Libya News, Libya Weather and Links ( Libyan News and Libyan Weather )

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The New York Times, December 3, 1911:

TRIPOLI, THE LAST STRONGHOLD OF THE REAL ARAB

France Has Modified Him In Algeria,
England Has Cowed Him In Egypt,
But In Tripoli He Is Still "The Arab Primeval"


by Lawrence Mott



    "La illah Allah, Mohammet Rasoul il Allah!"
    (There is no God but God, and Mohammet is His Prophet.)
    And the heat! The everlasting burning ghible, laden with the finest of sand from the desert, swept across the souk (bazaar) with all its scorching power, and the blinding glare of the low white buildings caused my eyes to cringe and close to the merest slits.
    Burnooses wrapped closely about them, their yellow slippered feet shuffling along, the Arabs passed in sullen silence, their dark eyes watching the nuz 'rani kalb (Christian dog) covertly.
    Landing from the frightful little Italian cattle steamer at the quay I finally managed to convince the Turkish officials that I had no cigarettes and that my passport was quite regular.
    Beng'hazi!
    Squat and straggling over a large area, set on the edge of an emerald blue sea, a few sparse palms sticking up against the bluest of blue skies, it reminded me of some fungus growth that had sprung up over night.
    The Italian flag flapped hotly at the water front, and set back behind the Government salt mound H.B.M. flag drooped listlessly.
    The British Consul had kindly asked us to stay with him during our preparations for a quick ride under escort to the port of Derna, crossing the hinterland via Merdy.     High and away the nasal sing-song whine of the Muezzin, calling the Faithful to prayer from the minaret, seemed to drop from out of the hot skies, and the buzzing of myriads of flies rose to a loud drone in the narrow bazaar passages.
    Here and there a Greek Jew or a Levantine woman, closely veiled, muttered "Salaam Effendi," as though afraid of the sound of their own voices, and hurried by.
    The peculiarly aromatic scent of the cloth bazaar penetrated even above the stench and reek of camel meat, rotting fruits, vegetables, and leeks, and it was with relief that I swung into its cool darkness.
    "Baalęk! Baalęk!" (Look out!) I stepped to one side, and a string of camels padded noiselessly by, their driver switching the last animal with a long staff.
    "Hut! Hut! Za, za, za!"
    Great gaunt beasts, their long necks swinging slowly from side to side, eyes half closed, their loads bumping into unwary Arabs, they passed slowly down through the dim archways where the sunlight filtered through in irregular patches and the merchants drew up their crossed legs slightly to let them pass...
    Wandering along, I passed cross-alleys where donkeys flapped their ears forlornly and skulking dogs crept in and out of the dark shadows...
    The leather bazaar was a blaze of withering heat... Plenty of activity here, and much more noise.
    Piles of red-tanned hides were heaped about, and the Arabs squabbled in their shrill voices.
    Every one of them was armed, their rifles slung across their backs, and the silver fittings--whose quantity on the long barrels denoted the wealth of the owner--gleaming in the magnificent light. I could not but help thinking of "holy wars" and of the latent savagery that lay just under the surface of these wild people.
    ...although I was perfectly safe, still a curious sensation of ill-defined fear was uncomfortably present...
    Uniform and unflagging cruelty, especially to animals, is glaringly predominant. Everywhere are half-starved donkeys whose heads and rumps have great open sores from brutal beatings and the chafing of rough harness. If the Arab does not happen to have a club, and wants to turn his donkey, he will either pick up a rock and hurl it at the poor beast's head, or he will unmercifully kick it.
    The dogs are in the same condition, but of their camels they are more careful, as these are expensive. Horses are ridden with heavy combination throttle-and-curb bits, and it is seldom that a horse is to be seen without a torn mouth.
    They are sensitive to a degree, sometimes really grateful and appreciative, and always watching.
    Their keen eyes see everything. There isn't the slightest movement that the "miz'rain" (Christian) makes that they do not note, and sometimes their lips will move slightly--and without sound...
    ...in the Province of Tripoli the Arab is the Arab primeval, unrestrained, nomadic, savage, and very fanatical.
    He looks upon the Turk as an usurper, and it is only the fact of their common religion that makes it possible for the Crescent to fly above the various fortifications.
    When the writer was in the city of Tripoli last year, the fortifications were in rather good shape and a heavy garrison of Turkish infantry, cavalry, and zapshehs (mounted police) were held there, with a military Governor over the whole province in command.
    ...many of the officers spoke French fluently, and two were conversant with German.
    The new barracks at Benghazi lie outside of town, and is an imposing affair, able to quarter about 1,000 men.
    But the fort was a forlorn rabbit warren of tumbling down passages and grass-grown courts where green lizards darted across the paving stones and huge beetles crawled with painful precision over the moldy walls.
    ...we sat long with the mutiseraf, or local Governor, drinking the delicious coffee, without which no conversation is complete, and smoking the Ottoman Regie Company's cigarettes.

