Lucked into Libya

We took a trip to Libya with Distant Horizons (Long Beach, CA; 800/333-1240), an ITN advertiser. We were quite fortunate to have received visas, which arrived at almost the last minute. Other tours had to be canceled because the Libyans had not issued visas for those groups.

It seems the Libyan government relaxed its restrictions on visas, at least temporarily, to take advantage of the thousands of people who wanted to watch the total solar eclipse on March 29, ’06. Our group left Libya on March 27, and Distant Horizons had to pay a special “eclipse tax.”

We had a very good trip. It was a pleasure to travel in a country that has not yet been spoiled by mass tourism but does have adequate, and even some luxurious, accommodations.

The Greco-Roman-Byzantine ruins are spectacular, especially with the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop and the wildflowers in full bloom. We felt safe and were not subjected to the constant haranguing of beggars or hawkers as one experiences in Egypt and India.

Libya is also interesting to visit because it is a country in transition, from a tightly controlled economy and political state to a more open, free-market society. There are still huge billboards of Gaddafi everywhere in Tripoli (but not so much elsewhere), but we also saw satellite dishes on almost every building, allowing citizens to see TV from anywhere in the world.

Santa Barbara, CA