roman province of Africa. I didn't have the courage to try and worm my way in. Now I wish I had. Leptis Magna, birthplace of the Emperor Septimius Severus and 75-miles-odd east of Tripoli, is a ruined city to die for. And the easiest way to decide whether to go there is beautiful Libya: the lost cities of the Roman Empire, which I found in Blackwell's in Charing Cross Road this week.

This is a monster 27x30cm volume heaving with double-page colour photographs by Robert Polidori, and a fairly thorough text is included as well. Vast basilicas, amphitheatres, piazzas and marketplaces are all recorded in the rich oranges, yellows and browns of weathered marble. And it's not the only one. Libya also has the ruined Roman cities of Sabratha and Cyrene.

The history of these places lasts from Greek origins right through to Byzantine times, brought to an end by a receding sea and earthquakes. And the price of this remarkable book? A paltry pounds 9.99, which sent me to the till to ask if there was a mistake. I'll set the money saved against a ticket on Libyan Arab Airlines. If you want to get a feel for Leptis Magna first, some columns filched from the site in the 19th century are erected at Virginia Water (near Junction 2 of the M3 in Surrey).

Libya: The lost cities of the Roman Empire. Photos by Robert Polidori, text by Antonino Di Vita, Ginette Di-Evrard and Lidiano Bacchielli. Published in English by Konemann Verlagsgesell-schaft gmbH, Cologne.

Guy de la Bedoyere

Trouble spots:

Time-share touts on Mexico's Pacific coast

A leading British tour operator to the resort of Puerto Vallarta warns clients: "Please be aware that in the hotel, and around the resort, there are a number of people who will try to sell you a time-share. These touts are cleverly disguised as people selling tours "2 for 1" or offering free breakfasts, etc. If you accept their offers of tours, bear in mind that you won't be insured and will be obliged to listen to a time-share presentation, often with no escape.

"My advice to you is agree to nothing and politely walk away. Certainly never sign anything or hand over your credit card."

True or false:

Doctors get discounts on holidays

Mostly false, though given the potential benefits for other travellers, there is a strong argument that these should be the norm. So far, GPs' perks are limited. One exception is the trekking company, Himalayan Kingdoms (0117-923 7163), whose 1999/2000 brochure says: "Where a trek does not already have a doctor allocated, then medical practitioners are eligible to a 7 per cent discount if they wish to act as trek doctor". The Independent would be pleased to know about other companies offering discounts for medical personnel.

Comments