In December, naseba will be hosting our first event in Libya.
I have looked forward to visiting Libya for a long time.
Several people in Libya told us that for Americans, getting a visa into Libya is almost impossible – which made me want to visit even more.
It took several months, but I finally got my visa.
Tripoli is an easy 6 hour direct flight from Dubai.
I travel to Egypt and Saudi Arabia often, thus I am numb to waiting, sometimes several hours in long immigration lines at airports – which helped prepare me for Libya …
After 90 minutes or so of standing in line, Fabien and I got our stamps and were soon out of the airport.
We quickly, checked into the hotel and then hired a car to take us to a local restaurant for dinner – we wanted to enjoy Libyan food.
There are many billboards of President Gaddafi along the roads. Everyone we met over the few days seems to love their President.
Libya is basically, clean and for the most part organized. I noticed there wasn’t many “white” guys (European or Americans), but everyone was friendly to Fabien and I.
We saw several Italian, French and a few British – but no Americans.
That first night, we drove in bumper to bumper traffic 20 km along the Mediterranean sea to an area with good restaurants (a place called “Gargash” — my spelling is not correct).
The evening was uneventful, the food was just ok, but we were sitting outside eating dinner in the middle of Tripoli, Libya….brilliant.
The next morning, I woke at 5am and went for a 90 minute run on the walking path along the sea.
As I ran, many people honked their horns and waved with big smiles to me. I didn’t see many people walking, but the ones I did see were all warm and friendly – one of them slapped a high five with me as we ran past each other.
Throughout my trip, I told everyone I met that I was from America, and every single person who knew I was American said something positive about America.
Imagine that… 20+ people who asked where I was from (over the few days I was in Libya) knew I was from America – and all of them said positive things about America.
Many replied “I love America.”
After our meetings in the morning, I hired a car to take me to Sabratha, a UNESCO protected Roman ruin outside of Tripoli.
Sabratha is along the sea, just several feet from the sea.
Fabien stayed at the hotel to work because he had visited the site on a previous visit.
The 90 minute drive was adventurous. We drove through small cities which were for the most part clean, and organized (compared to other African counties I have visited)
When we arrived to the site at the end of the afternoon, it was raining. My driver couldn’t find the main entrance, so we parked the car on the side of the road and then climbed through a hole in a fence.
The site was incredible because it seemed so virgin and untouched –like something out of a movie.
I did not see another tourist, visitor, or person – not even a worker, for the entire time I walked around the site.
I saw large pieces of marble and Byzantine mosaic broken, right in front of me completely, unprotected.
It’s incredible to think that parts of the site are more than 2000 years old – seemingly, untouched by anyone.
On the drive back, the driver picked up a hitchhiker which made the ride somewhat of an adventure because the guy didn’t speak any English. He looked very rough.
I was surprised and equally, impressed when my driver told me the young man was going to school, it was about 7pm – he was taking night courses. The kid looked like he didn’t have 20 cents to his name, and here he was with a bag of books going to night school.
Its worth pointing out that the publisher of his school books is a British publishing company.
When we dropped the kid off in front of a dilapidated building, serving to be some form of school — I gave the young man a 50 euro bill and told him “to keep making his life happen” (my driver translated for me) At first the young man graciously, refused my money, but I forced him to take it.
After we dropped the student to his school, my driver didn’t say a word for 30 minutes … a comfortable silence as we drove (I don’t like small talk) …. Out of the blue, he said “that young man will never forget this day…he will never forget you.”
The next morning, I woke up early and walked for 2 hours into the back alley of Tripoli. There were many people cleaning the streets, and alleys.
Large groups of Africans sat together in an area of the side walk, all of them selling things –one of the Libyans on the street told me the Africans were from Chad.
I walked for 90+ minutes – I was the only “white” guy on the streets.
Everyone was friendly, and hospitable to me.
Fabien and I had several meetings so we didn’t do much … but just driving around Tripoli was an adventure.
At night, we were invited to dinner to a modern 6 star hotel in Tripoli. Fabien and I were both surprised to see the gorgeous hotel – I didn’t see anything similar the entire trip and had no idea such a luxurious hotel existed in Libya.
Our dinner, the food was great.
In Libya, like Saudi Arabia alcohol is forbidden – even at hotels so we were able to enjoy a great business dinner without drinking alcohol.
Fabien and I smoked cigars in the European, very modern outside bar … directly, under a full moon.
