The People Want …

01/03/2011 at 21:49 | Posted in Libya | Leave a comment
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The Libyan People don't want to be another Iraq

The People have risen, fresh colors of Libya

28/02/2011 at 23:37 | Posted in Libya | Leave a comment
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Wall of Security Barraks, Benghazi

In front of North Benghazi Court

Camels and Total Solar Eclipse

11/10/2009 at 20:06 | Posted in Libya | 2 Comments
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In the last hundred years or so, Libya had seen two events of Total Solar Eclipses. The first one occurred in 1905, and it was recorded by Mrs. Mabel Loomis Todd in her beautiful book “Tripoli, the Mysterious”.
The Total Solar Eclipse I want to talk about took place on 29th March, 2006. The expected event then, when announced, created quite a stir in the national spirit, full of excitement, expectations and desire to know more about it. Thousands of foreigners were expected to come to Libya, and we heard that all preparations were made to meet them and make their stay in Libya a pleasant event to remember. People were looking for those special glasses to protect their eyes, but they were very difficult to find in Benghazi until the last day before the event. And they were sold at a triple price. Actually, I lost hope to get any and bought instead the highest number-grade available of welding lens. Finally, on the eve of the Awaited Day, my son did bring four pairs, and I obtained six pairs, at the time we were a family of six. So, we had extra pairs to give away!
Then came the preparation and the decision of where to go. The nearest three total line eclipse sites to Benghazi were Jialo جالو camp, Al Burdi البردى camp or Bir Al Ghubi بئر الغبى camp. The first was west and then south of Benghazi about 360 km. The second was east till Tobruk and then south on the road to Al Jaghbub الجغبوب about 550 km. The third is east near the Egyptian frontier about 600 km. I understood that because of certain security measures it would have been more complicated to travel to Jialo camp. So I thought of the other alternative Total Eclipse Time line points available and nearest to Benghazi. We decided of a plan to drive to one of them but to leave the final decision until we arrive in Tobruk طبرق .
I cleared myself to be free from work on that day, and it was almost a free day for everybody. We made preparations of food and other provisions for one day. A colleague and a very close friend of my son asked to come with us, so that made seven of us and we decided to go in two cars, I would drive one, and my son would drive the second.
We were to leave Benghazi at 05:00 Hours in the morning, and drive to Al Marej, then turn east towards Takeness تاكنس and hit the low hills road that would lead us away from the high Green Mountain towards Martouba, at the coast east of Derna درنة town, and then continue the coastal road to Tobruk.
We stopped only once for breakfast at Al Tamimi التميمى and then we arrived in Tobruk before 1200 Hours. We found the weather was just perfect and there were no clouds in the sky so we voted for continuing driving on the coast towards the Egyptian borders instead of turning towards the desert. We continued driving until we crossed Kamput كمبوت , now we were within the three-minute total line eclipse but still some 50 km from the borders. There was absolutely no movement on the road, no cars and no people, and we arrived to some sort of green field on our right where there were some camels grazing peacefully. We stopped and had a vote. All voted and agreed to remain near the camels and watch the effects of the eclipse on them. We left the road and drove some dirt track to our right until we were as close as could be to the camels without disturbing them.
It was 1230 Hours, only 10 minutes to the beginning of the eclipse. We made our picnic site, we prepared our protective eye sight glasses, we got our digital cameras out, we got our video cam ready, we watched the camels and waited.
When I try to recollect my impressions and my reaction of those precious moments, and also of those around me, probably I may not succeed and words would fail me. At the approach of the hour, the camels started gradually to stop walking around, and remained in fixed points as it was the approach of the end of the day, or as if they were waiting for something to happen. On the western horizon, we could see a sort of slight gray color darkening the sky as there was a silent tempest approaching, a tempest without sound you could hear. Later on, some of the camels actually started to sit down until there was a total quietness and some dimness in the air and all camels were sitting down which is another way of saying ‘lying down’. When we looked with our eye glasses we saw that the eclipse actually had already started and progressing, though you can’t notice it by the naked eye. We made other ways to follow it up by making a hole through a piece of paper or water in a pan, and of course we used our eye protective glasses.
Now the dimness was approaching like the prelude of a really silent tempest from the west, the air was becoming slightly cooler, until we actually started seeing the shivering of the air as small ghosts traveling around us, and it was very weird. We tried to photograph them, but probably that needed a special camera.
When the total eclipse time arrived, and we were in a plus three minutes line, it was just unbelievable to describe the event with all due respect it deserved.
There was a feeling of awe, of an unbelievable awe, of being out of time and space, like looking at something too awesome that you’re not supposed to look at, a feeling of happiness and sorrow at the same time, that you won’t experience the same event again in your lifetime. You could almost feel that you were part of the universe, but you were too little and insignificant and you were subdued and humbled and lost. It was too great, and your were just a tiny insect crawling on a piece of rock in the stream of eternity. The Greatness of the One Creator is too much for Man to behold!
Only the instinct of survival and the fear of the damage to our eyes, for we were looking at this event without the glasses then, brought us back to the rational world and before the Total Eclipse ended with few seconds we forced ourselves to look the other way and thank God that we were given this privilege to see just a tiny manifestation of his Absolute Greatness.
Then the light of the sun was flooded back. It seemed quicker than when it disappeared and the camels rose slowly one by one for another new day and started grazing around.
Like the camels, we just had our lunch quietly, peacefully and very happy to be there We were much awed, and in loss of appropriate words.
One hour later, we were back in the actual world again and we had to think about those 500 km to drive back to Benghazi. We drove back towards Tobruk and stopped few km’s west of the town where my son’s friend, who was originally from the region, guided us to a spot of a beautiful valley that joined the sea, it was a spectacular view. We had our green tea drink there, then we started our long road back to Benghazi after spending a most memorable day.
Before the Eclipse


