Libya 1980

In those days I had about one visitor a week at the archaeological site and, because I was paid according to the number of visitors, I made them all sign the visitors’ book. The bearded stranger and his friend were unusual. For one thing they hitch-hiked, which was an uncommon way to travel the desert in Southern Libya.


I heard a car driving away, looked out of my hut and saw them staring at the sign saying ‘Germa: archaeological site of ancient Garamantian Empire’. I got them to sign the book and I let them in. They could have climbed in anyway, the ruined city is very extensive and the fence is mostly fallen down. I walked around with them a bit.

The city is huge and judging by the thickness of the mud walls in the central fort you can sense how impressive the mud houses must have been. They certainly had a sophisticated method of ventilation, with missing bricks in decorative patterns. The strangers asked how an Empire could have survived so far south in the Sahara. I told them that 2,000 years ago, when the empire was powerful, the desert was a lot greener because there were rivers down here then. There was also a system of underground canals (called ‘foggara’) which lasted for many centuries.

Germa, view of fort.JPG

After an hour or so of walking they hitch-hiked away – but it turned out that hitch-hiking wasn’t all that was unusual about them. Their names were odd. When the next foreigners arrived they laughed aloud when they read the visitors’ book.  I can’t read the English script but apparently the bearded stranger was called either Karl Marx or Mickey Mouse.