The Unseen Libya

Libyan Photographer Promotes Natural and Historical Tourism with His Adventure Team
City of Cyrene (Photo by Sanad Ahlafi)

In the middle of the desert and the rock formations, a camping convoy finally arrives carrying a group of young Libyan travelers to a region close to the Acacus Mountains in southwestern Libya, about 100 km away from Algerian border. The SUVs and trucks carrying the camping equipment stopped so the young adventurers could start to take the best shots of the variations of landscape.

The Libyan Team for Travel and Adventure (LTTA) organizes trips that cover hundreds of kilometers of the North African country in search of unique areas which have not been visited by many people. The team captures the scenes in highly professional photos to let the world see the natural and historical treasures of their country that are worthy of visiting by adventurers.

Libyan team of adventurers accompanied by desert patrols. (Credit: Sanad Ahlafi’s Facebook page Visit Libya)

Natural and Historical Sites of Attraction

Little is known about the various tourist destinations in Libya, as political turmoil, international meddling and economic repercussions dominate the headlines coming from there. Libya famously has Africa’s largest oil resources but they have not completely benefitted the country due to the prolonged political crises. But it is yet to be known that the south Mediterranean country houses many marvelous sites of attraction to lovers of travel and adventure. These sites range from natural coastal and desert destinations to ancient architectural sites that can be traced back thousands of years.

Besides traveling to the desert, one of the main destinations organized by the Libyan team is Jabal Akhdar, or the Green Mountain region in the northeast of Libya. The region is distinguished by its lush uplands and fertile valleys thanks to abundant rainfall. It also has one of the most famous historical cities in the Arab world: the ancient city of Cyrene, which was built by the Greeks in 631 BC and was later Romanized. One of Cyrene’s most significant treasures is the Temple of Zeus, which is the second largest Greek temple after Athens’ Parthenon. Cyrene, known in Arabic as Shahat, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Professional photographer and LTTA leader Sanad Ahlafi.

From Amateur Photographer to a Leading Adventurer

The leader of the Libyan adventure team, Sanad Ahlafi, started his journey as an amateur photographer who was passionately taking photos of every beautiful scene in his country. He had the spark of an idea to form a team that can help him cover more natural and historical landscapes with photos and videos, in order to share them via social media platforms and let followers view the amazing side of his country.

“Photography was my main hobby and it changed my entire life, as I have pursued my career as a professional photographer. I have received many questions from young people who wanted to join my photography travels, so I decided to form a team to give more opportunities for more people,” Sanad Ahlafi told Majalla.

He added that his idea appealed to many young people, photographers and travelers, so he decided to take the responsibility of organizing and coordinating full trip programs.

Castle Of Qasir Libya in Bayda city, Jabal Akhdar region. (Photo by Sanad Ahlafi)

A Growing Team

The Libyan photographer said that the number of his team members has grown over the past four years, “Since 2018, more than 500 young men from all over Libya have participated in the team’s travels to various regions.”

“At the beginning we accepted only male adventurers, but as we receive more applications from female adventurers, we aspire to work with the Girl Guides of Libya to help organize family trips.”

He pointed out that the trips they organized were not limited to visiting difficult destinations, camping and taking photos, but they also helped participants make friends.

Ahlafi explains that there are various types of trips organized by the adventure team, “In the beginning we were only used to planning coastal trips, but we have expanded our plans to include uplands and finally have started to move towards the desert. Thus, we have three seasons in which we head to three different types of destinations: in spring we travel to the uplands, valleys and water springs; in summer we go to the coasts and sea caves; and, in winter we usually opt for desert travels.”

Tahala village, southwest of Libya. (Photo by Sanad Ahlafi)

Domestic Tourism First

Ahlafi stated that his team’s first mission is to promote domestic tourism in Libya, “in general we aim to spread the culture of tourism and travel in the country, keep our activities going before we can focus on growth.”

“We have highly organized programs, and good financial capabilities which helped small domestic destinations thrive during our trips,” he said. “But security concerns and other hurdles, such as poor infrastructure and underserved destinations, took us some time to overcome and find temporary solutions to serve the tourists.”

The team uses social media to present Libya’s sites of attraction to international tourists, but many factors affect welcoming travelers from abroad.

“The most important factor is statutory legislation that would facilitate the arrival of foreign visitors. Many elements intersect in this regard, such as the historical ties with other countries. But travel agencies can play a vital role to solve this,” he added, “I also hope political and security stability is achieved so we can welcome our first group of foreign tourists.”

Acacus desert (Photo by Sanad Ahlafi)

Security Concerns

The Libyan team leader explained that measures to secure the current trips are taken by the competent security authorities.

“Given the expensive equipment and photography kits carried by the team, we share our plan, itinerary and camping locations with security services and tourism police,” he added.

According to Ahlafi, it can take a month or two to plan for a trip, provide the required equipment, and most importantly, coordinate with all security authorities in the regions nearby their camping points.

Moreover, Ahlafi said his team was planning to partner with other Arab adventure teams, similar to its existing cooperation with the Jordan Drone Club.

The Nature Effect

Is it true that travel and adventures can influence people’s lives?

Ahlafi answered: “Nature can be a safe refuge from the difficulties and crises people face in the cities.”

“Travel can offer a chance for mindfulness, meditation and a calm lifestyle. Immersing oneself in nature provides a free mental therapy, which people should incorporate in their lives,” he concluded.

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