Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Guest Post - Driving in Libya: The Thrill of the Chase

The following is a guest post by: Expat

Driving in Libya: The Thrill of the Chase

Driving in Libya is just short of a spiritual experience. Each innocent road trip is equivalent to something that resembles divine judgement – passengers bowing their heads before the scales of life and death.

Libya racks up more than 2,300 road deaths a year, a stunning statistic that is second highest in the world, and five times the EU average.

Expats moving to Libya and visitors coming to cleanse their souls in the desert should realize that driving is the country’s most dangerous contact sport; basic regard for safety is disregarded; law enforcement is lackadaisical; and the activity of getting from point A to point B is a time to do everything EXCEPT concentrate on the road.

It’s commonplace to look to the car beside you and see no driver, his head buried in the seat below looking for the cigarette he’s dropped. Or perhaps, you’ll pass a small-pick up cruising at break-neck speed around hairpin curves with a camel or pint-size pony waving to and fro on the bed in the back. There are also the veiled women that veer left and right without notice, their head scarves and burkas restricting peripheral vision, but not limiting their movement across the highway with little notice.

In one regard, these observations can be charming indicators of Libyan culture, on the other hand, they can be glaring examples of just how unsafe driving in Libya can actually be.

Though the roads in urban areas are paved and up to standard, as soon as drivers start to venture outside major centres the quality of the driving surfaces greatly deteriorate. The major highway along the seacoast merges into a single lane highway once outside a metropolis and drivers take the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and reach top speeds with the beauty of the scenery turning into a blur of colour outside.

Wind-blown sand can often reduce visibility, and at night, drivers in Libya are also competing for road space with the odd camel, the domestic animal who’s been inspired by a bit of wanderlust, and the massive pothole.

The lack of law enforcement also acts as a directive for drivers to take risks and openly disregard the vague traffic regulations that do exist.

If driving in Libya there are certainly some Do’s and Don’ts that expats and visitors should be aware of:


  • Make sure you have all the necessary documents to drive in Libya (a license and yellow car booklet)
  • Check the state of your vehicle often, especially prior to longer trips
  • Enroll in a ‘Defensive Driving’ course locally
  • Research your route beforehand, create as much of a calm driving experience as possible
  • Be alert, anything can happen
  • Double check intersections even after the lights turn green


  • Start driving without the necessary papers and insurance
  • Leave home without a spare tire or a vehicle in questionable condition, road side assistance is easily accessed and is often entirely in Arabic
  • Begin a long journey without letting a third party know
  • Lose your cool and get frustrated
  • Be in a hurry
  • Try and predict another driver’s actions

Monday, September 20, 2010


Everything started yesterday.... schools - both public and private, and universities. Needless to say the traffic in and around Tripoli was crazy. A trip to pick up the kids that normally would take me about 20 minutes took me over 2 hours yesterday. 

By the time I got home my leg was aching from the workout it got... break pedal ... gas pedal... break pedal... gas.... break.... gas.. gas.. break.. and so on, for most of the drive home.

Today it took me less time, but it was still over an hour. It will get better when all the students going to schools, institutes and universities sort out their bus situation. In the mean time we are all exhausted and I think we've all been poisoned from the exhausts we breathed all the way home.

Ibrahim got home and tossed his backpack aside, crashed out on the sofa. Within seconds he was asleep.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training for Libyan nurses and healthcare workers

Libya suffered through years and years of sanctions that prevented training such as this from happening in the past. Imagine what Libyan health care would be like now if there had never been sanctions. It will take a long time to catch up, but this looks like a promising beginning. I wish I had known about it, I would have loved to attend.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some pictures

My husband finally got a mobile phone that has a camera. He's been having a fun learning how to use it - most of the pictures he took had his finger taking up half the frame. These are some of the good/interesting pictures I found on the camera.

Marcos Aurelius's Arch  - love the sky on this.

In the Medina.

The clock tower in the Medina... beautiful sky!

This is an advert about an eco-friendly program - renting bicycles. 
Do you think Libyans would rent bikes to ride around Tripoli? 

