August 2011

Monday, August 1st, 2011 | 1st Ramadan

The electricity was off all night. And NATO did their usual routine. When the power came on we shut the windows, switched on the AC and slept.

In the morning I did laundry and watched the news. Nothing new or exciting happening. Then my husband took me to the supermarket and to a shop that specializes in home cleaning products. We stocked up with a months’ worth. The supermarket was without electricity and the shop was dark but people were using their mobile phones to light their way down the store aisles and get what they needed. Just as soon as we got home the electricity went off once again and didn’t come back on until an hour and a half before sunset.

I spoke to a friend of mine who said she had heard that the electric company was putting our area on a 6-hour on, 6-hour off schedule. So far that seems about right.

NATO kept busy, bombing several places in and around Tripoli throughout the day. I think it was a clear message that they had no intentions of lightening up during the month of Ramadan. The Libyans I spoke with seem to be more worried about the gasoline and power situation than NATO’s air raids.

I cooked without electricity: chicken soup, fasouliah (navy bean stew), steamed rice with butter and fresh herbs from my garden, Libyan salad, and for dessert; fig cobbler made with figs from our farm.

It was an easy first day of Ramadan. Everything ran smoothly. May God have mercy on us and make Ramadan easy for us.

Around midnight my husband packed up some snacks, a thermos of tea, a pillow and sheet and went off to sit in line at the gas station. His friend had been there since the morning saving his place. Will he come home tomorrow with a full tank of gasoline?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 | 2nd Ramadan

We spent the night in the dark. No electricity – no television either. Our entertainment was listening to NATO air raids. We soon lost count of the number of bomb blasts. A lot of action was in Tajoura – not far from where my husband was waiting in line for gasoline. Boom! Bang! Zoom! Roar! All night long. I finally went to bed, tossing and turning in the heat and noise. Finally the power came back on and we were able to close the windows and turn on the air conditioners. But it still didn’t block out NATO.

In the morning the power shut down once again, but NATO was still going at it. I called my husband to see how close he was to getting gasoline and found he’d had no luck so far. The bombing had nearly driven him crazy though. He stayed in line until one o’clock in the afternoon and finally gave up and returned home very depressed and exhausted. No gasoline.

The electricity came back on at around four in the afternoon. I checked the news on TV. Kadafy had thanked Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for his support and France had released frozen assets to the NTC. I headed for the kitchen to start cooking for the day.

Last February, when all this began there had been rumors that Kadafy was going to Venezuela to live out the rest of his days. He later denied that in a public address. Is it possible that he’s trying to butter up old friend Hugo? Maybe he will go to Venezuela after all? Wait and see….. sigh..

Today’s fast breaking menu: Libyan soup with camel, fousulia (because Yusef loved it yesterday and begged me to make more), rice, pizza, salad, and apple cobbler for dessert.

After we ate we watched television and caught up on the news. The power went off at ten o’clock so we moved outside to the terrace and stayed under the night sky until dawn. We watched the stars; Nora and Ibrahim each saw a shooting star. And we used the Google Sky app on my phone to find Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. NATO did their thing too. We watched fighter jets over AinZara fire brightly lit missiles that arched over the night sky hitting targets in Tajoura. The power resumed at dawn, and we all went to bed.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 | 3rd Ramadan

In the morning we turned on the TV to catch the news. Courtroom drama was about to happen – the whole world was waiting for Hosni Mubarak to arrive in the courtroom in Cairo. He was brought in on a stretcher at ten o’clock (our time) and five minutes later our power was cut. We decided to go back to sleep for a few more hours.

NATO air raids continued throughout the morning and afternoon with some bombs hitting fairly close by. The girls and I went into the kitchen at four o’clock to start cooking. No electricity means: no kettle, no microwave, no electric rice steamer, no electric frying pan, no mixer, no blender… we are back to doing things the old fashioned way. This is fine but it does take a lot longer. The electricity came back on at 7:30 – about 40 minutes before it was time to eat.

Today’s menu: Libyan soup, spicy rice, fasoulia (leftovers), tomato and cucumber salad, Chinese onion rolls, quiche, apple cobbler and fresh fruit for dessert.

 After we ate we watched TV and then sat outside on the terrace. NATO was busy all night long, mostly hitting Tajoura, the doorway to Tripoli from the east.

Thursday, August 4th, 2011 | 4th Ramadan

Our electricity stayed on all night, shutting off at around eight o’clock in the morning. We had stayed up until dawn so we stayed in bed dozing all morning. I got up and did some housework and started cooking our meal early in the afternoon. I wanted everything prepared so I could have a shower and a nap before sunset.

My husband went to see if he could find cooking gas. He got in line to wait and when the truck arrived and unloaded the cylinders everyone waiting went wild. Pushing, shoving and fighting. They had unloaded about 200 cylinders but would only sell about 50 of them. Then they locked the others up – refusing to sell them. We heard later that they were selling the reserve for 50 dinars each – the normal price is two and a half dinars.

While I was taking my nap the phone rang. My sister Kristen called to see if we were all right. She said that she had heard the situation in Tripoli was rapidly deteriorating and urged us to ‘come home’.  ‘We’ll see’ I told her. ‘It’s a big possibility. We have no gasoline, limited electricity, the mobile coverage is low and cooking gas is in short supply. When we get to where we have to cook on firewood I will pack my bags and we’ll leave. I never could figure out how to rub two sticks together to make a fire.’ I asked her to pray for us and we said our goodbyes.

