27 Photos Show How People of Benghazi Express Themselves

Instead of posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twetter, some people decide to express their idea through their rare galss of their cars.

I have tried to literally translate the Arabic words, but believe me, it’s not going to sound like the Libyan way. 

Take off your eyes on me
Take off your eyes on me
Libya is a class without a teacher
Libya is a class without a teacher
Pay attention to Libya
Pay attention to Libya


Al Ahli [a football team] is the best
Al Ahli [a football team] is the best
Freind someone who truly deserves you, not someone denies your favor
Freind someone who truly deserves you, not someone denies your favor
Security of Humman
Security of Humman
World, How supposedly do you want it?
World, How supposedly do you want it?

Jegmina [no meaning]
Jegmina [no meaning]

Leave me alone
Leave me alone
Live today as the last day of your life, someday is going to be!
Live today as the last day of your life, someday is going to be!
The home for homeless [Benghazi]
The home for homeless [Benghazi]
They protected Benghazi, but they destroyed it !
They protected Benghazi, but they destroyed it !
It's not your bussiness
It’s not your business
We're not lucky enough that our house located not on the main street.
We’re not lucky enough that our house located not on the main street.
The wolf dies, the country rested, the dogs raised, it's the hell!!
The wolf dies, the country rested, the dogs raised, it’s the hell!!
They call it a revolution
They call it a revolution
Good time
Good time

3 Public Squares Draw The Political Life in Benghazi

3 Squares

People protest to be heard. Their voices are the most driven factor when comes to political decisions. The people gather in places that draw attention to them, and nothing is more important than public squares to protest.
From 2011 to the present, public squares in Benghazi play a critical role in the recent history of Libya. There are three main places shifted from one to another acted as the favorite public spaces in the city.

Freedom Square: (2011- 2013)

Freedom SquareWhile the whole world watched 2011 Arab Spring in many Arab nations, public square names were resonated everywhere. Such as Tahrer Square in Egypt. Libya had its own famous square at the time. Freedom square in Benghazi is where it all started.
This Square is located in Benghazi center adjacent to the courthouse. It was originally a parking lot.
People of Benghazi gathered every day during 2011. However, Islamist groups started raising in Benghazi taking this square as their main square to gather. It became rabaa al-adawiya square of Libya. People moved to the new public square in the middle of 2013 after the US ambassador was killed, and when the ideological differences started to rise. Check my blog post on Freedom Square almost 2 years ago.

Freedom Square

Tibesty Square: (mid 2013- end 2014)

Tebisty SqaureIt is also called “ Martyr Abed Assalam Al Masmary Square). This square is located within the public park on the main lake in front of Tebisty Hotel. People abandoned Freedom Square as a reaction to the other groups who support the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. One of the largest protests had taken place in this square was “Benghazi will never bow” on August 2014.
Its location within the downtown and close enough to the Freedom Square make it the perfect place to protest. Because of the war in Benghazi and the square’s location close enough to clashes, people moved to other safer public squares.

Tebsty Sqaure

Alkeesh Square: (2015- Present)

Al keesh SquareDespite the war inside Benghazi for more than one year, people of Benghazi never stopped protesting. They keep their voices louder than any other city as Benghazi known as the city of rebellion.
Alkeesh square located in a place accessible to most areas under the army control. It was used to be a good place for gaddafi’s speeches, as it was located in front of his main brigade (Al Fadeel Bo Omer Brigade) inside the city. This square also held one of the most important speeches in the recent history of Libya when Abd Aljalil announce the Liberation Day in 2011. One of the largest protests is held in this square was only yesterday as people went out to refuse the latest Leon’s unity government proposal.

Alkeesh Sqaure

In this, one of the squares or in any other places, people of Benghazi will never stop protesting. As history tells us, Benghazi is the city that creates the future of Libya.

4 Things We Stopped Doing After 2011

For security reasons or the lack of powerful government and real institutions, these are some of what we stopped doing after 2011 revolution.

1- Carrying your driver’s license

Men, women and kids drive their cars in Benghazi, and NO one cares if he or she carries his or her driver’s license. It becomes something extra to put it in your wallet. I see many kids, who are probably younger than 18 years old, drive cars without supervision. No one asks you where is your driver’s license. Lately, carrying your ID (any photo ID) is required only for checkpoints when the army asks you who you are?

2- Registering your new car

Again with cars, but this time is the car registration. What I can see on the roads is more than half of the cars without plates. People sell and buy cars everyday without registering this new car. This issue seems not going to be solved soon without chasing who doesn’t have plates.

3- Paying your electricity bills

Constantly power cut encourages people to not pay their bills. When the service is subsidized by the state, and there is no powerful government, people will not pay their bills. Only if they look at this issue from a different perspective, paying their bills will improve their electricity network as it being maintained frequently.

4- Going out after 12 am

When I was an architecture student, I used to study with one of my friends at his house for long hours. Therefore, going out late and driving back home was not an issue before 2011. Today, it’s too dangerous to go out after 12 am for many reasons. The only exception is Ramadan. In this holy month because we fast during the day, we can stay out to the dawn as no one sleep.

Do We Really Miss Gaddafi Days?

