As soon as the kids got home from school last Thursday, we packed up the car and headed out to Nalut. Jenna, Ibrahim and Nora went with this year. Tara came along as well but left Friday afternoon.
We arrived feeling dusty and tired and were treated to dates, milk, buttermilk and ibsisa by the welcoming committee about midway up the mountain going into the town of Nalut.
This is Tara checking to see which sim card would work the best.
The festivities had begun earlier in the day and we felt bad about missing Thursday’s event but the festival would continue through Saturday. Abdulmenom, our friendly host from last year outdid himself with hospitality by letting us stay in his house. The Hilton has got nothing on Abdulmenom's house - It was fantastic! Tara and I decided to sleep upstairs on the roof under the night sky which was sparkling with zillions of stars The kids slept on the middle level of the house and Mustafa all the way downstairs on the lowest level.
In the morning we headed toward the Qasr and met up with two of Tara's friends who had driven out from Tripoli in the morning to spend the day. We toured the Qasr (the castle).
Inside are storage rooms that in the past were used to store grain, oil and other foodstuffs for the people of Nalut; each family having their own room.
The area just outside the Qasr was filled with people watching traditional musicians and many of the men and boys joined in dancing and singing.
Displays of traditional handicrafts and local foods and crafts were shown. The Tuareg's from last year were there and they were so happy to see their friend Tara that they gave her a handmade fan as a gift. The people of Nalut are Berber, or Amazigh as they prefer to be called, but the Tauregs come each year to participate in the festival.
Tara's fan. She kept calling it 'my fertility fan!' - please keep that away from me please.. lol
A barefoot boy riding a camel.
The media were out in force; not only local Libyan stations but also Aljazeera and Al-Hurra among other international news agencies.
This little girl is named Wa'ad which means Promise. She was very sweet and spoke English, having lived in Wales for nearly a year. Many of the people of Nalut have travelled abroad for their studies and we met many people who spoke English.
Wa'ad - Promise
As the morning progressed, the temperature rose accompanied by a strong dust-filled wind. Tara had brought along her mountain bike hoping to be able to ride but the weather had other ideas. We headed back to our lodging and Tara decided to head back to Tripoli. We had lunch and rested inside waiting for the cooler hours of the evening to go out again.
Nalut has one small hotel that was built during the Italian occupation of Libya.
We took the kids out for some ice-cream and then went to the underground houses that were set up with displays of traditional handicrafts and met up with Abdulmenom.
After a bit we went to a show of Libyan artwork, books, and historical documents and artifacts. I bought a coffee table book of Libyan artwork called 'Drawing from Libya' by Mohamed Hijji for 20 dinars.
Later we visited the display of geological findings from the area which had many kinds of rocks, fossils and information about the dinosaur bones that had been discovered just outside of town.
We came across a little girl named Narjes that we had met last year. She was so excited to see us and remembered all of our names. She told us to make sure to come the next morning to see her at the festival as she was going to be dressed in traditional Amazigh clothing.
Narjes with Jenna and Ibrahim.
The next morning (Saturday) we got up early and packed our things in the car and went to attend the last day of the festival. Last year the third day had been held below the Qasr but this year they decided to move it out of town in a flat open area.
At one time this area had been covered in a dense forest, evidence of this surrounds you as the ground is littered with petrified wood.
Tents were set up; each one showing a different aspect of traditional Nalut culture. Men sang traditional songs and recited Quran and poetry.
Women and girls showed various types of cooking skills and sang while they worked.
We found Narjes in a tent with woman grinding barley into flour using a traditional stone grinder.
It seemed only too soon and it was time to go home. The drive would take us between three or four hours depending on traffic.
Jenna and Ibrahim with Abdulmenom's children and neice and nephew.
Special thanks to Abdulmenom and his family for their wonderful hospitality and thanks to the festival committee for all the hard work they did to make the festival a success. We're looking forward to seeing you all again next year.
More links relating to the festival (in Arabic)are here:AlibeenLibyeen