Friday, May 04, 2007

Where is this? - #16

I haven't had a picture for the 'Where is this?' challenge in quite a while. So here's a recently taken picture for the challenge. If you think you know where it is (or you want to guess) click on comments. Click on the picture to see an enlarged image.

The pictures for the game 'Where is this?' have all been taken from someplace in Libya and are in an area open to the public. The prize for the winner will be the satisfaction of knowing that you had the right answer! - I'll let you know who the winner is.


Tara wins this round of Where is this? Not fair really since she's the one that gave me the picture in the first place. And yes Kris, it is very much improved since we were there last.

This is pretty much a typical public bathroom in Libya. When my kids saw the picture they said it looked like a bathroom at either a public school or a mosque. In fact this particular picture was taken recently at Ras Ajdir, the border post between Libya and Tunisia - on the Libyan side. Tara was horrified, but I looked at the picture and said 'Hey, that's not too bad. You should see some of the bathrooms I've been in!'

I think everyone that's ever been to Libya has a bathroom story... some of us have more than one. I've got plenty of weird bathroom stories. But I think I'll just tell you my best one. It's the one that's the most bizarre. The sentimental journey begins like this...

Long ago, way back in 1990, when I was pregnant with my daughter Nora, I was having complications and the doctors decided that it would be best if I gave birth at the public maternity hospital which is connected to the children's hospital, Aljala. This measure was for 'just in case of any emergencies' and thank God none happened. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to deliver at Aljala and so I decided I would wait until the last possible minute to go - and I managed to do this, arriving at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning and delivering just 25 minutes later.

Shortly after delivery Nora and I were moved to the ward. It was a room that had 18 beds in it, all of them filled, except one. The nurse pushed me in the wheelchair to my assigned bed and found the mattress, a flimsy foam type, was soaked in fresh blood. I suggested to the nurse that she flip the mattress over to have a look on the other side. Of course the blood was soaked all the way through.

What to do? Here I was, stuck in the hospital, I was at their mercy. The nurse was a sweet woman from India and she felt sorry for me. It certainly felt good to be able to speak English to someone. We discussed what to do and she decided to see if she could find a plastic bag - the big industrial kind that is used for waste. She came back with the bag and we opened it up and laid it across the edge of the bed. Then she helped me out of the wheel chair and I stayed there, leaning up against the edge of the bed, holding on to the metal railing, doing my best to stay on the plastic. It was a balancing act that was made more difficult due to the fact that I had just given birth. Nora was tightly wrapped in a blanket and tucked into a bassinet.

A short while later the same nurse came back with something for me to eat. She said 'Don't worry. This food is clean. I went into the kitchen and prepared it personally for you.' God bless that nurse for her kindness! So I ate an egg sandwich with cheese and had a piece of fruit and a glass of milk, all the while doing my best to ignore the Libyan women in the ward who were not too happy to see me getting special treatment.

I really am lucky that my delivery was an uncomplicated one and that I was able to recover my strength quite quickly. The shock factor of seeing the filth around me made me want to get out of there as fast as possible. I asked when I could leave. 'Probably not until tomorrow.' was the answer and visiting hours weren't until four in the afternoon. It was going to be a long wait.

Nora began sucking her thumb about 2 minutes after she was born and she was contentedly sleeping the whole time, thumb in her mouth, oblivious to all that was around her. After about 45 minutes I decided to attempt to find a bathroom. I walked slowly, holding onto the rails of each bed, making my way down the ward. Then when I got to the corridor I kept near to the wall so I could reach out for support and lean against it whenever I felt dizzy. I slowly passed the entrance to each ward, stopping for a rest and looked in the doors. I can't remember how many wards there were, but they all looked the same as the one I was in. Finally, after what seemed like a long time, I made it to the bathroom. Only one bathroom on the floor, shared by all those women, in all those wards! And what a bathroom!