Last weeks, protesters went out to streets carrying green flags and demanding that Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam, to be released. Their main demand is returning to Gaddafi’s regime.

These protesters are something we used to see. They are coming out from people who have been seeing Gaddafi’s regime is the best for Libya since 1969. What is not normal that many of 17th of February revolution supporters are asking for the same thing, or something close to that. They regret what has happened in Libya in the last 4 years. They want Libya to restore to the point before 2011.

They constantly say “we wish we never made this revolution” and “the last 4 years worse than 42 years of Gaddafi”. Whenever I meet new people who converted to pro Gaddafi, usually I say the word revolution, referring to the 2011 revolution. They replay, “Do you still call it revolution,” or “it’s not a revolution at all”.

We all know why they miss Gaddafi’s days especially these days!

The current situation compared with Gaddafi’s days are worse in terms of the level of security. Since 2011 and Libya going down in deep divisions with chaos. Rising ISIS in many parts of Libya. There is no powerful government to control all these fully armed militias. There are two parliaments and two governments. Daily life supply such as electricity, gas, breads and water are suffering from shortages. Human rights abuses everywhere.

The more people suffer now, the more they forget the brutal history

The more people suffer now, the more they forget the brutal history. It seems people easily forget what happened in the last 42 years of Gaddafi’s control. It takes me one-second to find a proof that reminds me of Gaddafi’s era by looking at Benghazi infrastructure, for example. For 42 years, Gaddafi has made an environment of corruption. He created no environment of good education system, no healthy healthcare system, no reliable national army, and other things are really should be built correctly despite what privileges Libya has.

My point here is what we face these days is no different from what we faced in Gaddafi time. The only difference is the security level.

It’s clear that people are missing Gaddafi’s days because of security. Security and safe atmosphere are the first on people’s list to seek. People will trade off everything to have the security. What we see these days is the result of Gaddafi control. Wide spread weapons in militia hands without government control making the security impossible to reach. In other words, Gaddafi is the main reason behind the lack of security today.

The lack of security empowers the idea of creating a military council. Many people are asking Hifter to take control and to overthrow the current government. They see Hifter the new powerful person who will control everything and fix what has happened. They are willing to trade off democracy with security.

Therefore, what we see today is not an anti-revolution movement as some people refer (Fajer Libya Supporters). It’s the basic demand from people who lived in the two periods. The only thing Gaddafi provided was security, which is missing nowadays.

Whenever you see people regretting the revolution, make sure they lack the security in their lives.

I think the first thing that the upcoming unity government should do is to provide the secured environment. The only way to create this environment by dissolving militias, gathering the scattered weapons, and creating one powerful army. Than we can proceed to democracy.

Libyan Reaction: Social Experiments

Libyan Reaction

Some guys from Tripoli lunched an experetmnt called Libyan Reaction.
It’s interesting to watch Libyan reaction toward some circumstances they face in the streets everyday and how they respond to them.
These experents varied from picking “trash on the sidewalk” to “how to react when somebody steals a person’s cellphone.

These are some of their experiments:

Pick the trash

Picking money instead of the trash

Stealing a cellphone in front of you

you can Like their Facebook page here

Federalism 101: why federalists movement emerged in Cyrenaica?

The Historical Regions in Libya
The Historical Regions in Libya

After 17th, Feb 2011, a group of people mostly from the East emerged as federalism supporters. The federalist movement ask for applying federalism in Libya as it was applied in 1949 for regional autonomy. They face oppositions from all Libyan regions, including the East. I opposed them at first for several reasons. However, things have changed in the last 4 years that we all could be wrong about the federation. We should clearly understand that there are reasons behind federalists movement. The only thing we did for them is accusing them for splitting Libya.

The main reason is neglecting for 42 years. The East is known for their opponents to Gaddafi. Therefore, Gaddafi has neglected the East on purpose. He managed to reduce the effectiveness of this part. He kept most of Libya’s institutions in Tripoli, where he controlled the entire country. He also moved some public entities from Benghazi, where it was originally created, to Tripoli, such as the National Oil Corporation and the Libyan Airline. People are afraid of continuing this neglecting especially with a centralized government.
Gaddafi built his empire in Tripoli, 1000 km away from Benghazi. He created a powerful centralized government that controlled everything. The other Libyan parts don’t have any authority to get things done fast. Every legal aspect needs to be authorized (signed) in Tripoli first. Therefore, people face delays to get their work done by the government. Personally, I’ve suffered a lot of this centralized government.

This neglecting comes with geographical obstacles. Libya is a huge land. Most of this land is empty. The three regions (east, south, and west) are not directly connected. They divided by this huge desert in the middle. Traveling from Benghazi to Tripoli by car is the same distance between Georgia and New York (I guess). The only difference between the two routes is there is nothing between Tripoli and Benghazi. This geographical obstacles will magnify the painful effort if there is a centralized government that controls people’s lives 1000 km away.

That truth is that natural division created cultural divisions as well. There are cultural differences between the three regions. For example, there are different languages and accents. This cultural variation is obvious in today’s crisis. The different regions take each side in this civil war.