During the Eclipse


After the Eclipse

La Libye en Cartes Postales

24/09/2009 at 19:00 | Posted in Libya | 2 Comments
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“ La Libye a travers les cartes postales “ is a book compiled and researched by Andre Laronde, a French historian and archaeologist specialized in Libyan ancient history. The book contains many pictures that present Libya in the first half of twentieth century from 1900 to 1940. From Libya of the Ottomans to the arrival of the Italians and the discovery of the hinterland. Pictures of the rebirth of Tripoli and Benghazi cities in modern times, and pictures of their near past. It is a very beautiful book published in 1997 in Tunis, and can be obtained through the internet.
The following are examples of the pictures in this book, with many thanks to M. Andre Laronde.
Pictures of Benghazi and Tripoli
Benghazi – la Duane

Benghazi Baladia (City Hall)

Benghazi – Hotel Italia

Benghazi Port Entrance

Benghazi Sea Front

Tripoli – Hotel Vittoria in Clock Square

Tripoli Miramare Theatre

New Tripoli

Old Tripoli Sea Front

Pictures of the Libyan Interior
Train Station in al Merg
A Woman Weaver in Cyrene
A General View of Derna
Ghadames Old Town
Amazeig Young Girls from Nalut
Jebel Neffussa
A General View of Khoms
Sirte Hotel
 
Tajoura – Mourad Agha Mosque
 
Tobruk Customs Office

 Zletin

Story of a Road

23/09/2009 at 20:40 | Posted in Libya | Leave a comment
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On 14th March, 1935, Mussolini signed the authorization of ” the expenditure of a dazzling amount of 103 million liras for completion of the coastal road from the Tunisian border to Egyptian border, in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and all construction of provincial road maintenance facilities.”
The sections of the road to be constructed were in pre-desert and desert areas totaling 813 kms and this big job was completed in one year by Libyan hands in 4,510,000 man working days. The works included movement of great number of materials, breaking down millions of metric tons of rocks by hands and pouring down millions of metric tons of bitumen. When the works finished in one year, the coastal road between Tunisia and Egypt of 1822 kms was connected for the first time in history of the land.
The road ” La strada litoranea della Libia ” , which was called Via Balbo at the Italian era, was opened by Moussoline in 1936 when he used it from his point of arrival to the colony in Tobruk to the west in Tripoli.
This road was reconstructed in 1967 after the independence of Libya, but these pictures tell the story of the original road.


