Neglect and Vandalism to Haunt the Ancient Heritage of Libya

Graffiti cover the Cyrene ruins in Eastern Libya. This is a city founded by the Greeks over 2,600 years ago that had attracted tourists but this is now neglected and is targeted by the vandals. Looting and insecurity have hit the archaeological sites of Libya. It has left it in chaos and fighting which followed the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in the year 2011 as the rival group struggles to consolidate the control over the country.
Libya has 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites which have been listed for their exceptional universal value. The sites comprise the ruins of the Roman City of Leptis Magna and also Sabratha that is famous for its amphitheatre.
It also has prehistoric rock carvings in Akakous Mountain deep in the Sahara close to the border with Algeria. In the eastern region, tourists used to trek to Cyrene. It is a site that has been founded by the Greeks and later on has been expanded by the Romans that is nestled in the mountains around 200km east of Benghazi.
However, with the foreign tourists all gone, only the Libyans visit the sites on weekend trips. Locals have also seized land at the sites and graffiti have been smeared on the walls and columns by the vandals. This presents a challenge to the authorities who try to protect the ruins which are located in Shahat, the small community.
In Cyrene, rather than speaking to one owner, they have to speak to fifty different backgrounds as said by Ahmad Hussein who is the head of the antiquities department. Some owners are even known to have built houses on these sites. The challenge has become worse with the law of 2013 which have allowed people to reclaim the land which has been confiscated under Gaddafi. Some people have taken this literally and are known to have annexed what they considered that they deserved.


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