Many people say Gaddafi neglected every part in Libya. Yes, that’s true, but no one denies the East has taken the largest portion in his neglecting plan comparing to its rich-full history in Libya. Libya started from Barga (Cyrenaica), the history says that, when King Idris united the three regions to create one country. In addition, the eastern part was the stronghold for the harshest resistance for Italian colony. People of Cyrenaica are proud of this short history. In other words, Cyrenaica has a unique history and identity, and Gaddafi simply has ignored these facts.

One of the most important point is the oil resources in Libya. Most of Libyan oil fields located in Cyrenaica, which the centralized government controls it all. For more than 60 years, Oil outcome revenues were distributed unequally. People in the East don’t mind sharing these resources with all Libyans equally. However, when people suffer by inequality, they will pursue their rights first, and oil resources are the first they will seek because it located beneath their feet.

There are many examples of successful countries that adopted federation recently, India and UAE, for example, are good federal countries. Other examples are still suffer from recent federation, such as Iraq and Sudan.

We have to distinguish between decentralization and federation. Most of federalists are hesitated with the new decentralization law (empowering the local authorities instead of local governments). They keep saying it’s not the solution for Libya.

“The solution is by adopting federation, while each region clean its house” one of federalist told me. The solution could be empowering the three region and tribal areas while keeping the strong united federal government.

Adopting federation is not going to be easy, especially in this time. One of the issue is the boarders. Each region will claim their geographical boarder. There is a debate now between people from Tripoli and Cyrenaica about where is the historical boarders for each region. Instead, we should adopt only the administrative boarders.

Many people say federalist movment started with the wrong people who are fighting for the right cause. Federalism is like the crack. If we keep neglecting it, it would become larger and larger and to destroy everything. There is a new group in Cyrenaica asking for independency now. Libya could split to 3 or more countries. The number of people who become federalist is increasing everyday nowadays as Libya is divided to two governments. We have to deal with them as soon as possible. Either by adopting federalism or creating something fixes all issues. The upcoming constitution is the key for creating the best solution.

Administrative commercial project

It’s been a while since my last post here. Architect life is unpredictable. Sometime we have a lot of free time, and other time we get really busy. 
As you know Benghazi is going through tough time this year as war continues. However, people of Benghazi keep their life going on. It’s like nothing happening. Most impartiality, they are optimistic about the near future. 

In our firm, Assarh  we usually deal with investors who have good real states locations. The latest client is going to invest in a large project located in the heart of Benghazi. 

The project composes of two main sections. The first one is 5 office buildings with 2 mid-size banks. The second section is 36 small retail shops and 12 large shopping hall. 

At Assarh  we wanted the final design to be as simple as possible with modern finishing. We started with designing the main zoning classification with main roads/entrances network on the site. The first weeks we faced a lot of difficulties in the parking lot size. The client doesn’t want to spend a lot of the land on parking. This issue we usually face with most of our Libyan clients, they buy the land, which cost them a lot, and they don’t want waste some areas on free parking lot while rules and restrictions buy the government are lost. As our responsibility, we tried to provide multiple solutions, such as parking multi store Garage and underground parking. Unfortunately he refused all these solutions. The final solution we reach is to implant parking lot in the middle of the site and lifting the ground floor of office buildings. Here is some drawings: 

Benghazi is an open shopping mall: How we exchanged money with chaos

"We're not lucky that our home aren't located on main road"
“We’re not lucky that our home aren’t located on main road”

“I am not rich!!” I usually use this phrase as a response to some friends when they ask me why you do not buy that thing!. Some Benghazi’s residents have their own answer. They use “My father is not rich, nor our home does locate on a main street”. The second part of the answer is referred to the convenient stores attached to their houses.

People who own homes facing the main road or streets switch number of rooms to shops. They either rent them or start their own businesses. Therefore, houses located on the main streets are much more expensive than ones are not on the main streets. New shops are opened wherever new roads are paved. The whole city switched to become one shopping mall.


There are (Or I should say there WERE) regulations, rules, and standards classify and arrange zones in Benghazi. The land use was set precisely to split between zones. There are culture, commercial, residents, services, and other zones. These zones arranged to work perfectly with each other. In addition, zones could be mixed up together, which called in urban development mixed-use. Benghazi center set up to be mixed-used due to some historical restrictions and geographical location. People completely neglect these regulations and standards. They act on their only own benefits. In addition, the absence of following up and monitoring by the government makes it for residents easier to break out these regulations.

The Current Land Use by Alemarha Office
The Current Land Use by Alemarha Office

Another issue to be addressed is updating Benghazi’s master plan. The last master plan generation should be finished in 2000. Since that year, we live in planing vacuum which results the chaos attached with slums everywhere.

One should admit that the new shops opening up everyday take a systematic approach for the type of business. That has been said the one street is form from many shops specialized in one business type. Therefore, you can find streets sell only furniture, other sell computers.

The convenient stores within walkable radius should be a great idea especially in terms of sustainability. This could sound perfect as we do not have to go far using cars to get our stuff. However, with the current situation of Benghazi’s infrastructure turns the advantages to disadvantages. Main roads are completely in urgent need to maintenance. These roads were not designed to handle this mixed-used zone. There should be some standards with certain number of parking spots to handle these shops. Tight roads make it difficult to find parking spots and drive smoothly. Too much traffic in these roads as some or many people park in the middle of the way. Some say there are six millions cars in a city has a million population. All that make our commute so difficult.