Men at a wedding.

Dangerous looking electrical wires in the Green Square next to the fountain... hundreds of people walk here every day? Pretty sad... sigh...

More wires.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eid and other events

Eid is over and went smoothly. 

I spent the first day at my in-laws. I sat until my bottom became numb and we ate the usual fasulia (navy beans in a spicy tomato sauce with meat) eaten with fateera (a flat oily bread), which I later regretted eating... ehem..ehem... 

All the little kids looked so cute in their Eid clothes. My sister-in-laws have this thing about changing their kids clothes so that they can show off that they bought them three outfits. It seemed like every time I looked at the kids they were wearing something else and a few times I shook their hands a second time by mistake because I thought it was a child I hadn't seen yet. They would laugh and say 'Abla Khadija, you've already greeted me!'. There were lots of balloons and cheap plastic toys, noise and excitement and running and jumping (and some fighting too). It reminded me of what my kids were like when they were small and I counted my blessings that I was over that.

Day two of Eid - I stayed home for most of the day, only going to my in-laws in the late afternoon. It was just a repeat of the day before, just different sisters-in-law and different kids. 

The last day of Eid marked the beginning of my husband's cousin's wedding. One event progressing into the next.   There are two days left of the wedding to get through. I've had a lot of family in my life this week!

Today is also the first day of school. Jenna is the only one that went as she has plans to see her best friend. Nothing is accomplished on the first day of school - total chaos - the rest of my kids are waiting until tomorrow. By next week we'll all be back to the usual routine... I hope. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Coming to a close

A few months ago we put out bird seed in the garden to attract birds that are in the area. A few of the millet seeds spouted and grew and we liked the look of the plants so much that we decided to plant some more in a section of our garden. The plants grew strong and tall, some reaching nearly 3 metres high. Not only is it pleasing to the eye but it also helps keep the sand from blowing and landing on the doorstep (happy to have less sweeping to do!). Now  my garden is full of birds feasting on the millet. Sometimes there are over a hundred birds in my garden at one time! Such a joy to watch. We will definitely plant more next year.

Ramadan is coming to a close. We have one or possibly two more days of fasting left. Every year my normal routine has been to cross off each day on the calendar as soon as we finished breaking our fast for the day. But this year I didn't count the days - I enjoyed every one of them. I've had lots of time to rest, read, embrace the spiritual, visit with friends and family,  and I spent lots of time with my husband and children. Many, many blessings to count. 

There are a few things to tie up before the feast days following Ramadan. Hopefully we'll get the list of errands finished today. 

Ibrahim sitting next to me at my desk, playing games on my laptop. 

Saturday, September 04, 2010

It rained today... this calls for a celebration!

It rained off and on today. Not a steady downpour, just a light drizzle. But it was enough to settle the dust and cool the air a little. 

The girls and I, along with a niece that's been staying with us for the last few days, went out in the afternoon to pick up some of the girls' friends so they could spend the evening at our house and share the fast breaking meal (iftar) with us. Two more nieces arrived at the house later in the afternoon. They all went to work getting our iftar ready. I helped out by making the soup. 

The girls ate inside while hubby and I ate in peace in the garden. After we ate, the girls went in the kitchen to clean up. I am thankful to have a large kitchen! The table was pushed aside to make room for dancing..... because teen-aged Libyan girls have to dance while they do the dishes! They sang, they danced, and they made cupcakes too. 

The girls are having a great time. I expect the music and dancing will last long into the night.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A change in the air

In all the years that I have been in Libya (21), the first of September has always been really hot and really muggy. But this year was different. It was nice all day, nice enough to eat our iftar outside in the garden. After we ate, we stayed outside until late in the night. As the temperature dropped, Jenna went in the house and came back wrapped in her blanket and I got out a light wool shawl to throw over my bare shoulders. We sat under the stars and the moon and enjoyed the weather.  It really felt as though autumn was in the air. The next morning we woke to hot weather once again.

Soon it will be Eid, I'm enjoying the last days of Ramadan. Soon we will be back to school and work.

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