Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A good day in Tripoli / Leptis Magna & Sahara tomorrow

We had a wonderful day after Gary finally got his visa. We spent a good time along both the rocky coast and fine sandy beaches of Tripoli ¨C Libya clearly has a future if it decides to develop a beach tourism industry like Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Later, Kenneth¡¯s friendly Libyan business associate Abdulla brought us to the seafood market where we had very fresh seafood and a good chat about many aspects about life in Libya. This is a country with enormous potential but very misunderstood by most of the world due to the various events of the last few decades. Abdulla had spoken in seminars in Europe about Libya and had met cynics who highlighted all sorts of perceived problems in Libya, to which Abdulla responded that he would be very afraid to return to Libya if what they said were true.
Tomorrow, we will visit the ancient city of Leptis Magna, one of the Roman World¡¯s greatest (but relatively unknown to most people today) cities, about 2 hours east of Tripoli. In the evening, we will fly to Sabha in the Sahara Desert and spend the next one week in that remote region. Internet access may be very limited in that region. Therefore, do not surprise if you do not hear from me for the next one week.

Dinner at Tripoli's wonderful fish market

Tripoli: Day By The Beach

Tripoli Day 3

Monday, April 28, 2008

Allahu Akbar! Allah is Great! Gary has gotten his visa

Allahu Akbar! Allah is Great! Just received news that Gary just had just gotten his visa after spending two days in a legal no man¡¯s land. I don¡¯t know the details yet but we now have to rush to rebook our domestic flights and make all the necessary travel and hotel arrangements which were previously made but cancelled or put on hold as a result of this bizarre episode.

Day 2 in Tripoli; Bureaucratic Nightmare Over Visa Continues

Guess what? Even today Gary has remained technically an illegal alien in Libya! After several hours at the airport and various government departments, our travel agents still cannot resolve Gary¡¯s visa issues. What is more incredible is that the whole affair was due to government departments not able to find the original file copy of his visa invitation, which was approved by the government departments themselves in the first place. But government rules require the original copy to be filed together with the visa and since they couldn¡¯t find the original copy which they had approved earlier, they cannot issue the visa whose approval for which they had issue a notice. In fact, it was the issue of the notice of visa approval to the airlines that allowed us to fly into Libya in the first place. Sounds like crazy bureaucratic minefield right? The relevant people and departments had spent many hours discussing it today and yet have no solution! As a result, we are still stuck in Tripoli today and our Sahara trip is now at risk!
Anyway, we did managed to walk around Tripoli. A city with old and new; numerous small lanes in the Old City; Tall office blocks; Billboards of Colonel Gaddafi everywhere in his characteristic dark glasses and ¡°gong-xi¡± pose; kebab stalls at every corner. The weather was surprisingly cold even with the sunny Mediterranean sun. The waterfront could have been Cannes or Marseilles, with swaying palm trees and couples sharing secrets on benches.
Very few people speak English here and we are having serious communication issues with the people trying to resolve the visa issues. But people are generally friendly and try to help in a bizarre mix of Arabic, French and Italian. There are few English signboards ¨C virtually all signs are in Arabic, the very outcome of Colonel Gaddafi¡¯s famous Arab language policy.
We walked through the Old City, visited the Roman Arch of Marcus Aurelius, one of the symbols of ancient Tripoli ¨C we were to have dinner by a nice restaurant by the Arch. Also visited the Green Square, where Colonel Gaddafi gave speeches and presided over march passes.
Tomorrow we will see if Gary gets his visa. We are spending way too much time in Tripoli.

Tripoli, Libya - Fair City by the Mediterranean