Well, never in my life have I seen such a place. Shock, total shock! There was a row of sinks, none of which worked, and along one wall were three stalls for toilets. Two of the stalls had western style toilets in them. They weren't working, but out of necessity women had used them anyway. Blood, urine and feces were everywhere. But even more awful was a huge mountain of sanitary napkins thrown on the floor with the biggest cat I have ever seen in my life eating from the pile. The cat looked over it's shoulder at me and hissed. Hissssssssssssssssssss! And then he turned back to his meal.

Too weak to make a run for it and in desperate need, I resigned myself to the task of actually using the only working toilet. It was an old fashioned, hole in the floor type. Imagine how it feels to be crouching over a filthy hole in the floor when you've only recently given birth? In the corner of the bathroom was a shower stall with a faucet that had a trickle of water coming out of it. I did my best to clean myself up at the water tap and got out of there as quickly as I could.

In a daze I managed to get back to my bed and resumed my perch on the plastic bag. It took forever for four o'clock to arrive. As soon as my husband saw me he said 'Get your coat on. I'm taking you home.' There weren't any doctors around and the nurse said she would sign me out but that I would be leaving at my own discretion; they wouldn't be responsible for anything that might happen to me. That was fine with me. I couldn't get out of there fast enough!

I survived the experience. I've heard that they've cleaned up the hospital since then but I visited someone there a few years ago and found it much the same. Libyan women give birth there all the time and their attitude is: 'It's only for a day and then you can go home.' To me that is so sad that they have such an attitude. Even animals deserve better treatment! I had four more children after Nora - thank God after that time private hospitals and clinics started opening up and so I could go someplace that was relatively clean. But not everyone has that option available to them. Not everyone can afford to pay for a private clinic.

Last week I saw this article in the news: Poor Plumbing To Blame For Six Premature Baby Deaths In Montreal. It made me wonder what the hospitals in Canada looked like. And it made me wonder how many deaths in Libya are caused simply because of filth. I'm thankful that neither Nora nor myself suffered any ill effects from the filth we were subjected to (except for lingering nightmares and thoughts that make my skin crawl).

So that's one of my Libyan bathroom stories... hard to believe but true!


  1. Hm...the rest rooms of Funduq al.Kabir?

    I really dunno, it´s too hard.

  2. No. It's not the rest rooms of Funduq al Kabir. But it is in a place where visitors to Libya would might find themselves.

  3. it might be difficult for me to tell because may be it's a female restroom but my guess would the Airport .

  4. Yes, it's a ladies bathroom.. but no, it's not at the airport.

  5. A place where visitors might find themselves...if they´re from Bulgaria, maybe the city jail?

    A hospital?

    It looks like a toilet from summer camp in Sabrata.

  6. Hmmmm, In ur house !? maybe your WC but I guess too small to be urs !

  7. Lets see, filthy, no toilet seat, no tank cover, and you have to reach into the tank to flush it....IT'S THE LIBYAN SIDE OF THE LIBYAN TUNISIAN BOARDER! Hahahaaa! And to add insult to injury...there is a filthy chair with a filthy bowl, next to the filthy sink (without soap) where you are encouraged to leave tips for whomever is responsible for keeping it so nice and clean! LMFAO! Should've gotten a picture of that!

  8. Hey, If that's the bathroom on the Libyan side of the Libyan/Tunisian border, it's much improved. When I tried to use that bathroom a few years ago, you couldn't even get about ten feet from the door due to the stench.

  9. There is a toilet at the Libyan side of Ras Ajdir????

  10. Please don't even get me started on the bathroom issue. It isn't just there in Libya, althought that is BAD, it is everywhere!

    I recenlty went to NYC and I was very suprised at how clean the public toilets were!!

  11. Everybody's commented on the toilet but nobody on Teri's experience when giving birth.......

    I wonder why ?
    What Teri went through is a real ordeal that no woman should ever go through. My friends have given birth to their children at the Jala Hospital also, where the situation was more or less the same, as to what Teri described.

    I used to go to Tajura Hospital which was clean and very well equipped in the early 80's as a group of Hungarians were managing it. As for the toilets in the Tripoli area (public) a sanitary awareness programme is in great demand.

