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Everywhere in the world : Part One



Some months ago I threatened to inflict on you a few final memories of my years in Libya. But now I want to do that in a way that also touches on other countries, namely; Peru and Greece and (why not?) Lesotho. I’ll start with a favourite quotation, from the great American essayist Susan Sontag: “I haven’t been everywhere in the world. But it’s on my list.” If Libya ever comes together again as a viable state, it should exploit its tourist potential. The northern, Mediterranean coastline is of great beauty and an ideal site for beach resorts. Indeed, at least one of these was built before the Gaddafi revolution, but the Colonel had it closed down since he felt it was frivolous. Not for nothing did one of my colleagues nickname him the Great Bother Leader. And then there is eco-tourism or specialised tourism: guided tours for small groups of moneyed individuals who have particular interests they’d like to pursue. If your Tourist Board ever really get its act together, Lesotho could make a pile of money out of this. Tours for bird-spotters (or “twitchers”, I believe they’re called), because the range of Lesotho’s bird species is astounding. (As a small taste of this, try to pick up David Ambrose’s superb book on the birds of Roma campus). Or trips into the high Maloti to see rare transalpine plants such as orchids and lichens. OK, not everybody’s cup of holiday tea, but there are people out there who will pay for the experience. Throw in a bit of pony-trekking, and a tour of Katse or Mohale dams, and a visit to Malealea Lodge with its Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) connections. And not to forget the dinosaur footprint sites, especially the one at Quthing, where you can see where a dinosaur skidded. Lesotho could have it made! In the case of Libya the obvious opportunity for specialised tourism would be the ancient sites—Greek, Roman, Ptolemaic—many of which are or were protected by UNESCO. Because they were close to the university I worked for, I made frequent trips to the ancient sites of Ptolomeus and Cyrene; the huge Temple of Zeus and the latter is breath-taking. And a few days before I finally left Libya I got to see the great Roman amphitheatre at Sabraatha, with its magnificent carved stone backdrop. Mention of the amphitheatre brings this rambling piece to the subject of collecting. I don’t collect objects such as postage stamps or old coins or autographs, but I do collect memories of things I’ve seen, including amphitheatres. My list of these is rather impressive, because of my years in Libya, a country very few people get to see. I’ve also been to off-the-main tourist-track sites in Italy and Greece, so I have nice additions to my collection from there. Let me specify one, namely, the great Roman amphitheatre at Dodoma, north-west Greece (Dodoma not to be confused with the official capital city of Tanzania, which is spelt the same but pronounced differently). Together with travelling companions I climbed up to the top of the seating area of the amphi and sat down. Just then a young man strolled on to the orchestra, the acting area hundreds of feet below (he turned out to be a German student). Fishing in his rucksack he pulled out a flute and began to play. Now one of the things about amphis is their amazing acoustic. From far, far away in that huge arena we could hear not only every note he played, but his breath between each set of notes. Before I get around to final memories of Libya, another of my collections, namely, Eiffel buildings. Again, my collection is unusually good, because of the number of far-flung places I’ve been to. Top of my list is of course the Eiffel Tower, Paris. The most remarkable thing about this is how enormous it is, but also how delicate. Standing at ground level between the four huge legs you get a sense of the size; I can’t remember how many football pitches you can fit in down there. To get a sense of the delicacy and elegance of the building you have to get a long way away from it; the best spot is the hillside at the top of which is the Museum of Mankind. You can ascend to the top of the Tower by lifts and a final narrow spiral staircase; so glad I did that, a couple of times, before my leg packed up. Now, the Eiffel company was quite a big enterprise. They would take in designs for iron buildings from all over the world, or would produce designs on commission; they would then manufacture the cast-iron components and ship them to the customer together with a construction team. To be continued Chris Dunton

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