Mediterranean Cycopaths

Another day at the BathHouse…

29th January 2007 

Jon has left it to me to summarise the days spent in ‘Tripolitania’ – a moniker derived from the three cities of antiquity that were sited here: Sabrathra, Oea (modern day Tripoli) and Leptis Magna.

Sabrathra’s crowning glory is the honey-coloured, multi-tiered and collonaded facade which at 20m high forms an impressive backdrop to the theatres’ stage.  It is probably unfair that due to it’s proximity it is almost completely overshadowed by the remains of Leptis Magna which combine triumphal arches, vast forums, intricately carved columns and huge arenas with a breathtaking seaside locale.  I’m sure bygone Roman emperors would laugh at the sight of modern day travellers in awe of what are only the ruins of their mighty civilisation and I find it staggering to imagine this site fully decked out with marble statues and intricate mosaics.

Little remains of Roman Tripoli apart from the huge arch of Marcus Aurelius – legend holds that a curse would be placed on anyone that removed a stone. Rather Tripoli will be remembered for the way in which the old Ottoman castle and walled city ‘face off’ against the colonial Italianite facades across the vast Green Square in an enduring legacy of foreign powers asserting their mark on this city.

Someone else concertedly asserting their mark is the indigenous President Mu’ammer Gaddafi, who’s iconised image with the number 37 (representing the years since he led a revolution to seize power) is plastered everywhere and whose every single action – if you believe the press releases – is “overwhelmingly” supported by his fellow countrymen.

Even more enduring a memory of Tripoli however will be the afternoon’s reprieve we were granted by our ‘minders’ in which we decided to culturally immerse ourselves in the city’s oldest Turkish baths. Being an old pro at this type of activity Jon assured me (normally not a big fan of sauna action) that I must have the “full works” and couldn’t have moved more quickly into a prone position to recieve the services of a largish Moroccan man. Momentarily abandoning my senses I followed like a lemming unaware of the perils that lay ahead on the steam shrouded horizon.

Sparing the details of our cleansing it is suffice to say that our Moroccan associate was resolute in his willingness to ensure we were squeaky clean. Jon reports hearing my explanation “We dont really do that in our culture…” resonating around the tiled space whilst later when the mist of another day at the bathhouse had settled Jon was heard to mutter “I’ve been cleaned so well I feel dirty.”




February 1, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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