The electricity stayed off all day. We had thought about setting up the table in the garden but decided to put candles on the table instead – if the electricity didn’t come on we’d have our breakfast by candlelight. As the sunset call to prayer began and we sat down to the table the power switched on like magic.

Today’s menu: Libyan soup, salad, spicy rice (leftovers), tajine tabahaj bi d’jaj (casserole with chicken, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and potatoes), garlic bread, fresh figs, grapes and cactus fruit from our farm for dessert.

After we ate we watched a bit of TV and Yusef and Ibrahim went out to water the trees on our farm. Yusef came running inside to ask us to come outside to see the darkness. We went out and stood in our garden and looked all around us. Our area was the only area that had power – the rest of Tripoli and Ainzara had been plunged into darkness. Even the streetlights had been shut off. It was a strange sight. Shortly afterwards our power was cut – it had only been on for just over two hours.

I tried to call a few friends to see if they had survived the day but the reception was poor. How much longer will we have mobile phone coverage? We sat outside in the garden until midnight, and then we all turned in for the night.

Friday, August 5th, 2011 | 5th Ramadan

I woke up screaming. Huge bomb blasts, about twelve in quick succession someplace nearby. Everything was shaking, the sound was deafening. We all jumped out of our beds and ran outside but by then NATO’s planes were gone. I looked at the clock: 2am. All was quiet. After a while we all went back to bed. It was quiet for the rest of the night.

My husband and I got up at eight o’clock. The electricity was still off. We went outside; I sat in the garden and watched my husband pull weeds. We could hear one of our neighbours cutting down a tree for firewood. When it started to get hot outside we came in and took a nap.

Finally the power came back on at about twelve thirty. ‘Make sure the water tanks are full!’ I called out. ‘Shut the windows! Don’t switch on all the air conditioners because it will overload the circuits! Plug the mobiles into the chargers! Start a load of laundry! Turn on the news!’

The news says the opposition is claiming that Kadafy’s son Khamees was killed in an airstrike on Zlitan. The report hasn’t been confirmed yet. Other than that there was no news about Libya.

Saturday, August 6th, 2011 | 6th Ramadan

We had no electricity for 20 hours. It finally came on for 2 hours in the evening and then again later in the night.

My husband and I went to the supermarket in the morning. We put a 7-litre container of gasoline in the trunk of the car in case we ran out of gas along the way. Actually, we went to two nearby shops, neither of which had electricity. We walked up and down the darkened aisles getting what we needed. On the way home we stopped to get some vegetables. We got home without running out of gasoline.

Sara made cinnamon rolls and croissants while I made soup, chicken curry, rice pilaf and salad. The electricity came on just as we finished cooking and stayed on for two hours. Then we were back in darkness once again.  We moved out onto the terrace and listened to planes flying overhead.

At two in the morning there were rockets and bright lights nearby. Then we heard explosions as a munitions’ dump was targeted a little over a mile away. Rockets and ammunition continued to explode for quite some time. A nearby house was hit by an exploding missile.

NATO’s planes continued their bombardment. To the east of us we heard two more massive explosions emanating from a nearby army camp while at another camp to the south of us we could hear trucks and heavy machinery being moved out – rumbling, racing engines, horns blaring. It looks like we might be in for a long night. The good news is that the power came on shortly after the bombardment.

On the news: The opposition has taken control of Bir Ghanem, a town in the western mountains not far from Gharian. Kadafy’s news service is denying that Kadafy’s son Khamees is dead. There was a major battle in Zlitan with the opposition making some headway.

 On Kadafy’s television they were showing people complaining about their poor housing situation, not having enough money or the ability to improve their situations. They even took tours through some people’s homes. We thought it very strange that they were showing Kadafy’s government in a negative light.

Sunday, August 7th, 2011 | 7th Ramadan

 Our power was off for eighteen hours today. It came back on at 10pm. Our main worry is water. Without electricity we cannot pump water from our wells, we cannot water the trees on our farm, we cannot wash ourselves or our clothes, we need water to drink and to cook with. As soon as the electricity comes on it is a mad race to fill the water tanks, water plants and trees and do the laundry. Everyone is focused on electricity. The shops are running low on batteries and candles (when you can find them) are half a dinar a piece.

My husband went into town today with a friend of his who had some gasoline. They drove by the places that had been bombed the night before and saw the destruction and damage. Some fires were still burning.

When they got to the medina (downtown Tripoli) most places had no electricity. There were lines of people waiting outside banks that were closed – they had no electricity and even if they had power there was no cash anyway. There was a huge crane in the Green Square and everyone was guessing what they were planning to use it for – A big tent? Yet another massive picture of Kadafy?

We ate our fast-breaking meal outside in the garden today. It was humid but there was a gentle breeze blowing and we enjoyed the atmosphere outside with the birds returning to their nests for the night while bats and owls came out for their evening hunt. Today’s menu: Libyan soup, herb rice, chicken salad, tomato and cucumber salad with olives, steamed zucchini with basil and tomatoes, and fresh fruit for dessert.

As soon as the electricity came on and the water situation was sorted out we sat down in front of the television. Nothing was mentioned about last night’s bombardment in Fornaj and Ainzara, but they did say that opposition fighters near Zlitan had withstood another serious battle. On Libyan opposition TV it was reported that there was fighting in Sabratha, Sorman and Zawia. Did this mean the road to Tunisia was closed?

