Last night I arrived from Egypt and have been in Benghazi for the last day and a half. The no-fly zone has made it difficult to get into Libya and we decided to travel from Egypt. Post-revolution Egypt would be my first liberated country and I was excited. Our plane landed in Cairo and the man stamping passports seemed upset when my mom mentioned the revolution. He said that he believed Al-Jazeera were liars and that he had a friend from Syria who had said that nothing they were reporting was happening. This was troubling news. Did Egyptians here feel the same way? Was the joy we’d heard about online not as widespread as we’d thought?
From the airport we met up with some family. We were to travel with my paternal grandmother, my uncle and my uncle’s wife. They had left Libya temporarily for medical reasons and we had decided to enter into Benghazi from Cairo together.
There were two legs to the trip. The first was the trip from Cairo into a place called Marsa Matrouh. For both parts of the trip we travelled in a small bus with a driver. The driver for this trip was an Egyptian man. He was happy about the revolution. I later found out that this man makes 50$ USD a month from his job which involves driving people distances that he drove us. From Cairo to Masra Matrouh is almost a 7 hour trip.
Marsa Matrouh was the first city we stopped in and signs of the revolution were everywhere. The Egyptian flag, the date – 25 January, and the tank that sat on the side of a crowded road with armed men standing beside it.
My mother needed to buy jalabiya (also known as dishdasha) for people who are volunteering at a hospital as part of their work uniforms. In order to find them we decided to head out and look around Marsa Matrouh. In the bazaar stalls I found the Libyan flag (the red, black and green flag, which will always be called the Libyan flag. The green flag will be known as Muammar’s flag, because that’s all it stood for.) There were necklaces, and little sand bottles and stickers, all in Egypt and all showing their support for the rebels in Libya.
There were two areas that interested me the most. Sharag Askandaria (Alexandria Street) and soug al-Leebee (The Libyan Bazaar). The Libyan Bazaar was interesting because in Benghazi we have a bazaar called soug al-Massry (The Egyptian Bazaar). Sharag Askandaria we actually visited. In Sharag Askandaria we found merchants who sold us the jalabiya’s and who spoke passionately about what was happening in our country. One of them said he had lived in Libya and had many good friends there. He said he was frustrated, and that he thought a hundred men should storm Bab Al Aziziya and kill Gaddafi and if they died it would be better than the other hundreds that would die if he was allowed to live.
We made our way back from Soug Askandaria and found the Libyan flag on shop windows, in doors, hanging in windows, on the side of a tobacco merchant’s booth.
Leg Two of the trip involved going from Marsa Matrouh to Benghazi. This was the most exciting and longest trip. We left the next morning and our driver this time was a Libyan. The trip took about 10 hours. The road was fairly scarce but on almost every building there was a Libyan flag. Keep in mind, at this point we were still in Egypt.
At the Egyptian border we had to show our passports three separate times at different blocks all along the way. It was fairly easy to pass through these blocks, all of us are Libyan and all our passports are valid. The part we were told was difficult is checking the car registration. It costs money to pass through the border, about 400 Egyptian Pounds for both the road going to Libya and the road going further into Egypt. The car needs to be checked and papers need to be issued. I don’t know the finer details of this because I did not help with the papers, but this is the biggest issue at the borders between Egypt and Libya.
The Libyan border was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. They were building a new border station with the Libyan flag on it. The border itself was controlled by several Freedom Fighters and a few military men. They were lots of guns. Here they removed all our baggage from the bus, checked our passports and checked our baggage. Once they were sure everything was okay, we were allowed to pass. The Libyan flag is literally everywhere. My mom started to cry. It was one of the most beautiful things I think I will ever see.
From the Libyan border we headed to Tobruk and there was graffiti everywhere. Photos of this graffiti will be uploaded soon inshallah. The trip from here was pretty uneventful. We stopped at the Al-Maseerah Hotel. This was my first steps on the soil of liberated Libya.
To enter into the hotel you need to first pass the metal gates and the armed men. There were military men with guns all around the entrance to the hotel. One of the men dressed in military attire has a rebel flag with the patch on his arm.
There are five hours left in the ride and in these five hours we find out that the man driving the car is a Freedom Fighter. His car has a huge crack in the windshield which I initially thought was from a heavy rock, but it turns out it happened when he was in the middle of gunfire.
We pass through Jabal al-Ekhdar and there is garbage strewn all over the side of the road. The driver says that it’s because the services that used to exist for garbage disposal are all gone and these are the only places for the people who live in these areas to put their garbage.
I know we’ve entered Benghazi before anyone tells me. It has a distinctive look to it. The entire time we’ve been in Libya the Libyan flag has been everywhere. Anywhere the flag can be painted it’s been painted, anywhere the flag can be hung it can be hung.
Source- Mukhtar’s Libya