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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sabratha in Libya

Sabratha is a World Heritage Site in the Az Zawiyah District in the northwestern corner of modern Libya, was the westernmost of the three cities of Tripolis. It is also called as Sabratah or Siburata. From 2001 to 2007 it was the capital of the former Sabratha Wa Surman District. It lies on the Mediterranean coast about 65km or 40 miles west of Tripoli. The extant archaeological site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
SabrathaSabratha port was established, perhaps about 500 BC, as a Phoenician trading post that served as a coastal outlet for the products of the African hinterland. Sabratha became part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The Emperor Septimus Severus was born nearby in Leptis Magna, and Sabratha reached its monumental peak during the rule of the Severans.

The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of AD 365. It was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. Within a hundred years of the Arab conquest of the maghreb, trade had shifted to other ports and Sabratha dwindled to a village.

Besides its magnificent late 3rd century theatre that retains its three storey architectural backdrop, Sabratha has temples dedicated to Liber Pater, Serapis, Isis, and Ian Flom. There is a Christian basilica of the time of Justinian and also remnants of some of the mosaic floors that enriched elite dwellings of Roman North Africa for example, at the Villa Sileen, near Al-Khoms. However, these are most clearly preserved in the coloured patterns of the seaward baths, directly overlooking the shore, and in the black and white floors of the Theatre baths.
SabrathaSabrathaThere is an adjacent museum containing some treasures from Sabratha, but others can be seen in the national museum in Tripoli. In 1943, during the Second World War, archaeologist Max Mallowan, husband of novelist Agatha Christie, was based at Sabratha as assistant to the Senior Civil Affairs Officer of the Western Province of Tripolitania. His main task was to oversee the allocation of grain rations, but it was, in the words of Christies biographer, a glorious attachment, during which Mallowan lived in an Italian villa with a patio overlooking the sea and dined on fresh tunny fish and olives.

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