Libya's Latest Tourist Attraction: Qaddafi's Old Homes

Souvenirs and sightseers now roam the deposed leader's old compounds

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As a degree of normalcy returns to Libya, with airports reopening, oil production resuming, and ports springing back to life, Libya's new leaders are hoping to give the tourism industry a jolt by highlighting the country's Roman ruins and stretches of undeveloped beaches. Lonely Planet's Libya guide still warns against traveling to the country, but one tourist attraction is already becoming popular, at least for Libyans: Qaddafi's homes. In a fascinating New York Times Magazine piece today on Libya after Qaddafi's fall, Robert F. Worth recalls that when he first arrived at Qaddafi's ransacked Bab al Aziziya compound in Tripoli, Libyan families were "strolling through and gazing wonderingly at the ruins."

Worth isn't alone in observing the phenomenon. In late August, The Guardian called the compound "Tripoli's newest, most extraordinary tourist attraction"--a place where "smiling sightseers took snaps on their mobile phones, or peered from the balcony at Tripoli's shimmering skyline." People lined up to shimmy down ladders and explore Qaddafi's network of underground tunnels, or explore a battered children's amusement park with a cups-and-saucers ride. In an article on Libya's "revolutionary voyeurism," the Los Angeles Times described a surreal scene at the compound in which rebel gun trucks "waited along with station wagons crammed with children and grandparents." The paper meets one airport dispatcher who has become a self-appointed tour guide.

While the reports are mainly from late August, photos snapped this month suggest the trend is continuing. In this Getty photo, a man stands near a giant, graffiti-covered eagle statue on the roof of Qaddafi's Tripoli compound holding an American flag and Libya's new flag. "The previously secretive compound has become a main tourist hotspot with people visiting to relax in the gardens or search for souvenirs," Getty's caption reads.

This photo shows those very souvenirs and symbols of the revolution, sold in a stall at Qaddafi's compound:

Here's a jarring shot: A boy watches soldiers walk past as his family tours the compound:

In this image, a family poses for a picture inside the compound:

While another family explores the rubble:

The "revolutionary tourism" isn't confined to Qaddafi's Tripoli compound. There's a roving exhibit, if you will, of Qaddafi's iconic, now-defaced monument of a golden fist crushing a U.S. warplane, which was uprooted from Bab al Aziziya. In this picture, two men check it out in the once-besieged city of Misrata:

In this Reuters photo, an anti-Qaddafi fighter climbs in a pigeon farm in a Qaddafi compound near Sirte, one of the few remaining Qaddafi strongholds:

Yes, one fighter went there and grabbed a pigeon:

And in true tourist form, rebel fighters have taken breaks to go swimming at Qaddafi's compound near Sirte:

And at the Tripoli compound of Qaddafi's daughter, Aisha:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.