While we watched the news, NATO fighter planes bombed a target nearby. There was a tremendous BOOM; the house shook from its foundations. We decided to go outside to witness the war first hand. There was a series of explosions in different parts of Ainzara, Tajoura and Tripoli. We weren’t certain what was targeted.

One week of Ramadan is over. Three more weeks to go. No one seems very interested in buying new clothes for Eid this year. It seems pointless really.

Monday, August 8th, 2011 | 8th Ramadan

My husband bought 20 liters of gasoline on the black market. He paid 75 dinars for what should have cost 5 dinars at the gas station. We had no choice; we had things to do and places to go.

On our way we drove past the army camp that NATO had bombed last Saturday. We counted four houses and several shops that had serious bomb damage. You could see where exploding ordinance had put holes clear through walls and buildings. The vegetable market next to the bombsite had been completely destroyed; the vendor’s stalls burnt down with rotting, burnt produce littering the ground. The smell of smoke still hung in the air. In places the perimeter wall had been destroyed and we could see inside the camp. There were still some bunkers that hadn’t been destroyed – they looked like big sand hills. Having witnessed the terrifying bombardment from a mile away we wondered what it must have been like for those so close to the target.

Our first stop was at the diabetic clinic so that my husband could pick up his medication and have his glucose levels checked. He normally does this at home, but the test strips for his glucose monitor are no longer available. While we were waiting we noticed that someone had taken a black felt-tipped marker and had written on the clinic’s walls ‘Allah, Moamar, wa Libya bis!’ This is what Kadafy supporters chant (constantly). It means ‘Only God, Moamar, and Libya.’ It made me so angry to see the clinic, which had recently been renovated, defaced with such nonsense. I went over to the wall and try to see if I could rub off the writing with my finger. My husband hissed at me ‘Don’t touch it. Leave it alone.’ The people nearby were watching but no one said anything.

On the way to our next stop we drove through Hudba Shargiah which is a slum area behind the university. Garbage was piled up along all the streets, the stench unbearable. There was no electricity in the few shops that were open. We stopped at a shop that brings ‘George’ brand clothing from the UK.  I usually can find a bargain or two there whenever I pass by but they hadn’t gotten anything new since last February. While we looked at what was left of the diminishing stock we heard gunshots in the street in front of the shop. The shopkeeper told us that during the night opposition supporters had written slogans on the mosque across the street and had raised their flag. In the morning Kadafy’s troops came and removed the graffiti and flag, and had been firing off their guns at intervals in order to intimidate people in the vicinity. It was time to leave for our next stop.

We went to our apartment in town to see if everything was OK and to pick up a few things we’d been storing there. The power was on so we rested a while in the air conditioned coolness before heading on our way.

The next stop was in Al Hani, to see if there was any cooking gas available. There was a huge crowd of people waiting in the midday heat  but no gas cylinders were available. We continued on our way to visit my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law was without power. We sat in the sitting room where there was a good cross breeze blowing and chatted with her and one of my husband’s brothers. He informed us that NATO had dropped leaflets on the area that had been bombed near us in Fornaj on Saturday (the area we passed through earlier in the day). NATO was planning to return to bomb there again and asked that people evacuate the area. He also told us the price of cooking gas on the black market was now 80 dinars for a cylinder. Soon it was time to leave. We needed to get home to begin cooking.

We ate outside in the garden; we still had no power. After we ate we sat on the terrace to catch the breeze. NATO’s planes soon began to fly back and forth overhead. I went inside the house to make sure all the windows were open so that when they started bombing the pressure wouldn’t break the glass. We decided to move mattresses and cushions outside as it seemed safer outdoors than in the house. Even though we were not in the evacuation zone we were worried that the exploding rockets might hit the house. The planes were getting louder and louder, we expected them to bomb at any moment.

Finally at about midnight the bombardment began. Massive explosions shook the earth. I must have been screaming because my husband and kids kept asking me to stop. But I didn’t think I was screaming. The sky was orange with bright white flashes of light, the explosions constant. We could see debris and rockets flying through the air. NATO returned repeatedly during the night to bomb the munitions dump and the ensuing explosions would send more rockets and ammunition flying through the air. We were relieved to be upwind as we watched the smoke clouds drift away from us toward Tripoli.

My husband called his family to see if they were all right. Their house was outside the evacuation zone and they weren’t hit by any rockets or falling debris, but explosions had blown out some of their windows and damaged the garage doors. The pressure of the blasts had blown the doors open. My brothers-in-law piled the women and children into their cars and took them to my sister-in-law’s house in a safer area. Thank God no one had been hurt.

The terrifying explosions continued on through the night and could still be heard the next afternoon. It was frightening. I had screamed, I had cried, I had trembled with fear. I finally fell asleep around seven o’clock in the morning.

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 | 9th Ramadan

The electricity came back on. We recovered from the night’s bombardment. I took advantage of the power to catch up on the laundry and water the garden. We all rested in the afternoon, watched television, and wondered what NATO’s plans were.

Our poor dog Rita had been pregnant but miscarried her pups. I think the recent bombardment had frightened her too much. This is actually the second time this has happened to her. She was pregnant at the beginning of the war and lost her puppies after a particularly scary night. Now it’s happened again. If animals can be effected this way what about people? I wonder how many women have had miscarriages during the conflict. Physically and psychologically, the war leaves its mark on those who aren’t even involved in the fighting. Adults who can understand what is happening around them have a difficult time dealing with the war, what about children? Even after the war ends the scars will be there forever, maybe fading as time goes by but probably never completely disappearing.

