Thursday, 21 October 2010

10 Reasons to Hate or Love Libya

10 Reasons why Libya is sh*t and to keep it balanced, 10 Reasons why Libya is great

The 10 Reasons Why Libya Is Sh*t

In no particular order and it was hard to find just 10 reasons.
  1. The tempremental electricity supply. The last 3 Thursdays I've gone home early to work, as the power went off. Although this is like a long weekend and can't be considered a completely bad thing. But having to work from home 3 days this week is a bit much. And we're not even into winter yet, when 'rain gets into the cables'...
  2. The complete lack of intelligence of the drivers. Inconsiderate, reckless, endangering themselves, their passengers (children sitting half in/out of the windows) and other road users. Overtaking on a hill on a blind corner ? That was a police car. Near misses are such a common occurence as to go unremarked upon. Arrogance and ignorance is a dangerous mix.
  3. Dodgy Internet Access - I was trying to download a 1.GB file the other night at home. Nothing mucky, it was a cycling training film. Once the download started, the status rapidly changed from 1 hr remaining to 2 hours, to 3 hours. When I went to bed it was 22 days remaining. 8 hours later it had gone into warp speed and there were only 6 hours left. Still, tonight it's decided not to work at all and I'm writing this offline. Last winter we had no internet access for 3weeks. That starts to affect business and was close to causing a diplomatic incident as all the nearby embassies were affected.
  4. Behind the wall is a garbage dump
    Garbage – Everyone litters. Except the expats. I was out cycling in what passes for countryside  here (sand with no houses) and smelled the rotting garbage dumped in the middle of nowhere, before I saw it. In the same way that the smell of the Durian reminds me of the early morning markets in Jakarta that I'd stagger past on the way home from a bar, the smell of rotting garbage will always remind me of Libya.
  5. Food – Tinned tuna, tomatoes and couscous. That's Libya's contribution to the culinary world. Yet I've been to the Souk and seen & smelled the spices, there are amazing fruit and veg stalls everywhere (except the broccoli is the size of a tennis ball and priced like depleted Uranium) they just can't cook. Unless you like Camel. Luckily, I eat thai food every day.
  6. Lack of things to do – If you're a man and like to sit outside smoking a sheesha, or praying,  then you'll love Libya. If you like pubs, clubs, bars, sports, libraries, cinema, theatre then you might experience some disappointment. I don't know what the locals do. The expats make their own fun with clubs, societies and assorted socials. We bring our toys over here with us and we play. I know surfers, windsurfers, kite surfers, mountain bikers and road bikers, we all live for the weekends.
  7. Police – Whenever there is a traffic jam at a junction it's because a feckless copper is attempting to control the traffic. Left to its own devices, the junction would just work. With alot of horn beeping and gesticulating, but with a whole lot less waiting. I was once in a jam for 25 minutes, the cause was a badly parked police van. A friend of mine was stopped as he came out of a shop and got into his car. While the police man attempted to lighten my friend's wallet for no good reason, cars were driving past him. On the pavement. Against the traffic.
  8. In'shallah – Arabic for ' if God wills it", and used all the time in response to a question like "so you'll come and deliver my furniture tomorrow then?" , meaning "maybe it will be done", "I can't be bothered", "You'll be lucky son" or simply "tsk".
  9. Sexism – Women are rarely seen. So uncommon is a sighting that when I see a burqa clad woman at the side of the road, I know I need to keep an eye on Bassim (my occasional driver) because his eye won't be on the road. All western women are whores though and as such welcome the constant attention from the hair gelled, preening local lotharios. Go into a women' clothes shop, or better yet, an underwear shop and it'll be a man serving. Mind you, if you think the Libyan men are bad at driving....
  10. The airport/immigration – I think the airport was built in worldwar 2. If you manage to find a space outside in which to abandon your car, you can enter the terminal, put your bags through the machine that always beeps and continue uninterrupted to check in. If you're lucky you have a business class ticket or it's not the time when people are checking in with their entire family & all their personal belongings for a pilgrimmage to Mecca. Your passport will be checked about 7 times including a final sphincter tightening time at the door of the plane.  Flights out are fun, you can smell the relief - it's Gin. When coming back, expect to wait anywhere upto an hour at immigration while the immigration officer has a cigarette and a chat with his two mates by his counter. If it's near the end of his shift and he can't find the visa instantly in your passport, be prepared to sit on the Naughty Step until his relief rolls in 20 minutes late, has a cigarette and a chat with his mates before realising the other guy has dumped you on him. Despite this delay at immigration, your bags still won't have been unloaded. There are only 2 belts,  but the sign is in Arabic, so try and spot a guy with a beard and a veiled woman in black, off your flight and stand by them. They'll be standing by the "No Smoking" sign, having a cigarette. When the baggage belt either stops for no reason or more likely because someone's carpet has blocked it, stand back while locals take it upon themselves to climb under the rubber curtain, into the unloading bay to retrieve their bags. If you have the misfortune to arrive at the same time as a flight from Mecca, take a good thick book. You ain't going anywhere.

The 10 Reasons Why Libya Is Great
I struggled a bit with this.
  1. Well the weather's nice, except when the wind comes off the desert in summer and it's like a blast furnace or in winter when it rains for 20 minutes and we get several feet of water flooding the roads
  2. Petrol's cheap – about 5 pounds Sterling will fill my car. This is the place to drive a Hummer or a  Range Rover Sport.
  3. Cheese bread - OK it's from a Turkish restaurant, but oven baked, flat bread filled with cheese deserves to be a food group in its own right.
  4. The driving - I can drive as badly as I want, tailgate so close I can read the label on the other driver's underpants. I can pull out and block all the lanes, I can run a red light, speed, undertake on a highway, overtake at speedbumps, go the wrong way up a street because it's more convenient. I can tap a wing mirror here, scrape a bumper there. I can park wherever the hell I want, no matter what inconvenience it will cause to others. I can do all that and no one will care. Not even a traffic cop.
  5. Shops – the shops are crap, I buy food. I go home. I save money.
  6. Getting away with things – I'm going to hold a race on public roads with about 50 people running. I'm going to put 30 marshalls out at crossing points, some of whom will decide that having a Hi-Vis vest gives them the power to stop traffic. I'm not going to tell the police or whatever 'Socialist People's Committee' it'd be stopped by. There's no HSE, no insurance or litigation risks, we self police and use common sense (trained EMTS & nurses on site). You just couldn't do that in most countries....
  7. A Cyclist's Dream - Up or Down
    The cycling -There are some incredible roads and hills just 80km from here. New, smooth tarmac, super twisty corners and next to no traffic. On the odd occasion there's been a car, they've stayed behind us ( a first for a Libyan driver) giving us the whole width of the road on which to be nutters.
  8. The people – For all the morons in cars, corrupt police, swaggering 'big men' and misguided misogynists. I'll remember: The farmer who pulled up alongside me on a long ride, on a very hot day when I'd run out of water and was in trouble. He pulled up alongside and handed me an ice cold bottle of water, on the move , Tour de France style.  There was a shopkeeper who looked after Eric in his house when the heat got too much for him, then gave us all water and wouldn't take our money. And there's Osama, the shopkeeper who has looked out for us on some of the dafter hill/heat combinations.
  9. Freedom - Malta is 45 mins away, London is 3 hrs away.....
  10. Yay for The Leader
    The Leader – I think Colonel Gaddaffi is great. As are everyone in his spying network that feed the culture of paranoia and reporting to the police . Top work!

1 comment:

  1. your spelling is atrocious - is that a Libyan thing too?!