For example, 20th Street is one of the busiest streets in Benghazi. It has too many shops. People moving around shopping and parking their cars adjacent or on the sidewalk. Before opening these shops, the street was one of the preferable rout as it connects some critical areas as shortcut. Nowadays, people, including myself, avoid using this street as it becomes nightmare to drive in.

The busy 20th Street
The busy 20th Street


It is easy to fix these issues. First, we have to embrace the current situation. It is too difficult to ask people to close their shops. There should be some organized way to study and analyze which shops should be closed and which ones are OK to operate. Some shops hurts the city and some benefit the city. Second, we should upgrade our infrastructure, maintaining and providing some parking spots (Multi-story garages for example). We have a great number of convenient stores, but Benghazi is not walkable city, we need to improve walkability. Most of neighbors lack of good walk side. Third, drivers should follow traffic rules and drive in lanes and park correctly in places designated for parking.

We complain of many issues in our daily life. We must realize that we created these issues. Therefore, no one will fix them to us unless we do. We should understand the problem first, then act accordingly for the best result. To change Benghazi from one open mall to a real developed city, we have to admit the issues now, and start to act immediately.

Decoding People of Benghazi Attitude Toward Operation Dignity: Observation

This article describes only my own views. There are no tangible proofs that can support my observation. In other words,this article is based only on observational facts. It is not based on any research or statistics.

Life in Benghazi is socially enriched, everyday I meet strange people in different places. During the last five months, most of our chit chats are about the current conflict. I have observed different responses toward the Operation Dignity in real life or on social media. Not all Benghazi’s people have the same response, some are supporters, neutrals, or
adversaries. There is no statistics show exact supporters’ percentage. However, I can reassure that the majority is with Operation Dignity.

Five months period is enough to develop knowledge and make some observation on people’s views. It is easier now than ever to understand one’s opinion. People reaction fall in systematic way based on their tribes and their ideologies.

People of Benghazi come from the three provinces (Barga, Tripoli, and Fazzan) in Libya. One’s political opinion is directly related to their tribal roots. Even though most of them have settled here for many decades (Born and raised in Benghazi) and have no connection with their province, their opinion somehow connected back to their original tribe. This is what we call it “Jahawyia” or Regional, which is basically one stands only (either wrong or correct) with his tribe or province.

In this decoding, I focused only on people who come from Barga and Tripoli province as they represent the majority in Benghazi. I created two parts that are effecting people’s views. Let’s use XY as the unknown two parts. X represents the tribal roots or province. Y represents the ideology. Therefore, X is either from East (E) or from West (w ).

X= E or W

Most of Eastern tribes support Operation Dignity. As I said before there are no statistics showing the truth, but I can reassure that the majority of them is supporters. I never encountered one from Barga does not support  Operation Dignity. If there is one who does not support, that would be related to Y parts, which is the ideology. let’s say (E) equals or larger than 90% supporters. West (w ), or people come from Tripoli province, has larger adversaries. One of my friends is rooted back to Misrata’s tribes. He has never visited Misrata before, and now he is one of opponents. It becomes on daily base obvious whenever I meet adversaries, I found out they are from (W ). Again, there are no statistics showing how many. In addition, (W ) holds the largest number of neutrals. Many people can’t see themselves related to any parts in this conflict. They keep saying the famous phrase (ربي ينصر الحق) “May God grant only victory to the right”. Let’s say (W ) equals or larger than 50% supporters, 30% neutrals, and the rest opponents.

Y part represents the part connected to the ideology, precisely islamic ideology. Let’s say ideology in Benghazi composes of three parts: Moderate, Political, and Extreme islam. Moderate muslims are the majority of Benghazi. I consider myself as moderate. My brothers, sisters, and friends are moderates. Still there are so many extremists, and we considered them as normal citizens before 2011 when ideological differences emerged. There are Salafists who proved to be against other extremists who joined Islamic State or Ansar Alsharia. The difference between Salafists and other extremists is Jihad. The third type is people who use Islam in their political advantages, famously known as Muslim Brotherhood. These people look no different than moderate unless you dig deep in their ideology, and they come from East and West as well.

Here we go again with their classification. Moderates (M) are mostly Operation Dignity supporters. Salafists extremist (ES) are all Operation Dignity supporters. Other extremists (E) with Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are all Operation Dignity opponents.Therefore (Y) represents the following

Y= (M), (Es), (E), or (MB)

Therefore, Benghazi’s residents attitude toward Operation Dignity is XY connected to each other.

For example, I come from Eastern tribes (E) and I am moderate. My attitude toward Operation Dignity when X= E and Y=M is EM which means I’m totally supporters according to the main equation XY.

Try yours, or try anyone you know. Just pick one and apply this equation. The chances you will get is so close to my results.

This is a diagram can help you understand my points

My whole point is that some Ideological divisions is not the only issue face Libya nowadays, but also divisions between the East and West. I could be wrong! Yes, but I believe if I have the full funds and the ability to launch a research with widespread survey in the city, I would be so close form these results. It’s only observations so far, and could be right or wrong. The only thing I need is the proof. Do you agree? let me know your code and how is related to the overall diagram.