After the sunset and we had eaten our meal we sat in the garden. Planes began to zoom overhead, back and forth, back and forth. I opened up all the windows and doors. Finally at exactly 2AM they hit the same camp they had hit the previous night. The explosions were loud but not as bad as the night before. Finally when all was quiet I went inside and went straight to bed. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and slept for about 4 hours.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 | 10th Ramadan

We had electricity all day! Yeah! It was wonderful! I got up and watched the news and then fell asleep on the sofa and slept until two o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up feeling human again.

The weather today was fabulous. Twenty-eight degrees Celsius, cool breeze, partly cloudy. In the twenty-two years that I have lived here I have never seen such beautiful weather in August. It’s usually forty degrees or higher with miserable humidity. God blesses us in many ways. This is truly one of them.

My husband was able to get a cylinder of cooking gas. Hopefully we’ll have enough to get us through the rest of Ramadan. While he was out he found out that NATO had dropped leaflets warning people to evacuate for the next 48 hours within a two kilometer radius of the army camp that had been hit the last two nights. Our house is just outside 2 kms. It looks like we are in for more thrills and chills – but when?

At exactly 2am we heard a plane and then two big explosions to the north-east of us. The area we expected to be bombed was spared. We waited for a while longer and then went to bed. The rest of the night was quiet.

It was a night for phone calls. I spoke to my mother, my sister Kristen and had a long conversation with my son in America. Everyone is urging us to leave Libya and we are seriously considering it.

Thursday, August 11th, 2011 | 11th Ramadan

With the air-conditioner blowing cold air on us all night we were able to get some much needed rest.  After the dawn prayer we slept until one o’clock in the afternoon. We had electricity for all but a few hours today.

I poked about in the garden while Yusef put together some metal shelves for the laundry room. Then I went inside to cook. We decided to make Rishta Burma, a hearty Libyan pasta dish made with homemade pasta. Sara wanted to learn how to make it so we spent time together mixing, rolling and cutting pasta dough. Then we made the sauce that the pasta is cooked in.

There were lots of planes flying over all day and evening but we didn’t hear any explosions. I guess they decided to give us a break. We needed it!

In the news: Fighting in Brega with the opposition making gains. In Benghazi they are making an investigation into the mysterious 1992 plane crash that killed all on board in Libya.

Friday, August 12th, 2011 | 12th Ramadan

I woke up at eight in the morning. Everyone else was sleeping, the house was quiet. I was able to watch the news without having to fight for the remote control. There was nothing new in the news so I went back to bed until noon.

It was a quiet day. Sara made biscotti, an apple cobbler, and pizza while I made tagine j’ben and lentil soup. When we weren’t cooking I was reading a book or trying to catch the highlights of the news.

Today’s news: The opposition has captured Tawargha, a town east of Misrata. They’ve also made more gains into Brega. In the west of Libya the opposition reached three kilometres outside of Zawia.

My sister-in-law came over about an hour before sunset. We sat in the garden where we could hear explosions in the far distance to the south-west of us. We didn’t hear any planes so we thought it might be mortar fire. How far away can you hear tanks?

We’ve had electricity for most of the day. We heard that they are bringing oil in from Algeria to power the turbines. Whatever they are doing I hope they keep doing it. Life is miserable without electricity!

Around midnight we heard explosions to the south-west of us again. According to the opposition’s news service it was in Farjani Village near Tekbali.  After that all was quiet. I went to bed early for a change.

Saturday, August 13th, 2011 | 13th Ramadan

I woke up early, about 7 o’clock, well rested and ready to start my day. I worked on my window garden, cleaned out the bird’s cage, did lots of laundry, and cleaned my room and bathroom. The weather was perfect – not too hot, not too humid.

In the afternoon Sara and I made dinner and my sister-in-law joined us in the kitchen for a chat. We’re all getting tired of cooking and have been sending dishes back and forth everyday of samples of our cooking. Today’s menu: lentil soup, rice, macaroni and tuna casserole, pizza, potato bourik, salad, fresh fruit for dessert. My sister-in-law sent over rolls stuffed with chicken and a bowl of Rishta Burma. We’re well fed!

In the news: Opposition has taken control of Tawargha and has entered Zawiah and Gharian.

There were very few planes overhead during the day. We hope that the opposition continues to make progress and we quickly see an end to this war. God help us all.

Sunday, August 14th, 2011 | 14th Ramadan

BOOM! BOOM! We awoke at 6am to the sound of a NATO airstrike close by. I got up to see what was going on just as two more bomb blasts filled the air. Afterwards it was quiet for a while but we heard explosions at various times throughout the day.

On TV they are reporting that the opposition had control of two thirds of Zawia but the battle for complete control continues. They have taken the main road leading to Tunisia. My fear is that their progress will slow down and supplies of food and medicine entering Libya through Tunisia will be cut off for a prolonged period. The worst case scenario would be a food shortage not unlike what Somalia is facing. Let’s hope it never comes to that.

My husband took the girls for a quick ride to the supermarket to get some milk and fresh vegetables. The girls hadn’t been anywhere for so long that the short trip was a treat. They drove past the army camp that had been heavily bombed over the last week. Through the partially demolished perimeter wall they could still see unexploded rockets and long range scud missiles stored there. I suppose NATO will clear it out bit by bit.

The electricity was off for the afternoon and evening. When power resumed we tuned into the news. The opposition is making more gains in Zawia and entering Gharian. Soon we could hear loud explosions coming from the city that turned out to be fireworks in the Green Square. This usually signifies that Kadafy will make an address. Where is he? He hasn’t been seen in public since May.

