Remembering Libya

I’ve just revisited an article I wrote for CN Traveler seven years ago, when Libya allowed its first foreign visitors to explore its deserts and ruins. I’ve posted the article above.

I mentioned the violence of my reception – but not the terrible Saharan brothel I visited one night with my driver, my guide and an Algerian tourist camp agent. While the driver went to jigjig with one of the Nigerian girls, we sat on low stools in a stuffy room painted dark, glossy green to dado level. My guide pounced on a book there, leafed through it, and snorted: “English dictionary!” It was, in fact, the King James Bible.

For the girls, sending back money to their families in Nigerian villages, Libya was a step towards Europe. They all wanted to go there. None of them, I think, ever would. They were chatty, and sweet, and talked about crocodiles and other things.

Next day, the driver and the guide took me into the desert and I decided they meant to kill me. Libyan brothels were not The Man’s idea of creating a good image. They had made a mistake, letting me come. They would kill me, and my corpse would never be found. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at the time.

Every time the poor fellows picked up a tyre-iron, I assumed my time had come. They wedged the irons in the sand, to set up a barbecque. We would eat; I would grow sleepy; they would kill me.

It was not a good night, in spite of the stars.

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