Saturday, November 18, 2006

Life in Libya is changing

I often get email from people asking about what life in Libya is like. Sometimes they have a specific question and sometimes they just want to know about life in general. Oftentimes the letters are from people who have lived in Libya in the past and they want to reassure themselves that life here hasn't changed. I used to feel this way about my own hometown and then when I visited after many years of being absent from it I saw that though many things had drastically changed, there still were things that had stayed the same.

Chatalaine is someone who reads my blog and has started one of her own. She lived here during the 'Wheelus era', her formative years were spent here and Libya had/has a big influence on her life. Her letter began with the woes of finding something to blog about but then evolved into her memories of life in Libya as she knew it. This is what she wrote:

Sometimes I am at a lose for things to blog about. Actually lets make that all the time. I have such a hum drum life. So I blog about things that bug me from day to day. Putting in my two cents like my grandmother would say.

But you! Now there is another story. When I lived in Tripoli we saw camels everyday. The ghiblis would make such a mess.. there would be piles of sand every where and just about the time it all got cleaned up here comes another ghibli. The square where the cathedral and post office was down town was a nice place to have a cool drink in the afternoon. The arched walk ways along the streets down town always enticed me to come and see what was for sale. We shopped for our groceries in a shop called the frozen foods (not much frozen but lots of western products) with the best bread I have ever had and at a produce stand. We would eat at restaurant that was aimed towards Americans Guys and Joes. Spaghetti at the Swan restaurant (the first bug zapper I ever saw was on their patio). These are things that bring back memories for me. I am sure others out there that are not in Tripoli would love to hear about your markets etc.... I have so enjoyed your shopping trips with the kids. Been there done that!! Do you cook western meals? Libyan? Do you ever think about making tacos? If so how would you get the products? Just ideas...... if you have some for me I would LOVE the input!! Chatalaine

And this was my reply:

My life is pretty boring... at least to me. I try to take the ordinary and make it interesting.

The only camels I usually see are hanging in the butcher shop. But I live in Benashur which in your day was the countryside and nowadays is city. When we move out to Ainzarah there are camels on people's farms, but then even Ainzarah is quickly being eaten up. The farms are being divided and houses are going up fast.

Ghiblis are still there... we can't change the weather I guess (sometimes I wish we could).

Supermarkets are changing fast. There are still the tiny mom and pop kind of places but many large supermarkets are popping up and even super stores like The Mahari. Barcode readers at the cash registers, magazines and candy and chewing gum (all the popular western kinds) are on display next to the cashier, the meat department, dairy aisle, an aisle for breakfast cereals - kelloggs and nestle, duncan hines cake mixes and microwave popcorn, all mixed in with the good old fashioned zomita and ibsisa. Libya has lots of variety but still lacks variety in the frozen food dept.

Fast food restaurants are popping up everywhere. Hamburgers, pizza, shawarma and kabob, chicken and there is even a few chinese restaurants and some restarants have mexican food on the menu. Corinthia Hotel even has a Mexican night in one of their restaurants.

Bread - still there are the neighbourhood bakers but there are also large bakeries that sell a variety of breads, pizzas, sweet rolls and croissants. Libyans still must have their bread and it's still government subsidized so it's affordable to everyone.

I make mostly Libyan foods because it's easier to produce a meal for a large family that way. Sometimes we eat 'American' and sometimes Asian. Nowadays we all seem to be on different schedules and it seems we rarely sit down all together anymore.

Most kids here have mp3 players, playstation and computers. Kids know how to use the internet and they watch the latest films and shows on satellite TV - Oprah and Dr. Phil are household words here and we get NBC, ABC, CNN, BBC and all the other acronyms.

The 21st century has arrived in Libya. ...... I think it's kind of sad in a way.... Hurry up and visit before it's all gone.

Chatalaine then sent me this in reply:

OH Teri!!! What a wonderful email! You should blog it as is!!! Thank you for sharing with me. If you don't mind I will post it on our Wheelus message board so everyone can enjoy you words. Have a wonderful Saturday,


  1. thanks for sharing it with us Khadija. I, myself have never ever thought that I would miss Libya this much. I remember hating my dad for accepting that job offer. but when the time to leave, I hated my dad for the opposite reason.

    Thanks again!

  2. I remember a time when a girl couldn´t chew gum outside the house!
    I remember walking down Omar Mukhtar street and there was only one shopping window!
    I remember when the only bread available at the bakery was machine produced stone hard wheat flute.
    I remember everything from tea to coffe to juice had the aftertaste of salt!
    I remember when the highest house in Tripoli was only Dar elEmad and they were called the "Johnny Walker" building because of the resemblance to an upside down bottle of the American whiskey.
    I remember Betamax video machines!
    I remember Kawthir Cola and Saba3a!
    I remember after coming back after some years and find a coca cola can in a shop!!!
    I remember suddenly finding corn flakes in boxes on the shelf of the shops!
    Sometimes when I read your blog I can´t recognize the Libya i left...I mean girls hanging out in pool/billiard louges?!?!
    I guess when you live in a place you won´t recognize the subtle changes, but me, always moving, will carry my memories and suddenly find a new place when returning.

