GHF was working to preserve Cyrene, Africa’s largest ancient Greek site, until the conflict in 2011 put the project on hold. Work is expected to resume in 2013. Photo: Serenella Ensoli
From November 19th to 22nd, some of Libya’s most influential business leaders, industry leaders, global policy makers, diplomats and other stakeholders will gather in Tripoli to discuss trends and opportunities within the country’s emerging economy, methods for redeveloping the healthcare and educational system, and strategies for rebuilding the public and private sectors.
The four-day event, called The Libya Summit, is being touted by organizers as “the biggest business event in Libya.” According to the program, the summit will feature participants from various industries such as oil and gas, banking and finance, aviation and defense, construction and real estate, energy, transport, telecom, IT and utilities. And while there’s no doubt that these industries will be counted upon to lead Libya in its new era, one other source of economic potential that must not be forgotten is the country’s cultural heritage sites.
Fortunately, among the summit’s most prominent speakers is Princess Alia Al-Senussi, a member of Libya’s royal family who is currently helping to set up GHF’s Libya Heritage Trust. Until the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Al-Senussi had spent her life barred from visiting the country. But earlier this year, in a special report for CNN, she described seeing Libya’s ancient monuments for the first time, and her belief that they offer hope for the country’s future.
Princess Alia Al-Senussi visited Cyrene, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and GHF project site, earlier this year. Photo: GHF
“Libya today is a free Libya,” Al-Senussi wrote, “but also a Libya plagued by a sad and violent history, a Libya that has not been able to progress for 42 years. Basic education, health care and infrastructure are integral to Libya’s success and its future. But art and culture can be and should be a huge part of the healing process as well as future development.”
In describing her visit to Cyrene, Africa’s largest ancient Greek site, which GHF had been working to preserve until the conflict put the project on hold, Al-Senussi shared her hope that “as Libya prospers and grows, the government will recognize the importance of these sites, as a possible boon to the tourism industry but also as a source of economic diversification and patriotic reconciliation.”
Last August, Libya took a positive step toward caring for these sites, signing an agreement with UNESCO to launch a program for the protection and promotion of its cultural heritage. The program will be partly funded by a €1-million grant from Italy to UNESCO and will aim to develop the “technical and institutional capacities” of the Libyan Department of Antiquities. This includes supporting museums and preserving archaeological sites with the goal of creating local jobs and increasing economic activity.
With five cultural properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, plus numerous other impressive sites and museums inland and along its dazzling coastline, Libya, like Egypt, is a country with enormous potential for tourism. As with the recent UNESCO agreement, the upcoming summit should highlight cultural heritage as not just an opportunity but a strategy for economic growth.
Click here to read more about GHF Cyrene