Pretoria News

Old City slowly being returned to former glory


IN ALLEYS criss-crossing the Libyan capital’s Old City, constructi­on crews are hard at work restoring former glory to architectu­ral treasures neglected under dictator Muammar Gaddafi and in the decade since he was killed.

The substantia­l restoratio­n under way sought to “preserve the heritage of the Old City” in Tripoli, said Mahmoud al-Naas, head of the committee overseeing the project. Covering around 50 hectares, the Old City was an “architectu­ral joy” – but this made the “enormous” work required a “heavy responsibi­lity”, he said.

The project, funded largely by the state, comes as Libya is undergoing a tentative political renewal. A new prime minister was selected earlier this year through a UN-backed inter-Libyan dialogue to steer the country to December elections, bringing hope that unrelentin­g chaos since Gaddafi’s death might finally end.

Unlike past restoratio­n work – including largely unsupervis­ed and sometimes botched attempts in the mid-1990s and about a decade later – latest efforts ban cement and concrete, wherever possible.

Lime-based mixtures are used to generate an authentic look during plastering, while basalt cobbleston­es replace tarred streets.

Built by the Phoenician­s in the 7th century BC, the Old City has passed from civilisati­on to civilisati­on, notably the ancient Greeks, Romans and the Ottoman empire.

When Gaddafi decided to ban private sector-led developmen­t in the late 1970s, workshops and speciality stores alike lowered their curtains for good. In an instant, know-how that had been passed down from generation to generation was painfully rendered obsolete. A few parts of the Old City’s east side have withstood the ravages of time. The gold and silk markets still attract custom to their covered alleyways and arcades, while its citadel serves as a museum.

Then there is the famed Arch of Marcus Aurelius, its date palms and the minaret of the Gurgi Mosque.

The already refurbishe­d waterfront at the northern edge now boasts pavements and a completed road.

“The Old City is coming back to us,” rejoiced Mohamad Nasser, whose seafront shop selling fishing and diving gear is a prime beneficiar­y of the restoratio­n work.

 ??  ?? LABOURERS walk past the Roman Marcus Aurelius arch in the Libyan capital Tripoli’s old city. | AFP
LABOURERS walk past the Roman Marcus Aurelius arch in the Libyan capital Tripoli’s old city. | AFP

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