  3. Oh yes, and the fake chokolate you received at weddings back in the eighties!!!! Yuck!

  4. Tripoli will change just like the rest of the world. Love your memories and enjoy the new sights and sounds that are just around the corner. I lived in Tripoli back in 1963. I know Tripoli has made great changes and I am equally sure that the people are still the same and that's what is the most important.

  5. tell her about internet connection we have Adsl at home oh what speedy connection :P

  6. i guess my comment is coming a little bit late, but anyway just to add that benashur wasn't really countryside in 63! shara ben ashur used to be called citta giardino ,built by the italians as many modern areas in Tripoli. what existed was the main street we know now, from maydan el qadisya or piazza della medaglia d'oro and some of the streets parallel to it. The rest was called Soukra and shara el jraba was el menshia. It is true that this part el menshiya and soukra was countryside and people used to have what is called a "saniya" (small farms or big gardens). well shara el jraba or zanget el jraba took its name from the families that came mainly from Jerba. Some of the families who used to live in this countryside until the mid-sixties and before the house booming were the ben yese3d ,ben s3edan, ben barka ,fat7allah and their main activity beside farming was weaving ( in trabilsi 7okiya). I forgot something, in the mid-sixties and until 69 the second row with the 1 story attached houses behind sidi abdelghani were occupied by americans and they were military. I am absolutely sure of that, as my grand- parents used to live there and my maternal grand-mother is from el menshiya. I hope that i didn't sound too pedantic !

  7. haha.. libya has indeed changed, but its only gotten worse. I mean at least there arent any public lynchings, but if you were to 'remember' back in the day, try to remember a little further back. in 1970 el rasheed and omar mukhtar had a traffic light. it had a cross walk. it had parking meters. it was clean. the area was organized.

    By the way, which billiards do the girls hang out at? I somehow doubt that happens in Libya. i've gone to many and havent seen any girls. Ive seen a chinese guy who speaks better libie than i do, but i havent seen any girls playin pool.

  8. Murabit, back in 1970 there weren´t many cars! Both cars and Tripoli population has more than risen the last 36 years.....stop dreaming of 1970! Have you forgotten that in 1970 some people still died of malnutrition in Libya?!?!

    And if you have been an avid reader of Mrs. K´s lovely weblog, you would have seen her pics from the female billiard lounge.

  9. Thanks everyone, I enjoyed very, very much reading about Libya. I have spent seven years in Benghazi and Tripoli, end 70, beginning 80...
    I have the nicest memories: the country itself is beautiful, the desert, the mountains, the coast...Above all I liked the very hospitable, warm and kind Libyan people..!

  10. I hope that all of you stand your ground against western imperialism. Believe me, your lives may sometimes be boring, but at least you have been free. And it is far better than the people rotting away in the suburbs in America or Britain. Hollywood isn't reality. And ask the people in Iraq what the west still imposes on them. The sensible World is on your side... Though I must say that you guys need to up the ante with your own media blitz...Shout to the world that you are Libya !!! Be heard...

  11. Hello Khadija, I hope you are your family are well. I am reading your blog looking for answers. There is some information circulating the net about Libya which I am very careful to believe. It looks basicaly like this:
    1. There is no electricity bill in Libya; electricity is free
    for all its citizens.

    2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are
    state-owned and loans given
    to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.

    3. Home considered a human right in Libya –
    Gaddafi vowed that his parents
    would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a
    home. Gaddafi’s father has
    died while him, his wife and his mother are still living
    in a tent.

    4. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$
    50,000 ) by the government
    to buy their first apartment so to help start up the

    5. Education and medical treatments are free in
    Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25%
    of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.

    6. Should Libyans want to take up farming career,
    they would receive farming
    land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and
    livestock to kick- start their farms
    – all for free.

    7. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical
    facilities they need in Libya,
    the government funds them to go abroad for it –
    not only free but they get US
    $2, 300/mth accommodation and car allowance.

    8. In Libyan, if a Libyan buys a car, the government
    subsidized 50% of the price.

    9. The price of petrol in Libya is $0. 14 per liter.

    10. Libya has no external debt and its reserves
    amount to $150 billion – now
    frozen globally.

    11. If a Libyan is unable to get employment after
    graduation the state would
    pay the average salary of the profession as if he or
    she is employed until
    employment is found.

    12. A portion of Libyan oil sale is, credited directly to
    the bank accounts of all
    Libyan citizens.

    13. A mother who gave birth to a child receive US
    $5 ,000

    14. 40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $ 0.15

    15. 25% of Libyans have a university degree

    16. Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation
    project, known as the Great
    Man-Made River project, to make water readily
    available throughout the desert
    Please comment. I am very confused about this. Thank you very much.


Guidelines for submitting comments

You can rant, you can rave, you can question. I ask only that you are thoughtful about what you write.

Comments are reviewed by me before publication. I don’t edit comments, but I do reserve the right to delete comments that violate my guidelines.

These are the kinds of comments that I think are not appropriate for publication:

- Defamatory or libelous remarks
- Abusive, harassing, or threatening language
- Obscene, vulgar, or profane language
- Racially, ethnically or religiously offensive words
- Illegal or encourages criminal acts
- Known to be inaccurate or contains a false attribution
- Infringes copyrights, trademarks, publicity or any other rights of others
- Impersonates anyone (actual or fictitious)
- Off-topic or spam
- Solicits funds, goods or services, or advertises

Please submit comments in English.

Thank you

My Link List