Children of Allah- A Book About Libyans and the Pulling Magnet of Benghazi

I started reading The Almost Nearly Perfect People book by Michael Booth, who talks about his life in Nordic countries and how their daily lifes make them the almost perfect people. It turns out there’s a book talks on Libyans exactly the same Booth’s book.  Children of Allah: Between the Sea and Sahara is written by Agnes Newton Keith. Mohammed AlKeilani wrote perfect words discribing this books.

By: Mohammed Khaled Alkeilani

In the name of Allah the most gracious the most mercifulWhom we seek supportAnd peace be upon the honorable of all apostles

Prophet Mohamed, his family and companions

Before anybody accuses me of blasphemy the Arabic word “عيال” does not mean children but actually means dependents.

The Hadeeth says:”All people are (members of) ِAllah’s household, and the dearest to Him are the most beneficial for their own family”.

Everybody now knows that Benghazi is going through some tragedies but we are hoping that this last one would be the last.
If the blood from Benghazi is the ink used in writing the Libyan history, how is the state going to be as we are now about to write the constitution.
I ask Allah almighty for all of us peace and security.
I wish that this article helps in getting us out of the state of sadness, depression and hopelessness even for only few hours.
Starting off I say:
Some writers have a very elegant and captivating style of writing that makes the reader feel like being invited to a shady tent on a clean pristine beach with cool breeze, and listening to tales making him unable to leave the place even after sunset.

Some other writers have such a lumpish and prosaic style that makes the reader feel as a high school student setting in the seventh session of classes on a hot day for a subject that he hates. All what that student would be thinking of at that time is “Oh what a long day when will it just end ”

The author of this book Agnes Newton Keith is of the first type. Her narrative style of using simple language in short sentences resulting in very powerful expressions gets hold of the reader. When she has to stretch a sentence she does it in a smooth way.

The book was published in 1966 (about fifty years ago). The author was an American woman accompanying her husband who worked for FAO (part of UN ). He was assigned the job of an advisor to the government of the newly created Libyan state.

The value of this book is that it documents the period of building the first Libyan state under the leadership of king Idris. In a similar way we are now building the second Libyan state under the leadership of the free Libyan citizen may Allah provide him with guidance.

I first heard of this book many years ago. I searched for it whenever I traveled abroad, but I found out later that it was out of print, and the only copies are available in libraries or held by whoever bought it when it was published. But it is the will of Allah that permitted me to receive a used copy of this book only few weeks ago and due the effort of kind people whom I pray and ask Allah guidance and mercy for them.

The book is subdivided into five parts in 460 pages of the medium size. The first chapter describes the air trip from Rome to Idris airport in Tripoli in September 1955.
The Libyan state then was the youngest UN state with less than four years of age. The population was about a million people of whom only four had a college degree.

The Gibli wind (hot wind from the Sahara)was the first to receive the author at the Tripoli airport and it was her first lesson on desert climate. She spent several weeks searching for a house till she finally settled in Giorgimpopoli the resident of the families of Americans working at the Wheelus air base. ( Mitiga airport currently)

After settling down she started interacting with the local Libyan population without any sort of transcendence. She devotes a chapter in her book for every one around her including the house boy.

She reviews the Libyan history and describes the economic status of that newly independent state which was more like Somalia nowadays.
Her interest in the history of the country led her to visit many of the historical sites such as Ghadames, Leptus Mangna, Cyrene and Ghat.

It is unfortunate that I will not be able in this relatively short article to cover what is in the book about Ghadames, Ghat, Al Kufra and even Tripoli that had no particular chapter devoted to it because that is where most events took place.
Other cities were briefly covered like horse racing in Zawia.
She also gave some important details about places she passed by in her travel like Uweinat and Washka.
Derna was mentioned within the historical account of the hostility with the USA.
Susa and its historical sites as well as Cyrene (Shahat) had been covered well.
Tobruk is covered in relation to king Idris where he had his residence in the Dar Alsalam palace.
Misurata is mentioned only as a passing point in her travel.
What strikes me about the book is that it conveys the author’s close feelings toward the country, its people and even its animals as if she is part of this place.
During her return trip from the Green Mountain to Tripoli she describes the area after Adjedabia as wholesale death region but at the end of that paragraph she says “Perhaps there would be rain this year In sha’ Allah In sha’ Allah.

The book got hold of me so much and I just wish I could translate most of it.

The author excelled in covering many events that we the Libyans have almost forgotten in our daily struggle.
There are certain aspects of the book that I particularly like:

  • How she described her trip to Ghadames with details of the old houses, the roof tops that were restricted to women and children.
  • How she described in detail the Libyan independence day parade in Benghazi.
  • How she lived the January 1964 riots, giving a view account of someone who knew how that government worked, describing what happened between the prime minister Fkini and king Idris.
  • How she described the El Marj earthquake from the viewpoint of a local family that she previously visited.
  • How she described spending El Eid in Tripoli and then in Benghazi.
  • How she described in detail the wedding party she attended.
  • How she documented the daily living of Libyans including the habit of mixing roasted peanuts with tea.
  • How she felt so united with the locals to the point of nursing their wounds.
  • How she mixed the coverage of her daily events with political discussions about the king and the queen Fatima and about the assassination of Shalhi and talked about Buquwaytin.

