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The Captain's Choice part II — Libya

Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Captain's Choice was founded by Phil Asker, 12 years ago. It provides luxury, all-inclusive personalised tours to remote and exotic destinations. Passengers travel on Qantas aircraft to places not on the airline's usual routes.

Tours vary in length, as do nights spent in each port. Accommodation is always the best available and all meals, banquets and regional entertainment are included. Some tours include travel on private train, luxury ship and other deluxe modes of transport.

Passengers stay with the same aircraft, crew and The Captain's Choice Tour Escorts who give individual attention to everyone. You check in just once and only aisle and window seats are used. Seats are re-allocated each sector so everyone has the opportunity of having a window seat. A doctor with medical supplies accompanies each tour.

Ground tours are arranged but, of course, you don't have to stay with the group. You are free to head off by yourself if you prefer.

After a wonderful visit to Morocco, next stop was Libya, a country which is 99 percent desert.

We stopped in Tripoli, Libya's largest and most cosmopolitan city, set on one of North Africa's best natural harbours. It has a Mediterranean charm, blended with strong Arabian/Islam influences, and visitors just love it. Founded in the seventh century BC by the Phoenicians, Tripoli is on the edge of the desert in Libya's north-west. It is on a rocky point projecting into the Mediterranean.

Libya has been involved in almost every major power struggle in the region in the last 3000 years. Starting with the Phoenicians, it has had many visitors. The wild Garamantian people, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines and Islamic armies from Damascus as far back as 600BC.

Tripoli has been bombarded by the French, Dutch and British navies, the Italians liberated Libya from the Ottomans in 1911 and in 1951 it was declared an independent monarchy.

Gaddafi lead a successful coup in 1969 and during the '80s and '90s it gained notoriety as a supporter of terrorism. The United Nations cut it off from the world. The United States arrived in 1986, firing missiles from aircraft, and in 1999, after a change in government attitude and actions, the UN lifted the sanctions and Libya returned to the world.

The Assai al-Hamra (the Red Castle) dominates the skyline of modern Tripoli. It is a vast complex with many courtyards and beautiful classical statues and fountains from the Ottoman period.

The old walled city with three is one of the Mediterranean's classical sites. The walls can be climbed for good views. Its basic street plan was laid in the Roman period and walls were constructed as protection against attacks.

The Harbour Monument stands at the gates of the old city and there are a number of restored houses, consulates and a synagogue in its narrow streets. The medina is where you can buy traditional wares, jewellery and clothing — and unlike most souqs and markets, bargaining for lower prices is not acceptable there.

Less than two hours to Tripoli's east are the ruins of Leptis Magna, one of the finest Roman-era cities still in existence. In the third century it was the biggest and wealthiest Roman city when Africa was at its peak. Unlike those built of sandstone, it is built of sturdy limestone, making it more resistant to earthquakes and the ravages of time.

It remains a testament to Roman town planning, with streets following an ordered pattern and an extravagance of lavish decoration, grand buildings of monumental stature, indulgent bath complexes and entertainment forums. An enormous amphitheatre with seating for over 5000 still has extraordinary acoustics.

A magnificent archway of limestone covered in marble commemorates a visit by Emperor Septimus Severus who was born there in 145AD. Marketplaces are engraved with fish, vegetables and game which were once sold there. There was a steady income from agriculture, gold and other metals, ivory and the slave trade.

The ruins were abandoned in the 11th century and lay under a blanket of the Sahara until the early 1900s when they were unveiled by Italian workers. It is believed that only 20 percent has been uncovered.

The Hadrianic Baths are most impressive, and one remains intact, complete with arches, statues and columns. The bath house was one of the largest ever built outside Rome itself.

From the once forbidden and mysterious Libya, the Captain's Choice's next stop is Kenya, home to the Maasai Mara.


Tripoli and Leptis Magnus in Libya.


The Captain's Choice Tour offers luxury packages to exotic destinations, travelling by plane, train and ship. 2006 itineraries include Cape Town to Cairo, South America including The Andes, Amazon and Machu Picchu, The Silk Route, Dalmatia and the Danube and Shangri-La and The Golden Triangle. Tours start at $9575 per person twin share. All airfares, accommodation, meals, sightseeing and transfers are included.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

The Captain's Choice Tour
34 Main Street
Croydon Vic 3136
Toll-free phone: 1800 650 738
Fax: (03) 9723 9560

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