Blog Post

Postcard from Tripoli: Final Thoughts

January 8, 2012

This is a photo of the theatre at Leptis Magna, one of Libya’s many undiscovered gems. My three week trip to the country with my colleagues, correspondent Mark Lowen, and shoot edit Ian Druce has come to an end. It coincided with a quiet time on the news front so we spent most of the time reporting on the state of play in the country, three months after the revolution ended.
We based ourselves in Tripoli and went on day trips out of the capital. Tripoli suffers from the same problems that currently affect much of the country. The infrastructure is badly in need of repair, building projects have stopped, rubbish is not being collected, there are no army or police, the court system is not working and the rebels still roam the streets.
Worrying signs are already emerging of tensions between the various militia which has resulted in deadly firefights in recent weeks. If the government does not find a way of dealing with this problem and persuading the rebels to join a national security force, the country runs the risk of falling into civil war. See my previous blog post for more on this.
On top of that, reconciliation seems a far way off in Libya. The UN estimates there are 7000, mostly pro-Gaddafi supporters stuck in prisons and detention facilities around the country. Many of them have been there since August, without being charged or getting access to a lawyer.  Human Rights organisations have also found evidence of torture and abuse in some of these facilities.
But it is not all doom and gloom.  Unlike Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Libya has a functioning government just three months after the end of the revolution that is beginning to grapple with the country’s many problems.  It is also encouraging to see that freedom of speech is on the increase. Hardly a day goes by that you don’t find a demonstration or strike in some part of the country. This would never have been tolerated under Gaddafi. And on the press side, although it can take frustratingly long time to organise interviews, most ministers were prepared to talk to us. That’s a far cry from the old regime, where no one ever spoke to the media.
Libya has many other factors in its favour. Aside from an abundance of high grade oil, it has a lot of potential as a tourist destination. The country’s vast Mediterranean coastline is made up of miles and miles of  sandy beaches. It also contains, ancient relics, the likes of which do not exist anywhere else in the world. We were fortunate enough to take a trip to Leptis Magna, the ancient roman city built on the edge of the Mediterranean, featured in the above photo. Unlike many other roman cities, sufficient traces remain to imagine what it was like in its heyday.
Back in the capital, Tripoli Zoo is another potential tourist gem. It is packed with a wide range of animals and birds, who are now in much better shape than they were when the city fell.  Read more here about our report on the zoo.
But the country has a lot of work to do before it can realise it’s tourism potential. The infrastructure needs to be restored, the mobile network does not accommodate international roaming, we battled to find good restaurants in the capital, the beaches are dirty and littered with rubbish and you can’t get alcohol, even in five star hotels.
This was my third visit to the country in the last six months. Each time I return, I fall more in love with Libya and it’s warm, hospitable people. I’m hoping I can come back again soon to see how it is getting on. Fingers crossed Libya becomes one of the success stories of the Arab Revolution.

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