Sunday, November 06, 2005
What I did on the three days of Eid
The last night of Ramadan in Libya is a crazy all night shopping frenzy. Here's what it looked like in front of the shops in the morning.
The cleaning crew starts in to work first thing in the morning. Poor things have to work on Eid. I hope they get a decent wage.
Within a few hours they have everything spick and span.
The kids get all kinds of toys to play with on Eid. Usually they are noisy. Here's Ibrahim with his gun collection. I hate those things. They shoot little pellets and are actually pretty dangerous. The kids are given money from the relatives and they run out and buy what they want from toy stands that are set up on nearly every corner. Mothers have no control over what the kids buy because they are stuck inside the house. Another reason I hate pellet guns is because the little pellets end up all over the house and I forget to empty the boys? pockets - so they clog up the washing machine. As we drove to my in-laws we noticed most of the boys were using any light bulbs they could find for target practice. There will be a run on light bulbs next week when people replace the broken ones.
Yoyos were by far the hit toy of this Eid. All the kids had them. Mostly they behaved themselves with them but of course they did find it fun to swing them around their heads and aim for the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. You can't complain too much - at least yoyos are quiet toys.
The first two days of Eid we spent at my in law's house. The third day of Eid we drove out to Khoms to visit the ancient Roman ruins of Leptis Magnus. The weather was perfect. We took Jenna, Ibrahim and Mehdi(nephew). Mustafa stopped to pray the Friday prayer in Khoms and then we had basically half a day at the ruins. - We didn't get to see everything and as there is lots of walking involved the kids got tired and Jenna whined. Next time we will leave the kids at their grandmother's house!
There were lots of tourists there. We actually had a hard time finding a parking space. But as the site is so huge you could wander around and not be bothered by people. We had a nice visit to the museum before we started on the ruins. Outside the museum is a statue of Roman Emperor Septimus Severus that used to be in the Green Square but has been moved to Leptis.
The museum had quite a bit of statuary on display - most all were headless. The heads were on display separately.
They have an interesting collection of artifacts on display in the museum but there aren't any mosaics on display. I think they've all been moved to the museum in Tripoli.
The first thing you see upon entering the ruins is the Arch of Septimus Severus. He was a Roman emperor who was born at Leptis and honored his birthplace by funding most of the buildings in the city and also building an impressive harbour. The buildings rivaled the finest buildings in Rome.
The arch is basically a billboard announcing all of Septimus Severus's good deeds.
As you walk around the site you get the feeling as though you are stepping back in time. It is so hard to imagine how the city was built. The stone and rocks are huge, the columns are immense. How on earth did they move that stuff around without any modern day equipment? We tried to move just a small broken piece of column and it wouldn't even budge an inch. And it's not just a column or two and a few blocks - there are hundreds of columns and zillions of blocks! In the end despite all their hard work, the Romans lost the city:
'By the 4th century, the desert tribes were becoming a serious threat to Leptis. They continually raided the city. In the beginning the city's well fortified walls protected it from plunder. In 365 Leptis was severely damaged by an earthquake. The most damaging blow was an invasion of a Germanic tribe called the Vandals in 455. Leptis became part of the Byzantine Empire in 534 and during this period of upheaval, much of the city was abandoned. The city was virtually empty by 642 when it came under Arab control. Over time the fortified wall collapsed and the city became covered in sand. The dry desert climate and the sand dunes helped to preserve the ruins.'
All around the Severn Forum are huge medallions of Medusa with snakes in her hair. Medusa was actually imported into Greece from Libya where she was worshipped by the Libyan Amazons as their Serpent-Goddess.
The snakes represented the cycles of life, death and rebirth and the seasons. It is the connection to the fertile earth and to the underworld. It also symbolizes immortality as it was thought to shed its skin indefinitely. The wide unblinking eyes reflect her immense wisdom. They are all knowing, all seeing eyes that see through us, penetrating our illusions and looking into the abyss of truth. It was said that to look upon her face was to glimpse ones own death as she saw your future. It is also told that her powerful gaze would turn her male enemies into stone. Medusa's face was often placed on top of columns, over doorways and gateways, signifying her role as the guardian of the thresholds and mediatrix between realms.