All of this in a captivating style using simple words without making the reader feeling any flatter or exaggeration.
She describes things in such a way that the reader feels them being metalized in front of his eyes.
She describes sounds in such a way that the reader feels that he hears them in the back of his head.
She describes people in such a way the reader feels he would know these people if he was to meet them.
Agnes Newton Keith was not only a writer but she was an artist as well. She drew some very expressive sketches enhancing the topic she covered.

Her sketches of the Libyans were not rigid or sarcastic, they were living graphics either smiling or expressing emotions.


One can deduce some facts about life in Libya at that time as the case when her Jeep got stuck in the sand.
She started negotiating with some kids to dig it out. When they asked for money she said that “she had two five-pound notes (about thirty dollars) in small purse in her pocketbook”.
What this says is that the Libyan pound was equal to 3 dollars.

As I tried to uncover the religious aspects of her character, particularly in relation to Islam, I found that she mentioned the “Koran” few times.
All was related to forbidden foods like meat. During her travel she gives details of preparing separate meals for Muslims accompanying her.
Another mention of the “Koran” was when a friend of theirs talked about his father marrying another woman and how the “Koran” allows that.
Other than these occasions I could not find any sign of abuse or insult to the “Koran” or Islam.
Even though she showed interest in the ruins of churches and temples she never revealed her personal believes.

From time to time she talks about the political situation of Libya at that time (the sixties of the last century).
The constitution of Libya specifies the existence of two capitals Tripoli in Tripolitania and Benghazi in Cyrenaica.
The government should accordingly move between the two cities followed by the experts who should advise it.
Both the king and the constitution were determined that the government should move. It might be possible to change the constitution she says, but never the king’s will.

The Cyrenaica Defense Force was mentioned in several occasions as this is the force responsible for protecting the king. It is also responsible for the protection of Benghazi.
And it is this force that ignited the riots of 1964.
The Cyrenaica Defense Force however was portrayed differently during the festival of the Independence day of December 24 in Benghazi when this force was the prize of the parade. Mounted on top the camels the soldiers were visibly impressive as the camels stand tall and move quitly compared to the horses and cars.

“The solemn camels with their high mounted riders and their unhurried pace seem to move in a desert vision.”
“Walahi! I say excitedly That’s one thing we will never see in a parade at home!

Thanks be to Allah that we got here before the camels were mechanized ”

While describing that parade she wrote a sentence that deserves a pause. Watching that parade she looked closely at the faces of the soldiers then wrote:
“Well I never saw so many different shades of skin in all my life”
“There is everything from white to tan to brown to black And some with blue eyes too, Berber I guess”
What this means dear Libyans, besides being a clever remark is that we are a multi ethnic society as proved by the different shades of color of our skins. In spite of this we have been living together peacefully except for what is going on among us these days.
I must point out that the author has traveled extensively and has lived alongside her husband in many countries.
She was not like some women of neighboring countries that during their lifetime they never leave the suburb of the city they born in.

Last month I read an article in an American magazine about ethnic diversity in all countries of the world. With the article was a map of world in which maps of countries were colored according to their ethnic diversity.
What surprised me was that Libya ranked among the highest and it scored the highest among all Arab countries.
At first I thought maybe there is a mistake and whoever wrote that is isolated from reality, but upon reading the full article and knowing that the research was done by the Harvard institute for economic research I realized the striking fact.
We are really a multi ethnic society but we have been living together and intermixing peacefully.
This is a grace from Allah, and I hope that we will never reach the point of realizing it only after losing it.
As I am keen not to disperse the topic, I can not publish that map with all the details now.

Some readers may be thinking of the different sectors in some Arab countries like Lebanon, but that is different as all people of these sectors could belong to just one ethnic group.
While the opposite is true in Libya all ethnic groups adopt Islam and one particular school in most places.

There is a famous parable that says “Good Health is a crown on the healthy man’s head seen only by the sick”
In the same way I say that peaceful coexistence in a multi ethnic society is a crown worn by peaceful nations which can be seen only by torn nations or by people of very clear vision like the author of this book.

She covers Benghazi in two contrasting ways.
In the first she says that Benghazi was never much more than a Bedawi village under deemed by lengthy Italian occupation and partially destroyed by WWII bombing, with no trees.
The move to Benghazi was unpopular with everybody, Libyans and strangers. One reason for that was the lack of housing in Benghazi and almost “there is nothing in Benghazi”.
She thinks of her house as foreigners were living in the American ghetto of Giorgimpopoli out-of-town with running water sanitation and garden space and friends to talk to.
Every body was hoping that the government of Abd al-Majid Kubar would fail and Ben Halim returns to power. There was a rumor that a third capital city was to be built in El Beida in the Green Mountain financed by foreign aid money.

“The government in Tripoli existed in organized disorder but in Benghazi in disorganized disorder. If anyone asks for a file he would be given three glasses of tea and a kind word. If he asked for a minister he was told to go to Tripoli, if he went to Tripoli he found the minister in Italy for his health”.

She describes how for three months they were negotiating in Tripoli for a house for rent in Benghazi. By the time they agree to pay the rental fee someone would pay higher and rent the house.