Source:
La strada Litoranea Della Libia
Graphic Workshops in Verona

Those men who fought away from home

31/07/2009 at 13:25 | Posted in Libya | Leave a comment
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An item of news appeared on the British Academy website, (The Society of Libyan Studies), stating that on Monday, 7th December 2009, a lecture will be given by Dr. Saul Kelly of Kings College London and Dr. Faraj Najem of Grafton College under the title: Brothers in Arms: Anglo/Libyan relations during World War II. END OF NEWS ITEM…
Seventy years age, Libya was an Italian colony. The Libyan resistance had been crushed down few years earlier by the butcher of Cyrenaica, Marshal Graziani, and ended practically after the hanging of Omar Al Mukhtar. The reign of the Italian governor, Italo Balbo, had shown some time of peace with the Libyans, and was distinguished with his bringing tens of thousands of Italian colonists, whom were given best of the land with furnished farm houses and all the necessary tools for agriculture, and the Libyans being their cheap man power. Then a dramatic change occurred in Europe and what became to be known later on as World War Two between Germany, Italy and Japan, from one side, and Britain, France and later on Russia and the United States, from the other side, had started by Germany invading Poland and the world entered an era of turmoil, suffering and waging wars that were never seen before. But let’s see what history says about Libya at that time …

” On 10th June, 1940 Italy declared war on Britain and France and aligned itself with Nazi Germany … On 28th June, 1940, the Italian governor-general of Libya is shot down by friendly fire whilst surveying Tobruk, and Marshal Graziani became in charge … On 13th September, 1940, the Italian tenth army marched into Egypt. Later on, the British, accompanied with many nationalities of the Commonwealth, pushed the attack back to Tobruk. The German Afrika Korps under General Rommel joined their Italian allies, fought back the British, and recaptured Benghazi on 3rd April, 1941. And so, Libyan soil became a theatre for a cruel and destructive war between fighting foreign armies, the land never seen its like before. “

The war in Libya fought between the super powers of the time for its control , but not intentionally for the welfare of Libyans However the war ended and Libya was liberated from Italian colonization, and later on was granted independence by the United Nations in 1951. Libya had its own government and King Idris I became its first sovereign.

The great war ended but it left its signs all around the land. The major problem was those millions of land mines that were planted in eastern Libya by the fighting armies that took tens of years later to neutralize.
I was driving once last year between Ras Lanuf and Benghazi and I stopped at Aghiela, thinking that I may find some traces of the worst of the concentration camps that Graziani established in Cyrenaica. I didn’t find what I hoped for, but I found remains of bunkers that were used during WWII either by Germans and Italians, and or, by British forces. Remains of these land marks are found in many places in Libya up to now.

Remains of a WWII Bunker in El Agheila  

 

Thousands of those men who fought away from their countries died on Libyan soil, and in consequence, eastern Libya is hosting British Commonwealth, French, Italian and German cemeteries in Tobruk and Benghazi.

French WWII Cemetery – Benghazi

 

Commonwealth WWII Cemetery – Benghazi
On the 11th of November each year, the ambassadors of concerned European countries travel from Tripoli to Benghazi and Tobruk to visit the cemeteries of their soldiers who died during the war in Libya, and pay homage to those men who died away from home fighting for their countries in a far away land.

