Feature: Libya sees boom in domestic desert tourism amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Participants drive to the desert during a large desert tourism event in Libya on Dec. 3, 2020. In the ongoing two-week desert trip, about 300 vehicles departed from Shwayrif, a village located some 400 km southwest of Libya's capital Tripoli, to the heart of the desert. (Photo by Ali Al-Marhani/Xinhua)
A participant prepares a drone to take photos of the desert during a large desert tourism event in Shwayrif, a village located some 400 km southwest of Libya’s capital Tripoli, on Dec. 3, 2020. In the ongoing two-week desert trip, about 300 vehicles departed from Shwayrif, a village located some 400 km southwest of Libya’s capital Tripoli, to the heart of the desert.(Photo by Ali Al-Marhani/Xinhua)

Juma Al-Ghanai, a Libyan tourist expert, has organized a large desert tourism event for the Libyans who have a passion for exploring their own country as the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the globe.

In the ongoing two-week desert trip, about 300 vehicles departed from Shwayrif, a village located some 400 km southwest of Libya’s capital Tripoli, to the heart of the desert.

“This trip brings about 300 vehicles from different Libyan cities, in an image that expresses the harmony between the people of the same country which is united by strong social and tribal ties,” Al-Ghanai said.

The man pointed out that this type of desert tourism, though not common, has recently become very popular among the Libyans.

“With the coronavirus pandemic, the closure of the borders and the travel difficulties, young Libyan people now have a passion for exploring their country,” he told Xinhua.

Participants drive to the desert during a large desert tourism event in Libya on Dec. 3, 2020. In the ongoing two-week desert trip, about 300 vehicles departed from Shwayrif, a village located some 400 km southwest of Libya’s capital Tripoli, to the heart of the desert. (Photo by Ali Al-Marhani/Xinhua)

Compared with tourist trips abroad, a round trip of about two weeks that covers a distance of more than 2,000 km is money-saving, said Al-Ghanai.

The Libyan desert is characterized by stunning natural landscapes. The rocky Acacus Mountains in the desert are among the most important landmarks for thousands of years, as they were classified in 1985 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ali Al-Marhani, one of the participants in the trip, believed that this trip comes at a perfect time for the Libyan young people, especially amid the armed conflict, division and the coronavirus pandemic.

“For many months, the pandemic has made it difficult for us and did not give us an opportunity for recreation and travel. Today, we have an opportunity to spend wonderful days in the desert of Libya, which is one of the most beautiful destinations of desert tourism in the world,” Al-Marhani told Xinhua.

“We have taken all measures. We tested for COVID-19 before participation. The organizers divided the participants into separate groups with specific numbers of people,” he said.

“We paid a small amount of money and we experienced an exceptional atmosphere to explore the desert and its beautiful sands. We encourage others to participate in such internal tourism activities,” Al-Marhani added.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Libya is 85,529 so far, including 56,048 recoveries and 1,219 fatalities, according to the National Center for Disease Control.

Moreover, Libya suffers escalating violence and political division between eastern and western governments, both competing for dominance

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