Kadafy (was it really him?) made a short audio address calling for his supporters to rally together to fight NATO and the traitors. Later on one of Kadafy’s television channels the presenter of one show threatened that Kadafy would not give up and no one would be left in Libya if anything happened to him, even the mountains would not be left standing. There wouldn’t even be a rock to sit on. Annihilation? Does Libya have weapons of mass destruction? I shuddered at the thought. My husband truly believes that it’s a possibility and that megalomaniac Kadafy would want to go out with a bang, taking us all with him.

NATO continued their bombing of the nearby army camp but the explosions were not as loud as before – or maybe we are just getting used to it. It’s strange what you can get used to. We heard gunfire coming from the main road and friends who lived in different parts of Tripoli called to say there was fighting in some areas of the city. People were excited by the recent conquests made by the opposition. Everyone wants to see an end to the conflict.

I concluded the night with a headache so I went to bed early but was woken periodically throughout the night by nearby explosions and the constant drone of fighter jets.

Monday, August 15th, 2011 | 15th Ramadan

Another six o’clock wakeup call today. Then we had a morning of NATO flyovers and air raids in various places near and far.

I did some laundry and watched television. I’d cooked enough for two days yesterday so today would be an easy day in the kitchen and I could relax. It was a quiet day for a change.

On the news: The rebel fighters are still trying to take total control of Zawia. The Libyan government denies that the rebels have control of most of Zawia. Nasr Mabruk Abdulla, a minister in Kadafy’s government, left Libya with nine members of his family and flew by private jet to Cairo from Djerba – possibly defecting.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 | 16th Ramadan

Despite several nearby bomb blasts during the night I had a good night’s sleep for a change. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.

I switched on the news which was reporting that Kadafy’s forces had used a scud missile for the first time aiming it toward Brega. Thankfully it missed its mark by about 50 kilometers, landing in the desert and harming nothing. Apparently Libya bought several hundred of these missiles from Russia in the 1980s and has them stored in various parts of the country. This is what NATO had targeted the past week in the army camp near where we live (and there are still some missiles left). Scud missiles have a range of about 300 kilometers compared to the grad missiles they have been using that can reach approximately 30 kilometers, but scud missiles have the disadvantage that they take time to set up for a launch and are not very accurate. Their use is also easily monitored by NATO. Also in the news are reports that more of Kadafy’s confidants are defecting or leaving Libya. Kadafy calls the opposition ‘rats’ but it looks like the real rats (his longtime supporters) are trying to escape his sinking ship.

In the early afternoon my husband and I went out to buy another case of milk from the wholesaler’s. We drove down the main road adjacent to the camp that NATO has been recently targeting. We didn’t see any army personnel in the area so I took some pictures with my phone. Some of the houses and businesses across from the camp suffered major damage as well as some burnt out cars. Through the damaged perimeter wall hundreds of unexploded rockets and missiles are visible. I managed to get a few pictures and then we noticed a taxi behind us and I had to put my camera away. It is well known that many Libyan taxi drivers work as spies for the government.

My husband looking at the unexploded bombs right next to the main road.

This had once been a supermarket and dry cleaner's with apartments up above.

Some of the hundreds of unexploded missiles visible from the damaged perimeter wall. 

More damaged buildings.

When we got home I headed straight for the kitchen. Today’s menu: Libyan soup, grilled chicken, herb rice, potato salad, tabouli salad, pizza (from my sister-in-law), and fudge brownies for dessert.

One of my students, a doctor who lives in Gharian, called me in the evening. I asked him how he was and he said ‘Mrs. Khadija we are free! We are free!’ He was elated, his voice filled with utter joy. He said that he had been working non-stop for the past six days; he had not left the hospital at all. But he said all the hard work didn’t matter because they had freedom. ‘Please remember us in your prayers. Please pray that Tripoli will be free soon too.’ I implored him. I was so happy to hear his voice. So happy that he and his family were safe – and best of all FREE.

Throughout the day we could hear explosions far off in the distance. We weren’t sure if it was the work of NATO or if it was ground fighting between the opposition and Kadafy’s forces. NATO’s fighter jets, drones and recognizance aircraft flew overhead all through the day.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 | 17th Ramadan

Other than NATO roaring over us all day and explosions in different parts of Tripoli and the outskirts, there wasn’t a lot of excitement today. I did the usual amount of laundry, housework and cooking.

The opposition is still working on taking over Zawia. Kadafy’s forces have snipers on various building throughout the city. On Kadafy’s television channel the presenter explained that in Doha they have a complete 3D model of Bab Al Azizia and they are making American style movies of the opposition fighting there and taking it over. According to the presenter of this show they plan to use these videos on the foreign news channels to try to make the world believe that the opposition is winning.  ‘Don’t pay any attention to this if you see one of these videos on the news channels because it is all a lie.’ He says. Do they really think people are going to believe such ridiculous nonsense?

My husband and I have been discussing what needs to be done if the road to Tunisia is closed for a prolonged period of time. We have enough food staples stocked up to last us a while but we need to get other things like toothpaste, shampoo and soap and to try to get more gasoline.

Friends and family have been calling to check up on us. It is so wonderful to hear voices from far away. Everyone is praying that this ends swiftly and Libya becomes free.

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 | 18th Ramadan

Other than the sound of planes and explosions all around us, nothing really happened today.

