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.