The house they finally got was in an area clean from all trees by goats and later was used as a garbage dump in the Fuihat suburban district.
“Out in our graceless, gardenless suburb of Gardens City it only matters that we have a house, when it seemed for a while that we would have to put up a tent! Although history claims that trees grew here in Roman times, trees and Romans have long since gone, leaving as sole survivors of the arid land, goats, sheep, and Bedawi. The three have combined to destroy, consume, and burn every branch, twig and leaf of possible vegetation”.

“Camels with heavy, creaking loads pass hourly, carefully cushioning their steps with the sway of their torsos placing their great padded feet with faultless rhythm on both sand and rock. Disregarding the road, they pass just outside our gate, their haughty heads undulating smoothly above the wall. their utilitarian, inelegant desert adapted bodies and their disregard for the discomfort of the terrain well merit their supercilious expressions”.

“Meanwhile sheep in all numbers wander about, and if our gate and door stood open they would be in our kitchen; less gentlemanly goats actually assault the gate with evident intention of gnawing their way inside”.

(Warning — If you’re a fan of Benghazi and have a sensitive heart and you are living abroad then please do not continue to read this topic on your own – – else you bear the consequences )

This reminds me of how when we, as young children used to watch the herd of sheep and goats pass by our street every morning when the shepherd collects them from the houses of residents and return them back at sunset
The residents of Benghazi used to keep one or two sheep or goats inside the house.

Our joy is not only in seeing the herd but another source of our pleasure was the different sounds that accompany the herd from the sounds of male goat to the small lambs and the ringing of small bells tied the necks of goats. The shepherd is also doing his part by whistling and shouting at the stray animals whose march on the road provides the Rhythm. And it occurs in three stages, the coming stage when the lambs lead the way, the surrounding stage when we had the chance to touch the young lambs and little goats, and the farewell stage when all the sounds fade away. All of this is mixed with the distinctive smell of sheep and goats.

One of the happy moments for us as kids, was to see the shepherd carrying a small newly born lamb or goat that could not walk a long distance so he carries that young animal between his arms or in his sack while the mother walks very close to him watching her newly born.
We used to get excited seeing some young goats eat the vegetables from the shop on the side of the street. The shop keeper used to get so mad shouting at the black skinned shepherd who feels so embarrassed that the color of his skin changes.

Coming back to our book where we have covered her first viewpoint of Benghazi next we’ll see her contrasting opinion.
In the chapter “The Dump Develops” Agnes Newton Keith gave a totally different account of Benghazi.

“We had called it a dump and hated to come, but our year in Benghazi proved to be one of the happiest of our lives. Here on the edge of the Libyan Sahara we lived a small, cozy life in the little Bedawi tribal village, which dabbled its Arabic feet in Mare Nostrum while its backside was smitten by saffron winds. The shift of capital turned out to be a first-class real estate promotion deal and tides of foreign prosperity poured in on the sandy, red air.”

The fact was that the place grew on you. Its dilapidation, its fierceness, its sadness, its guts, its tattooed Bedawi dames with their high, orange-calf boots and gaudy striped baracans, its tattered, untamed, gentle-spoken men, its enclosed secretive suk, its incandescent salt plains shimmering in the sun, its closer contact with friends and its increased simplicity in living, all took hold of your heart as no big city could.

Oh my god ! ! !
At this point I would like to stop reading and translating the book as I will address a very interesting thing that stirred mixed feelings inside me, it is the magic or the mysterious love of Benghazi. The secret that makes Benghazi beloved by anybody who resides within the city, as if she is a magnet pulling gently anybody approaching.

— Anybody who has not been exposed to the whiffs of Benghazi should excuse my next talk —

But if you have been stung by her passion then welcome to a “hazra” party where we will loosen up and get high on the love of the lover’s beloved.
(Hazra is a Sufi gathering where people through chanting transcend into a higher state of consciousness)

What is the secret of her love:

Is her love from her air ? in Arabic “Hawaha min hawaha”
Is her love from her fragrant ? in Arabic “Aishgoha min abigaha”
Is her love from the generosity of her generous people ? in Arabic “Gharamoha min karmi kiramiha”
Is her goodness from her soil ? in Arabic “Teibatoha min torbatiha”
Is her love from her grains ? in Arabic “Hoboha min habiha”
Is her heritage is from her soil ? in Arabic “Torathoha min torabiha”
Is she like a kind mother whose tenderness is from her milk ? in Arabic “Leenoha min labaniha”
Is her inspiration is from her water ? in Arabic “Ilhamoha min Miahiha”.

People come to her by their will but stay by her will
Her kindliness when leaving her turns into yearning
1-Using the pronoun “her” may not be grammatically correct but her status does not permit me to use the pronoun “its”. In English pets get the he or she pronouns.
2- I included the Arabic sound so the English reader would get the rhyme of the expression.

In an article published in 2004 about climate change I described this relation to the city:
“The first thing noticed by a visitor to the city is the serenity, tranquility, its mild weather.
As he starts interacting with the people he will feel the kindliness that will turn into yearning upon leaving the city.”

In the 60’s and 70’s of the last century the residents of the city of Benghazi used to drink from the public water supply coming from the wells surrounding the city which had high salinity. This is one property of this city that all residents of Tripoli know well.
When asked if they were willing to travel to Benghazi, Tripoli residents would say “No; the water is salty”. This is true Compared to the water in Tripoli which used to be fresh.