We heard that a little boy who lived around the corner from our apartment in town was killed. He was only five years old and had been out with his father when they got caught in crossfire. The child’s body was taken by Kadafy’s forces and it has not been returned to the family for burial. We haven’t got enough gasoline to get to town, so I’m unable to pay my respects. I’m not even sure that it would be safe to do so as most likely their house is being watched. God give them patience.

On the news: Zliten and Zawia are both nearly under the opposition’s control. More of Kadafy’s supporters are defecting.  The Libyan Prime Minister appeared, looking rather scruffy with an unkempt white beard, pleading for a ceasefire. On Kadafy’s television yet another presenter was reporting about the 3D model of Bab Al Azizia in Doha that will be used by Aljazeera and other foreign TV channels to fabricate the siege of Tripoli. They also said that NATO has been turning off Tripoli’s electricity.

Explosion, after explosion, after explosion… all day and night long. We went out in the garden and lay on lounge chairs and looked up at the night sky. We spotted a plane circling overhead – a small white pinpoint of light with an occasional light flashing bright red. Round and round it went and then headed toward the sea. Minutes later another plane zoomed above … Boom! Boom! Boom! It hit targets under where the earlier plane had been. We stayed out till late in the night, watching and listening to the war.

Friday, August 19th, 2011 | 19th Ramadan

It’s hard to believe that it’s Friday already. We rested in the house all day. I read, watched a movie and poked around in the kitchen.

NATO planes bombed different targets (some quite close) all day long. We finally stopped running out to look for the tell-tale smoke on the horizon. There were just too many blasts to keep track of.

 Today’s news: The opposition has control of Zliten but is still fighting to secure Zawia. The opposition is heading north towards Tripoli from Gharian. There are reports that all of the roads leading into Tripoli have all been blockaded with sand piles and cement barricades. There’s been more pleading from the Libyan Prime Minister for a ceasefire – he has the sympathy of no one, his pleas are falling on deaf ears. There are rumors that a Venezuelan plane has landed in Tunisia. Could this possibly be waiting for Kadafy’s exodus?

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 | 20th Ramadan

I woke up early and headed straight for the garden and set myself to work for a few hours. Gardening is great for the soul. I repotted a few plants, cut away old branches to make way for new, and watered everything. Then I headed for the shower.

I spent the rest of the day being lazy. We watched TV and I kept drifting off to sleep on the sofa. For some reason I needed to sleep – I just couldn’t stay awake.  I finally got up and went to bed and slept until around four o’clock in the afternoon. Then it was time to head for the kitchen. We had the news on in the background all day.

Today’s news (in the afternoon): The opposition has taken control of Brega and Zawia.

We ate our fast breaking meal in the garden. Libyan soup, Libyan pasta, salad, rice and curry (leftovers from yesterday), pastries stuffed with tuna, and chocolate cake and fresh fruit for dessert.

Soon after we ate we could hear gunfire in the distance. Tripoli had finally erupted! The opposition had taken to the streets! The phones were ringing – everyone wanted to know what was happening in and around Tripoli. I called my mother to tell her that we were safe and well and not to worry – and also to wish her a happy birthday. Then I spoke to my sister to reassure her that we were ok.

NATO joined in by bombing targets in our area as well as Tajoura and Tripoli. The Libyan spokesman, Musa Ibrahim, claimed that Tripoli was quiet and there was no fighting. Ugghhh… one lie after the next comes out of his mouth. There are rumors that Kadafy’s sons Hanibal and Saadi are going to leave Libya but there hasn’t been any confirmation.

My brother-in-law, carrying a machine gun, came over to sit with us and watch TV. Everyone has been told to stay in their area. They don’t want everyone heading for the city’s center. They want overall coverage throughout Tripoli and the surrounding areas. So far our area has been quiet. We can hear active areas in the distance. We’re ready. We’re waiting. We’re watching TV… armchair warriors! Allah akbar!

Throughout the night we heard gun battles in the distance along with NATO air raids. At one point NATO bombed a nearby army camp with a bunker buster bomb. The noise was deafening and the earth vibrated as the bomb drilled its way downward into the earth. We stayed awake until the sun rose and then went to bed for a few hours’ sleep. It had been an exciting day. We’ve been waiting months for this day.

Sunday, August 21st, 2011 | 21st Ramadan

It seemed that we had only slept for a few minutes. We awoke to the sound of machine guns and mortar fire in the distance. My husband got dressed and said he was going to check on his family’s home. Off he went despite my protests that it wasn’t safe to go into town. He was gone for hours and I had trouble getting in touch with him because the mobile phone coverage was so poor. Finally I managed to talk to him. He said his mother’s house had been hit with mortar fire and the artillery had gone through the wall and straight into my brother-in-law’s apartment. My mother-in-law along with all the females in the family building were packing up to come stay at the farm until it was safe to return to their homes.

The TV news was our companion for the entire day as we watched events unfold. One by one, different districts of Tripoli and the surrounding area fell into the hands of the opposition. From every mosque the takbir was called out ‘Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar! La illaha ilallah!’ Soon our area and the area where my mother-in-law’s house is located were free!

Kadafy’s forces were abandoning their vehicles, leaving the keys in the ignition, they entered mosques and changed their clothes and left on foot. There was very little resistance except from the foreign mercenaries, five of whom were killed not far from my mother-in-law’s house, their bodies left in the street where they had fallen.  Other mercenaries had been captured and rounded up.

Shortly before sunset my husband piled the kids in the car to drive to my in-law’s house to see what was going on. They witnessed people celebrating in the streets. The flag of independence waved from the mosques and was blatantly displayed on lamp posts along the main road. After a quick look around they returned home just in time to break their fast.

