- Wolfgang Fobo
To me Ghadames always was (and is) a mystical place. Located in South Western Libya, close to the borders with Algeria and Tunisia, Ghadames is considered to be one of the most beautiful Sahara spots, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can visit a typical oasis, just as per your imagination.
Apart from Ghadames itself, it has been my desire and even ambition to get a feel of the life in Libya. Libya was coined (by Ronald Reagan, I believe) to be a country belonging to the axis of evil, thanks to Ghadafi’s policies. Since learning about these axil of evil countries, my ambition was to visit all of them. Germans may also for a certain period of time have been a member of this infamous club, some 80 years ago, and in my early twenties I personally often felt prejudices, as a citizen of such a country, how I was sometimes judged, when being on the road in far away countries. So I always distinguish the people from the government, particular if the government is dictatorial.
Of course today I no longer consider Libya as a member of this club, but anyhow, with visiting Libya I completed my bucket list, and all these „axis of evil countries“ I have visited now. I have to state that never I felt any evil. Even not in Russia, which I would propose now to be eligible for this club, but there are so many friendly people over there, which cannot be held responsible for the actions of their dictator.
Ok, but back to our journey to Ghadames. You reach Ghadames after driving some 700km from Tripolis. With stops on the way, passing by pittoresque Berber villages, on good roads which allow speedy progress. Speed did not restrain our testosterone filled driver to play with his mobile phone, calling his friends, making fotos, and singing in company with the music in the radio.
We stayed in the best hotel, a bit outside of Ghadames, still operational, with us three being the only guests. Since the revolution in 2011 tourism has come to a standstill, and we considered ourself as the pioneers (and guinea pigs) of a potential revival of tourism. And what can I say, Ghadames is a MUST. Go there, if you can!
The old Ghadames is a treasure. And a shelter in the same time: when we visited Ghadames, the temperature in the open air reached over 40° C, but in the old town it was absolutely agreable. The old town, this marvelous spot, is now abandoned by the people - it is more comfortable in the more modern houses - and the old town now acts like a huge museum. Some of the old houses can be visited, even they were beautifully kept. In one of them we took our lunch.
The reason of Ghadames being there where it is is the water. Ghadames has lots of water, even a canal system leading through the old town, and I was told you need only dig 2m deep to find water. The pond is the spring, the base of the water supply.
The visit of old Ghadames in the morning took about 3 hours, and after lunch we returned to our air conditioned hotel to hold a siesta. It was simply too hot for any other activity outside. Our visit continued early evening, when we got a feel of the Sahara and the sand dunes. We also got a surprise ride, in a 4x4 Toyota, over the dunes. And even crossing into Algeria, for about 200m. Would I have known beforehand, I would not have taken this ride, where I always was afraid that the car would turn over. What a wild ride, no roller coaster ride would even remotely give you such an experience. When we finally were released, we were pale as a ghost, but luckily our stomach did not revolt. As a kind of reward, we got a sweet tea on the dunes.
The day ended with a traditional dinner in a local guesthouse, before, on the next morning, we headed back to Tripolis.
Oh, I forgot to add a further mosaic stone to my field studies, how to pee correctly in a Muslim country, which was originally triggered from an experience I made in Pakistan. I asked the guide whether he would also avoid to pee in direction to Mecca. He looked at me strangely, replying "I do not know the direction to Mecca, this is not an issue". But he added: "In our houses, all the toilets are arranged in a way that the toilets do not show into direction to Mecca". Ok, slowly but surely I get more knowledgeable about this special issue...