Deep inside Libya’s Naufosa Mountains, in the Berber village of Gharyan, one can find a thousand unique troglodyte cave houses.
These unusual dwellings are located 120 kilometers from the country’s capital, Tripoli. The homes are dug six to seven meters vertically into the mountain, creating rooms circled around a central courtyard housing several families.
Residents hope their unique village can attract tourists after the elections.
“This house was dug out in the year 1666 which makes it a 346-year-old house,” says the current owner of the house Al-Arabi Bilhaj.
“Omar Bilhaj, his sons, his grandchildren and great grandchildren lived in this house. Since it was dug out, it hasn’t been abandoned a single day. The house has eight rooms and three kitchens. A family was living in each room and each room is divided into three sections: one for the parents, one for children and one serves as a living room,” he said.
In the Western mountains cave houses are currently unoccupied, but some have been restored and are open to tourists.
"This house initially was not made for tourism. We have to restore and preserve the history of our ancestors and our hometown. Perhaps tourism in Libya will pick up and we'll be able to use this house as a tourist site,” Bilhaj said.
Following the revolution that overthrow Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi, the country suffered a drop tourism and hoped that the new government would bring security and a return of visitors.
A number of Libyan families visit the caves to learn more about their ancestors and culture.
“I like the place; it shows our traditions and culture. And this is a mountainous area so they took advantage of the cool and the protection it offered. I like how the families used to gather together. They told us eight families used to live here together. We even saw the ancient paths and the ruins, it’s an excellent place, so why go abroad for tourism?” said Libyan visitor Abdul Fattah.
With warm weather, sandy beaches, antiquities and proximity to Europe are factors that help the coastal country to thrive in the tourism industry. However, a vibrant history and some atmospheric architecture, the threat of violence still lingers. Armed groups refuse to surrender weapons and young men continue to carry Kalashnikov assault rifles in public areas in Tripoli which discourage holidaymakers.