We spent the night watching the news on television. When the news that Saif Al-Islam had been captured the whole neighborhood erupted in jubilation. Shouts of Allah Akhbar! Could be heard from every direction and when the announcement that Mohamed Kadafy was also in custody the whole scene was replayed. We stayed up until the sun came up, waiting to hear news that Kadafy himself had been captured – but no such luck. Finally we went to bed. Too wound up to fall asleep, we tossed and turned for the longest time before finally drifting off.

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 | 22nd Ramadan

I slept about four hours and got up feeling groggy and tired. NATO’s planes were overhead, still bombing different parts of Tripoli and the outskirts. We could hear heavy artillery and machine guns throughout the day in the distance. The struggle to secure Tripoli was still underway and Kadafy was still at large.

I watched the news coverage but it seemed stale – no new news. I headed for the kitchen and started cooking even though it was still quite early. The power cut off just as I was finishing up in the kitchen and stayed off the rest of the day. Mobile phone coverage was nonexistent. We moved outside in the garden to sit in the breeze and listen to the ongoing battle in the distance.

When the electricity came back on we watched the news. Reports that Mohamed Kadafy had escaped were being broadcast. Then it was announced that Saif Al-Islam was also at large. How could that be possible? Still no sign of Kadafy. The fight to free Libya continues.

My mother-in-law and sisters-in-law came for a visit. We sat in the garden and drank strong Arabic coffee while we talked about recent events and wondered what would happen next.

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | 23rd Ramadan

The morning was so quiet that we were afraid something terrible had happened in the city. No planes, no sounds of artillery or machine gun fire. No electricity or mobile phone coverage.  Silence. Later we began to hear loud explosions in the distance and NATO’s planes began to circle back and forth overhead. Without electricity or telephones we could only speculate about what was going on.

In the afternoon a neighbour stopped by to speak with my husband. He said the men in the neighborhood were getting together to set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the main road. The men would get into groups and take turns manning the barricades, recording who was entering and leaving the area and searching cars for weapons and taking any of Kadafy’s forces into custody.  Finally something useful to do!

The electricity finally came back on in the afternoon and we immediately switched on the TV to check the news. The opposition was fighting near Bab Al Azizia. We could hear NATO flying overhead and huge explosions coming from the city. I was in the kitchen cooking. Today’s menu: Mexican beans and rice. I was making tortillas and kept running back and forth from the kitchen to the TV room to watch the siege. Finally the rebels pushed their way into the compound. When they got inside there was no resistance. What an amazing sight to see (and only two tortillas got scorched!). The entire neighbourhood erupted in shouts of ‘Allah Akbar!’

We broke our fast in front of the TV, glued to the news, watching history in the making.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 | 24th Ramadan

We spent the day with the news in the background. There was still fighting going on in Abu Saleem, the area surrounding the Rixos Hotel and the vicinity of the airport. From time to time we could hear explosions in the distance and NATO patrolled the sky above. In the afternoon CNN reported that Saadi Kadafy had been in touch with them to say he had the authority to negotiate with the NTC. Reporters that had been detained for five days by Kadafy supporters in the Rixos Hotel were finally freed. Still no sign of Kadafy or his family – come out, come out, wherever you are… sigh..

We had several power cuts during the day. When the electricity was on we watched the news and tried to access the internet. The mobile phone coverage was poor. I wasn’t able to make any calls the entire day. Internet was on and off but mostly off.

Thursday, August 25th, 2011 | 25th Ramadan

The fighting continues in some areas around Tripoli. Our area has been quiet and is free. We could hear fierce battles in the distance and see smoke on the horizon to the west and south-west of us. NATO continued their surveillance and gave their support by bombing different targets from time to time.

The kids and I stayed at home and watched the news coverage for most of the day. People are being advised to stay at home because there are snipers in different parts of the city and it is still not safe to be out. My husband went with his brothers to the Green Square, which is now called by its original name Maydan Shuhada, or the Martyrs Square.  They joined in the celebrations there for a while and then came home just as the sun set and the call to prayers and fast breaking began.

Most shops were closed. My husband said that a few vegetable stands were open and prices were inflated in reflection of the current situation - tomatoes 15 dinars a kilo and potatoes 5 dinars a kilo. The prices will go down as soon as things begin to return to normal and people can go out on the streets safely again. In the meantime we will just have to cut back on fresh vegetables for a while. Tomatoes are usually three kilos for a dinar at this time of year.

We had electricity all day, but no internet. I managed to call my mother. She’s having surgery tomorrow morning. I hope I’ll be able to contact her tomorrow after she gets out of recovery.

My husband and son have been taking their turns at the checkpoint. There is a real community spirit among the neighbours who are working together to keep our area safe. They are all proud to be helping out. Our neighbor, who had been terrorizing everyone the last six months with his daily (and nightly) display of firepower – shooting his gun off, has been dealt with. He is now in the hospital being treated for gunshot wounds to his legs. I’m not sure who took care of him, but they were nice enough not to kill him. The green flags have also been removed from his house.

We’re all getting tired of waiting for the capture of Kadafy and his family. It’s as though we are in suspended animation while we wait. It’s not over until they’re in custody, only then will we have some kind of closure.

Friday, August 26th, 2011 | 26th Ramadan

This is the last Friday of Ramadan. The holy month will be over in a few days. It seems that it only started, where has the time gone? It’s been a very strange Ramadan for us. We eat plain and simple meals when we break our fast and we haven’t bought any new clothes for Eid. Our focus has been on the war and on survival.

