We woke to find that it had been raining – in the desert! The press were also at our (new) hotel and took pictures of our strange cars as we set off.
Another convoy day. There has been some confusion when the guide has chosen a different route from the one in our road books. We have had to develop a strategy to deal with it. We are not perfect convoy drivers either and the two together led to a split of the convoy into three groups in downtown Benghazi. Well, we all arrived in the end.
We visited the ‘Great Man Made River Project’ that you have all looked up by now. We saw a 4,700,000 cubic metre circular reservoir which was a receiving one for the water piped from ancient aquifers in the south of Libya. From here it is pumped to a 27m cubic meter reservoir and used for agriculture.
Our other stop was at Qasr Libya – two churches and a fort built by the Byzantines in the sixth century! A group of mosaics have been removed from one of the churches and are in the adjacent museum. They are stunning.
The hotel at the end of the day was a bit worrying. The town is small and half built. The hotel is orange and decorated with air conditioning equipment. We need not have worried. Inside there is a full complement of towels and the hot water has been adequate so far. The food is becoming a bit repetitive but the view from our window is of the harbour and some Byzantine ruins!
Our cars got filthy with a combination of rain and road works through dirt road, but by using sign language, someone who spoke some English got into my car and showed me the way to the local car wash. The Aston is now spotless inside and out and the envy of everyone else. I think that he will do a good trade tomorrow on our day off here.
We have had a lovely day in Cyrenaica, this area of Libya. It was populated by the Greeks from Santorini (Thera) in Greece in the sixth century BC. In the morning we went to Cyrene (remember Simon, Christianity was here before Jesus died.) So after breakfast we set off to drive up into the coastal hills to Cyrene, perched 600m above the narrow coastal strip. We had two passengers in the back – Corrie and Margaret, demonstrating the luxurious four seat capacity. Our guide Abdul was brilliant. He was both knowledgeable about the site and amusing and had an impressive command of English. He also drives an ageing Range Rover and was pleased to see our cars – and even more pleased to get a ride in Rick’s Austin Healey between parts of the site.
The temple of Zeus is bigger than the Parthenon. The Greeks learnt how to build temples from the Egyptians and their influence can be seen. The temple has been sympathetically restored by the Italians and is MAGNIFICENT! The pillars are very simple and have Doric capitals. There are a large number of them standing.
Elsewhere on the site there are theatres, the agora, market place, baths, temples..... The influences of each occupying power can be seen: Greek, Roman, Byzantine.
Back in Susa where our hotel is we filled up with petrol – eight pounds worth. Charlotte rejected the restaurant that Robin chose for lunch... lamb’s liver or chicken. I am sure that the food would have been fine but we would have had to sit at a table next to the main road and opposite the petrol station while it was cooked and to eat it. The hotel’s lunch was fish and chips and was OK but not exciting.
Later in the afternoon we went to visit the local ruins of Appollonia – the Greek port for Cyrene. What remains is largely Byzantine – in a stunning position next to the sea. Highlight of the visit: A tortoise! We had special permission to swim on the beach. Ladies are expected to dress conservatively here so we covered up to walk there and back. The ruins continue under the sea.