Libya's ancient cave homes make for relaxing weekend getaways

  • Monday 16, April 2018 in 11:00 AM
Sharjah24 – Reuters: Deep in the mountainous terrain of Libya's Gheryan city, the last of historical cave homes are struggling to attract local and international visitors.

The ancient houses were dug in the sides of mountains some 400 years ago, in the 17th century. 

They were designed to help maintain a temperature of 21-23 degrees Celsius throughout the year, keeping residents cool during soaring 50-degree summer heat and shielding them from the winter cold when temperatures drop to below zero. 

One of the last surviving of these homes is the Amr Belhaj cave. The number of cave homes once reached 4,000 but most of them have been destroyed by climate change, neglect, and resident migration within Libya. 

The last family descendants left the Amr Belhaj cave in 1990, but Alaraby Belhaj recently renovated it and it attracts some visitors. 

His clients are mainly Libyan visitors and some foreigners who reside in Libya working as doctors and nurses, he said. 

Belhaj said he opens the cave for people who want to experience an ancient Libyan night away from the city but slowing numbers have caused him to shut the attraction down for days on end. 

Although business is not going well, Belhaj is optimistic that tourism will eventually pick up. 

With Muammar Gaddafi's iron-fisted rule isolating Libya for years, the tourism industry was in its infancy before the country's "Arab Spring" uprising ground it to a halt.

Now that he is gone, many hope tourists will come to the country that boasts 1,700 kilometres (1,056 miles) of coastline, ancient treasures including five UNESCO World Heritage sites and spectacular desert views.

Each cave complex has a total of eight rooms and three kitchens.