Others who survived the war left Libya later with memories of their youth that was spent in a strange land, fighting a war of their own, but it shaped the history of the land. I imaging that those memories must have been a mixture of owe, wonder and nostalgia for a time and place in which they suffered a lot, fought for their survival and had looked death in the eye. Some of those soldiers remained after the war and made this country their home for a while.
One of those is Captain Misson, whose story I came to know about by his son JP. It seems that JP read some of my posts in “A Gateway to History” blog, and later on he sent me an email introducing himself and telling me of his father’s story. Captain Misson was a Belgian citizen who volunteered into the British army during the war and during the invasion of Italian Libya he became the liaison officer between the British army and the Senussi army, consisting of Libyans in exile fighting alongside the British army to liberate their own land…But that’s another story, I hope to be told one day by his own son JP himself.

Captain Misson with Idris, Prince of Cyrenaica in Ajdabiya
(Misson is the one wearing sunglasses behind Emir Idris)
Sources :
Lecure of Brothers in Arms: Anglo/Libyan relations during Worl War II
Italian Invasion of Egypt
African Campaign Timeline

El Agheila

30/07/2009 at 20:19 | Posted in Libya | Leave a comment
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The Greeks called El Agheila as Automala and the Romans built once a fortified town called Anabucis. However, the small town now is called by its Arabic name العقيلة . In Libyan modern history El Agheila remains a sad memory of what happened during the Italian occupation of Libya when General Graziani established several concentration camps of which El Agheila was the worst and most brutal. In this camp tens of thousands of Bedouins were brought from as far as Mermarica and more than half their number had perished.
During WWII El Agheila was a theatre for many battles between the German, Italian and Commonwealth armies. Quote from Wikipedia; ” In February 1941, El Agheila was taken by the British Western Desert Force following their destruction of the Italian Tenth Army in Operation Compass. The British halted there while most of the Western Desert Force was moved to deal with the Axis’s invasion of Greece. This gave the German Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel a chance to arrive and launch an offensive which retook El Agheila in March and drove the British all the way back to Tobruk and the Egyptian frontier. Rommel would further fortify the city and use it as a base for his operations. After being driven back from Tobruk following Operation Crusader in December 1941, the Afrika Korps fell back to El Agheila, halting their retreat and the British advance there.
In January 1942, Rommel launched a new offensive at El Agheila, which would again drive the British back towards Tobruk. This time he would capture Tobruk and advance into Egypt before being halted at El Alamein in July 1942 and decisively defeated there in November. The Afrika Korps was broken, and its retreating remnants gave up El Agheila for the final time to the advancing British Eighth Army in late December 1942. ” Unquote.
El Agheila is situated between Ras Lanuf and Marsa Brega close to the geographical frontiers between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The following pictures were taken at El Agheila between the town and the sea last winter.

Palms Beach

07/10/2008 at 16:54 | Posted in Libya | 4 Comments
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Libya has probably the last unspoiled and most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. Libyan beaches have variations with a stunning natural beauty and mostly wild and clean but being unspoiled they lack all the services tourists require, like what can be found in neighboring Tunisia for example.
The pictures seen below are taken in a place that lies 100 KM west from Benghazi city in eastern Libya. The beach I called Palms’ Beach is known by the name Shatt elBeddin شط البدين , meaning in English ‘Fatman’s Beach’. The place is known only to few beach goers , fishermen and inhabitants of the area of course. It is also widely known to truck drivers who transport sand for construction purposes in Benghazi, as the sand in this area is very fine and of higher quality.
Should we arrive one day to this place to find it bare without sand and its palms being demolished? I hope not.


About Camels

06/10/2008 at 10:02 | Posted in Libya | Leave a comment
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Camels in Libya are seen everywhere. You can see them near the sea, in the plains, in the desert and sometimes up in the mountains. The time when camels were the ships of the Great Sahara has gone for ever, leaving the place to British, American and Japanese four wheel drives. However, you can still see them around as a reminder of another era.
Camels can “handle extreme dehydration as a result of a number of different physiological adaptations. Camels have been known to lose safely body water equivalent to 40% of its body weight, a loss that would be lethal in any other animal.” All about camels … Here ..
I’ve been always fascinated by camels and whenever I see them I try to capture some rare pictures featuring this magnificent animal.


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