    Have any of you have observed the Airport toilets, which have a smell of urine that can knock you out if you were to pass by ! I mean really !
    We are living in what I call BILBARKA.....(luck )
    and I'll leave it at that IUKWIM.

  12. I'm glad someone else commented on the lack of comments on KhadijaTeri's hospital filth story. I'm not sure if it's because nobody is reading this particular story, or maybe nobody's reading this blog, or because the people who read this blog are just used to reading cheerful and uplifting stories about an American woman who has managed to live a wonderful life in Libya, or folks are simply repelled by a story reflecting the glaring reality of actually living in Libya.

  13. You should write a book!

  14. although I left Libya when I was quite young but I do still have nasty memories of Libyan public toilets especially in the International Fair ground.

    what sister Khadija went through should not be subjected to animals let alone a hospital!
    it really sounds like a horror film of the worst kind.

    Allah help Libyans and non Libyans living there.

  15. OMG! I am so sorry you had to go through that horrible experience, I was so shocked when you mention the cat in the bathroom eating?!

    I doubt the bathrooms are any better now in the hospitals although i heard they are trying to improve the situation there. Allahu a3lam.

    What a story Khadija, glad you and Nora are fine!

  16. with hospitaals like that is it any wonder that westners think the bulgarians are innocent

  17. its unfortunate that anyone would have to go to the bathroom in the one shown or the one teri described. its too bad that the birth experience was made that horrible by not only the bathroom but the condition of the bed and the hospital room. i work in a hospital and at times i think the rooms need to be a bit cleaner but the rooms are in no way anything like the one my sister wrote about. its too bad that she did not have her children in an enviroment that i had. i had a jaquzzi in my room with all the newest of technology, a clean room, good food and caring nurses( teris nurse sounded like she was wonderful). hopefuly the lybian government will start monitoring hospitals and clinics a bit better. we hospital employees in the states really get annoyed by the different government agencies that come and inspect our hospitals, but it benifits all who go to them.

  18. There should be no public toilets in libya at all. Not even in mosques. until they are coordinated privately, and maintained by people who have an intrest in manitaing them. unfortunately, respect of public right is non-existant in the majority of home-grown Libyans, and if it is, it's only lip-service.

    Your story indeed brings back horrible memories. As for the state in hospitals, I hoesntly think this is a major factor in libyan doctors abroad not willing to come back and take responsibility. If thje general state of the hospitals are rejected by the doctors, how the hell do we expect vthem to be good for patients??

  19. I have added a huge comment about hospitals on my blog. check it out. Tei, it was too long to write here! Love Ya!

  20. Get a midwife and give birth at home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. aa khadija, I was near tears when i read your account of aljala. i was there in about 1982. it turned out to be false labor but i had stayed there a couple of days because i had pneumonia. it was not nearly as bad as what you discribed. i was also in tajoura hosp a few weeks later for the real labor.
    both were bad experiences. teh hungarians at taj were so nasty- smoking and i bet fooling around given the see thru short skirts they were wearing. while at taj, i saw a lady being examined in teh littel room that was or isn ear hte main entry. tehy made her stand 100% naked and would not let her in teh small partioned area to be out of view. it was horrible. yet conditions have worsened considerably. may ALlah make it better there. aa

  22. Khadija ...(among many others), u cant just go around talking about how "filthy" a country is, just from "experience" don't know WHY it is like that...perhaps it is not affordable, perhaps no knowledge...u can make lot of assumptions, but posting how "crappy" Libya is for the world to see is definetly not right...I am from Canada, and I knoticed u mentioned that u wonder how Canadian hospitals are, i can tell u that they're much different than what you had described, but we do pay tons of taxes and expect them to look the way they are, unlike the libyans who dont!

  23. poor health services is one of the main reasons made us revolt on that regime . Libyan people getting bad treatment while his family living happily with no sense of these kind of stories.
    I hope all the medical services ( include this hospital) are getting better in the new age of Libya.


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