I wake intermittently early morning from odd dreams, from fear I won’t be able to get to Sabratha for lack of knowledge and language. Its another accidental taxi hiring, given I don’t know the words for “bus” or “depot” or anything similar. The driver first good-naturedly mocked my copied down Arabic spelling of the town. What he writes to replace it looks nothing like what I had.
The road is in perfect condition, meaning I pull the seatbelt across me. There are a few marks of Libya’s revolution along the way: some graffiti making Gaddafi look like an even more crazed Mick Jagger, a tank, and new army checkpoints. Sabratha itself has clear blue waters and bullet-marked walls.
Walking towards the ruins of Roman Sabratha I’m picked up by an English-speaking man who has pulled up by the side of the road in his car. He takes me the rest of the way, telling me to take a coastal path to the ruins. I think it best to try and find a ticket or an official. I only find squatters, who greet me but ask no more.
At the early second century AD theatre, 3 storeys high at both the stage backdrop and seating, I sallam a family who seem to know they’re not meant to be there. The city ruins roll down to the sea, a lot indistinguishable low walls of houses and shops. Its wonderful, and all for free, without crowds.
I barely see the sea in contrast on my way to the Libyan-Tunisian border. There are a couple of scruffy medium-sized towns, like Zuara, only. In the words of my Arabic-only driver the border is “full full”, in fact meaning busy. Its a 3 hour wait to leave Libya, in full sun; the vehicle sometimes moving just two car lengths in 30 minutes. Its too hot to do anything, even to consider reading.
Its a similar length and type of wait to get stamped into Tunisia. My patience builds to boredom and then irritation. I’m partly saved by Sadiq, an almost accentless English speaker:
“The Tunisians are taking extra precautions because of what happened in Libya…you know…the revolution…there are guns everywhere. But it gets better everyday.” In fact, the delays are mostly caused by the single lane traffic. If a car at the front has an immigration issue no one else can get around them.
It’s good to be able to read road signs again, and communicate more easily. I’m back in French speaking Africa, and back in the same timezone as Britain. I must be getting close to home.