We finished at midnight … and I suggested we walk back, or try to walk back to our hotel instead of taking a taxi.
We were both dressed in suits and had no idea where we were going.
We walked towards the sea (our hotel was on the sea) after 45 minutes or so, we came across a group of young men sitting quietly, at a bus stop .. not waiting for a bus, just sitting around talking.
I walked up to them and asked if we could take a picture with them – I explained that I was American and I wanted to show my American friends that Libya is a beautiful, safe country – even in the middle of the night.
They didn’t seem to speak English, but they all excitedly, agreed to be photographed and we stopped, sat and talked with them for a few minutes.
Imagine walking in the back streets in Chicago or LA … walking up to a group of 10 young men… no way.
We walked further into very dark back streets which had no street lights – but we never felt scared or in danger.
We came across two young men who offered to drive us back to our hotel.
Imagine getting into the car with two young, wild looking men you have never met before in the UK or America. Never.
I gave the young driver 20 euro for driving us 10 minutes – but they excitedly, refused the money. Neither one of them spoke enough English to have a conversation with – other than the driver of the car who told us he has two jobs, he drives a taxi and works for a I.T. company.
We didn’t pay for the ride – the young kids never accepted my money, even when I left it on the seat, they refused.
My last day, I scheduled to visit the largest Roman ruin in the world – Lipcis Magna.
The car picked me up at 6am and we had a somewhat easy, uneventful ride to the site (2 hours outside Tripoli)
An hour into the drive, we drove past tables, or make shift tables which had bottles of brownish, yellow liquid on them. The driver told me the bottles were “fresh olive oil.”
It was around 8am, the bottles were all laying out, but I didn’t see any workers.
The driver explained to me that when people want to buy the Olive Oil, they either put the money into a box which was sat on the table – or they go up to the house which was 200 meters from the tables to pay.
I asked him if he thinks people steal the olive oil, and he laughingly replied “of course not.” It’s the “honor system.”
Impressive – the honor system still has some meaning.
I stopped and took some pictures and thought about when I was younger, how some coffee shops or restaurants had a similar honor system of payment – put the money in the box, but its not like that anymore.
How things have changed…
Lipcis Magna is indescribable – a massive Roman ruin which for the first 2 hours, I had entirely to myself …
I hired a guide for 10 euro who took me around.
“all roads lead to Rome….”
I have visited Roman ruins in many countries, and one of the most fascinating features of these sites are the Roman paths, or roads …. Which connected the empire. Thousands of miles of roads all leading towards Rome … all connected. At this site, the roads seemed flawlessly, laid out.
Crazy to imagine 2000 years ago, engineers being able to survey and flawlessly, connect the Empire, like they did.
The site is a few hundred meters from the Mediterranean sea – it was a large harbor city.
We walked all over….and saw everything.
I saw a 16,000 person theater and the guide explained this was where people used to watch starved animals fight each other – or captured slaves battle each other …. I couldn’t help but think of the American reality shows which are so popular in now.
Much of the site used to be 2 or 3 stories high and had roofs covering each building – the roofs have long ago disappeared.
I sat in the pope’s chair
The site also has a massive spa, remarkable – 2000+ years ago, a covered spa – like we have today.
This spa had a cold room – a steam room – and several large hot baths.
The marble in the spa looked as if it were new; it looks untouched.
Outside there is a large swimming pool with a diving platform. The mosaic is still on the floor of the pool.
The sculptures seemed to be in perfect condition.
I saw less than 10 people the entire 3 hours at this site – I didn’t see anyone the first 2 hours.
Later that day, I met Fabien at the airport and we flew back to Dubai together.
As we were landing, we both stared out the window looking at a gorgeous night time view of Dubai below us – nearly, at the exact same instant Fabien said out loud what I was thinking, “I love living in Dubai … the location is perfect to visit the world.”
Misinformation in the media scares/prevents many from experiencing the world.
Don’t let preconceived ideas prevent you from experiencing life to its fullest.
In the coming months, I have a business trip to Nigeria. I really look forward to going to Nigeria.
Also, I will take my oldest daughter (assuming she doesn’t F’ up anymore) to Rwanda to see the Gorilla’s.
If there is one thing you gain from reading my blog – ideally, it is inspiration to go out and adventure.
Live life to its fullest, and don’t have preconceived ideas of anything.