March 2nd is Declaration Day, which is an official public holiday in Libya. Since I didn't have to work I got together with a friend and we took a drive into the countryside. We'd packed up some bags of things to snack on, and off we went. We ended up in Ben Walid, about a two-hour drive from the capitol, Tripoli.
The drive through the countryside takes you down poorly paved, rutted roads that wind their way through barren rocky landscape with hardly anything to see for miles around. You have to drive at a fast enough pace so that you feel like you are flying over the rough roads. If you slow down the roads just seem worse. And because you have to keep a close watch on the roads to avoid hitting any huge potholes you miss the scenery. But as it's pretty monotonous there really isn't much to see for long stretches of the way. But never mind that because the treat awaits you upon arrival.
When you arrive in the town the first thing you notice is that below you lies a lush green valley and above the valley are rocky hills. The contrast between the dry rocky landscape and the emerald green grass is amazing.
Once in the valley you are overcome with the peace of the place; birds sing, butterflies flit and bees buzz and there is the smell of the grass and flowers - a smell that you never experience in Tripoli.
We parked the car and unloaded our picnic and sat under the trees in the grass. It was lovely.
It almost looks like it could be a golf course. And maybe it could be one day. I took this picture from the top. There is a small hotel above the valley that is under renovation but has some rooms available. There are some Roman ruins in the area but we didn't have time to hunt them down for a visit. It would have meant stopping and asking people and we didn't want to do that. Some signs would have been nice - we'd have been able to get there by ourselves if there were signs... sigh...
Parts of the hilly areas surrounding the valley have remnants of ancient rock dwellings and amongst these are more modern style homes that people live in. There are also many cemeteries with lots of tombs of marabouts.
We had a relaxing picnic and after driving around a while we headed for home. Back to work and school tomorrow.