We woke up to NATO overhead and explosions and fierce fighting in the distance. The rebel fighters have pushed their way through Abu Salim and it seemed to us that a major battle was going on in the Salahudin area. NATO was giving them some serious support the entire day. Our house vibrated and shook with all the bombs and artillery.

We stayed indoors where it was safe. At one point there was some gunfire and explosions very close to our house. We later learned that two rocket propelled grenades had hit nearby; one striking the neighbour’s car and the other falling in his garden. No one was hurt but it was way too close for comfort for me. We aren’t sure who was responsible for the attack but it is quite possible that it was from other neighbours who have gotten their hands on weapons and are now showing off. The city is awash in all kinds of guns, grenades and God knows what else. And no one has had any training to use any of these deadly weapons.

The electricity was on and off all day and the mobile phone coverage was virtually nonexistent. Internet came on for a short while in the evening. When we had power we watched the news coverage; horrifying scenes of Abu Salim Hospital. I was so shocked to see that the medical staff had run away, leaving their patients behind to suffer and die, and also the (hundreds?) of corpses piled up, left to rot. What other horrifying surprises await us?

My whole day was spent worrying about my mother in America who was undergoing surgery today. Every few minutes I would check to see if there was either phone coverage or internet. It wasn’t until after midnight that I was finally able to get in touch with her. She’s fine and on her way to recovery.

No sign of Kadafy and his entourage. This is just dragging on and on and people are suffering and dying.  Life has come pretty much to a standstill while we wait for the scoundrel to be caught. It’s not safe to go out, most shops are closed. In many areas the water supply has been turned off. There are rumours that the city’s water supply has been poisoned. Thank God we have our own well. Gasoline is still not yet available. Patience… that’s running out too.

For a list of news articles, images and videos of events in Tripoli during the month of August: Libya Uprising Archive - Tripoli - August 2011


  1. This is great. I bookmarked you blog and am going to read it all!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. Thank you immensely for this day-to-day before and aftermath of Tripoli.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your families experience of these events. We hear reports on the news but to get a lay persons view really helps us understand what life has been like for the people of Libya. I wish your family well and hope that peace and ease of life are restored quickly. May I also say I was fascinated by the wonderful food you seemed able to cook. The fruit cobbler dishes really caught my eye. Any chance of a recipe? All the best. Fiona

  4. Fiona,

    Thanks for your comment. The fruit cobbler is really easy to make and doesn't require a whole lot of ingredients. Here's the recipe:

    Grease and flour a cake pan - I use an 11 x 7 inch pan or a 13 x 9 inch pan if I want a thinner cobbler

    Heat the oven to about 350 degrees F.

    Mix together:

    2 cups of flour
    1 cup of sugar
    1 cup of melted butter or margarine (you can use oil if you haven't got butter or margarine but it's not as nice)
    1 tsp of vanilla
    1 tsp of baking powder

    Pour into the prepared pan. Slice up what ever fruit you want to use - apples, peaches, pears, apricots, dates, berries, whatever you have got - about 2 cups worth. Place the fruit evenly on top of the batter. Then sprinke 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top.

    Put it in the oven and bake until it's just beginning to turn golden on top - then sprinkle an additional spoonful of sugar over the top and put back in the oven to continue baking until it is nice and golden. Take out of the oven and serve warm or cold. Very nice with ice cream or whipped cream - or just plain.


  5. I will have to read this again and again:)
    i was on the other side bangazhi and yet dont know wht is going on in tripoli,
    glad u safe, we survived a war :)


  6. Teri,

    I just got around to trying your cobbler and followed the directions and then realized there was no milk. I agonized over whether you forgot to type it in the recipe or not. Finally just decided to add a cup of milk.

    Just pulled it out of the oven and it is perfect! Just wanted to share incase you did forget the milk. :)

  7. OMG! Fiona is going to kill me... I forgot the milk... thank's 'nilla - there is a cup of milk in the cobbler.

    So, sooooo sorry Fiona.

  8. Aahh, the second fruit cobbler with milk is much tastier than the first without... but still I wouldn't call it delicious. I am shure something went wrong with my cobbler. I had a thick batter with a thin layer of apples.Should it be vice versa? Thin batter and thick layer of apples? Whats with an egg? No egg missing?

  9. While we're getting recipes - any chance you'd be willing to share your recipe for Libyan soup - LOVE IT.

    Also wanted to quickly ask if it is okay to link to your blog, I have spent hours reading through every post and know many of my friends will want to do the same. I'll wait to hear from you before I post.


  10. Hi Kirsty - you are more than welcome to link to me.

    There's a fantastic blog of Libyan foods run by three Libyan women; Tasnim, Dunia and Sabah. All the soup recipes are here:

    Amina - There is no eggin the recipe. That was one of the reasons we decided to make it as eggs were getting expensive and we were using a lot of them, especially during Ramadan. My husband thinks we should get some chickens since we life on a farm - but I hate those ugly, noisy birds.

  11. I have read all of your blog, from May to August. It has been amazing to read your insight into what it felt like to witness and be affected by this war first hand. Thank you for sharing this with us. I wish you, your family and the rest of Libya a joyful outcome.

    Kirsty, thank you for sharing the link.

  12. Just read the whole 2011 journal, fantastic!
    The 26th of August was a huge battle. One of the biggest and most frightening!!


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