The capital of Libya is undergoing a major face-lift - new buildings are sprouting faster than date palms at an oasis.
Howdy from Libya, home of the Sahara Desert, couscous and the most un-photogenic person on the planet - legendary bad guy now USA best friend, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI.
How many different ways can you spell it? I found – Qadhafi, Gaddafi, Khadafy, Qadhafi, Khaddafi. However you spell it, the face is still frighteningly the same.
A few facts I googled up about Libya's Supreme Leader: Since assuming power following a military coup in 1969, Muammar has 1) skyrocketed to world center stage with pro-terrorist support (remember the Lockerbie flight?) royally pissing off the entire world but then, 2) successfully rebuilt European country relationships during the 1990s, 3) got the UN to lift all sanctions by 2003, 4) is modernizing the entire country at warp speed including a building campaign that has totally changed the face of capitol city Tripoli, and 5) put his face – billboard size or bigger – on at least one building per block. Mrs. Qadhafi’s little boy has been busy!
I wish Mrs. Qadhafi’s photo-happy boy would take my class on ‘The secrets of looking good in photos’ and hire a better photographer. But maybe I’m being too hard on the photographer. Allah only knows what takes place on a set with a supreme dictator capable of ANYTHING as the subject. Would YOU tell him he looks like a predatory bug-eyed toad in those dark glasses? Or when he looks off into space that instead of projecting a visionary/leader quality he looks like a creepy, constipated greaser with an upsetting complexion and garish taste in clothes? Right, neither would I.
You are looking at the very first female to ever set foot on this energy industry deep desert base which has been there for many years. Needless to say, I raised eyebrows AND some male tempers. There was no female toilet in the whole 30 acre-plus site. I have been the first woman on numerous locations from South America through Asia. I have always found a way to slip through the testostrone gate!
Women dressed like this were a fairly common sight. All at least had head scarves like the ones below on display in the market.
INTERESTING LIBYAN FACTOIDS
Libya passed UN requirements and achieved independence in 1951. An historic year indeed as it also included my entrance on the world stage.
Population 6,000,000 - about the size of the greater San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose area.
My favorite line from a Libyan history site, “The majority of the inhabitants are Arabs, but there are scattered Berbers.” Scattered BERBERS? Does anybody else see throw rugs strewn across the sand?
The languages spoken are Arabic, Italian and English. Fa bene!
The Sahara Desert engulfs 90% of the country - the world's biggest sandbox.
The religion is Sunni Muslim – as in prayers blasted through speakers on every corner 5 times a day and no beer, vodka, gin, NADA alcohol anywhere under penalty of law, which is strictly enforced. Talk about a DRY country!
Libya is the only country which has a flag consisting of only one color – green. Easy for the school kids but odd for a country that is 90% brown.
Average life expectancy is an unexpectedly high 76 years (Japan has longest livers at 84, US average is 78). I guess that whole living a hard desert life makes you strong ala the Dune saga spice eaters has some merit after all. Makes me wonder what's really in all those hookahs.
Vehicles in the desert don't follow a road, they just head out across the trackless sand. Shooting in these conditions makes for a very gritty day. It took hours each night to get the sand out of our equipment and out of our ears, throat, hair, etc.
One of the nice surprises about Tripoli was the Italian presence there. Great coffee – yah! and you know how I am about coffee. The Italians pushed out the Ottoman Turks around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated by the Allied Forces in World War II. Yet another reason to thank Mussolini.
No where can you see and touch better Roman ruins than outside Tripoli. I still can't believe I was allowed to walk on these 2,000 year old mosaic tiles!
Libya is a country that is trying. Trying technology, trying modern buildings, trying to play hardball with the energy big boys. Libya thinks of itself as modern because of those things and because it now allows its women to go to the market without a male escort. Total burqa attire is not required although I saw many women dressed that way, and I did not see a single woman without a headdress, long sleeves and floor-length skirt. Public restaurants and waiting areas in airports, etc., are divided into the men’s side and a walled-off women’s/children’s side. I was alternately gaped at in wonder or stared at with scorn and something very close to hatred. Several times I was simply totally ignored, as if I was too insignificant for any male’s attention. 'Trying' they may be, but they are at least one if not two or more generations away from being anyplace I could tolerate.
I COULD NEVER EVER LIVE THERE. But I’m oh so glad I got to visit!