    A few days later we started our overland ride, escorted by two zaptichs and six cavalrymen under a Sergeant's command...
    Our caravan bashi, with three camels and some donkeys, spluttered along behind, alternately scolding his assistants--who trotted unconcernedly along--and urging on the camels.
    The "city" of Benghazi drifted away into the heat haze and we were alone in as ghastly a land as a man could wish to see. Not a tree, not a palm, not a bush, even...
    At times Arabs passed us bound the other way, but when they saw the troopers' white kepis (sun shields) they left the road, making wide detours, and would stop to look--after we had gone by.
    Toward the end of that terrible day the country changed for the better. Arab gardens showed brilliantly green here and there, and clusters of palms alleviated the dreadful sameness of the low, flat sky line.
    ...we up-tented in a little field close by a well... our interpreter translated that the tent must be in the open where the sentry could see all around it, lest Arabs creep up under cover of the bushes.
    We were also told to wear our .38 Colt automatics, even at night! The camels arrived, and after their usual chorus of grunts and roars, condescended to kneel and have their loads removed, whereupon they began eating the long spiny cactus leaves with evident enjoyment.
    ...All this portion of the Barbary coast is dotted with remarkably fine ruins that have never been archaeologically dug as yet, and great discoveries will doubtless be made...

    ...we took our courage in both hands and faced the long climb up over the mountains on the glorious plain of Merdy...
    The rise is a bit over 1,000 feet, and I was about "done" when Merdy, far below us, in the center of a green, really luxuriantly green plain, burst on our dust begrimed weary eyes.
    What an opportunity for colonization! Anything would grow here, and the plain is about six miles square...
    The town of Merdy has a good fort and a garrison of usually sixty to eighty infantrymen...
    We remained many days at Merdy, riding about the surrounding country, photographing the ancient tombs and inscriptions...

    Let the "Holy War" get well going though, and I very much doubt any nation being able to cope with the Tripoli or Barbary Arab, at least until after years of the hardest kind of fighting and the ability to take a great deal of punishment.
    They know no fear, are insanely jealous of their women, and hate everything that is not one of the Faithful and a tribal brother besides.
    The little town of Derna, where the Italian mail ships stop once every two weeks, is delightfully charming and quaint, with its acacia covered bazaars, lovely gardens, and magnificent palm trees...
    ...The line where East meets West is delicately defined--a mere tracery in the imagination--but it is a wall of steel, a Rubicon of Knowledge that will never be crossed.
see also: Tunisia News - Egypt - Algeria - Niger - Sudan

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  Libya News



    Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, commonly known as Libya, is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, Egypt on the east, Sudan on the southeast, Niger & Chad on the south, and Tunisia & Algeria on the west. The capital is Tripoli. The area of Libya is 678,400 square miles (1,757,000 square km). The estimated population of Libya for July, 2009, is 6,310,434. The official language is Arabic, though Berber, English and Italian are also spoken. Almost all Libyans are Sunni Muslims, and Islam is the state religion.

    The Italians supplanted the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated in World War II. Libya then passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951.

    Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI began to espouse his own political system, the Third Universal Theory. The system is a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices and is supposed to be implemented by the Libyan people themselves in a unique form of "direct democracy." QADHAFI has always seen himself as a revolutionary and visionary leader. He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. In addition, beginning in 1973, he engaged in military operations in northern Chad's Aozou Strip - to gain access to minerals and to use as a base of influence in Chadian politics - but was forced to retreat in 1987.

    UN sanctions in 1992 isolated QADHAFI politically following the downing of Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. During the 1990s, QADHAFI began to rebuild his relationships with Europe. UN sanctions were suspended in April 1999 and finally lifted in September 2003 after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism.

    QADHAFI has made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations since then. He has received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. The US rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In January 2008, Libya assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term. In August 2008, the US and Libya signed a bilateral comprehensive claims settlement agreement to compensate claimants in both countries who allege injury or death at the hands of the other country, including the Lockerbie bombing, the LaBelle disco bombing, and the UTA 772 bombing.

    In October 2008, the US Government received $1.5 billion pursuant to the agreement to distribute to US national claimants, and as a result effectively normalized its bilateral relationship with Libya. The two countries then exchanged ambassadors for the first time since 1973 in January 2009.
    CIA World Factbook: Libya

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