The established residents of Benghazi used to drink from small reservoirs dug underground in their houses to collect rain water from the roof of the house.
Or some of them collect the rain water in large jars.
People who have such facilities do not talk about them in public as the water was not abundant, but they do not turn down any body asking for fresh rain water.
After the discovery of oil the wealthy started drinking “Bin Ghisheer” bottled water imported from Tripoli, in later years they started drinking the “Kufra” water which was bottled aquifer water imported from the Kufra region in the desert south of Benghazi.

Most people still drink this bottled Kufra water but some do drink from the tab which comes from the “Man made River” (also coming from the south through huge pipeline).
In this period ( the 60’s & 70’s ) the residents of Benghazi along with the rest of Libyans started traveling abroad either as students or working in the Libyan embassies.
When feeling homesick some Benghazi scholars would say “The salt has pulled us” referring to the salt in the water that they used to drink.

As in all big cities some slang expressions become popular from time to another.
There is one description for the city of Benghazi as “rearing the homeless”, which I really do not like with due respect to all who repeat it without really understanding the full meaning of such an expression.
I think that it was true for a limited period of time regarding some refugees who came from the western part of Libya during some harsh and difficult years with drought and hunger well spread. Now that should have been the end of it.

Applying this expression to all its residents and visitors implies an insult.
And it does not reflect this emotional bond between the city and her lovers.
The current residents are the offspring of the first generation of immigrants to the city who were not allhomeless.
They all came to Benghazi by their own will but settled in by her will, and the two wills are under the will of Allah.

This American writer said the place “grew on you”. These words were written in 1966( publishing date ), or few years before that ( Actual writing ) when the city was in ruins.
This educated and kind lady was not homeless and she needed no rearing from the city. She did not come to earn a living, nor to learn new technologies, or religious lessons from the city.She had no motive to be a hypocrite by saying this to please us. She wrote her book in her native language for her people about her travel.

Now if anybody feels offended by what I have written with regard to the expression “rearing the homeless”, I would like them to know that I have presented them with very nice alternate slogans.
With these slogans we may have opened a new page in what I am pleased to call the Benghazi literature.
This new page will not be restricted to this article of mine but this beloved city has among her lovers many gifted poets who can write glamorous poems starting with these slogans.
Some of you readers may want to try themselves, so give it a shot.
Some internet thieves may like these slogans and want to adopt them to their cities or villages.
But these slogans are like Cinderella’s shoes. They can only be worn by this pretty princess.
And the shoe maker who made them is driven crazy by her love.
He has been nourished by her love and grains.( in Arabic “Hoboha wa habiha” ).
He has been stung by her passion and breathed her air. ( in Arabic “Iktawa bihawaha kama tanafasa hawaha” )
His wounds were mixed by her wounds as if the umbilical cord between them was never cut.

I will remind you of what this American lady has said living in the city when it was a waste and its inhabitants were poor and hungry and there is almost nothing in the city.
She loved the place in such a way that makes her say that the year they spent in Benghazi is one of the happiest in their lives and not just the years spent in Libya.
And that all what is in the city “took hold of your heart as no big city could”

Now that’s a remarkable statement.

So what is the secret of this place? And what is this “magnet” ?
The other strange thing about this city is that in here you can find people whose last names indicate the city they came from like: Trabolsi from Tripoli, Misrati from Misurata, Tarhooni from Tarhoona, Awjili from Awjila and so on,
And you will find these names in other Libyan cities as well.
But you will never hear Benghazi or Benaghzi from Benghazi .. why is that?

There is no alternative word to express the origin of Benghazi as in the case of Bani Waleed you won’t expect to hear “Bani Waleedi”, but you will hear the alternate word Werfali.
The same case for Jalo, there is no “Jaloi”word like Awjili from Awjila, but there is the word Majbiri.
So why there is no surname Benghazian in our country ? Excluding of course some Facebook page titles.

This cannot be explained by the difficulty in pronouncing the word as you may hear in Trpoli for example: “some Benaghza live in this villa” meaning some people from Benghazi.
To be fair this does not mean that there had been no migration from the city. After the discovery of oil in Libya there was a boom so some merchants from Benghazi moved to Tripoli. And in the last few years a lot of computer engineers from this city could not find work so they moved to Tripoli because of this horrible centralization policy that concentrated most oil companies, public institutes and foreign companies in Tripoli.

I personally have never heard any last name or surname of “Benghazian”, so what is the reason?
Is it that this is no ethnic race by this name as the city is really a mixture of all races of the country?
Or is it that the city imports but does not export ?
That is this city is like a magnet pulling whoever come inside not allowing them to escape?

So you fans and lovers…

Didn’t I tell you that we will “loosen up and get high” in a “hazra” party?

And you emotionally sensitive folks, didn’t I warn you?

Very well then.
Let’s just dry up what has fallen from their summit onto the cheeks.

To our Libyan brothers who cannot understand this relation to the city and these fizzy emotions I say:
Our love for Benghazi is part of our love of Libya.
But there is something that we do not understand and don’t expect you to understand it either.
How the part is sometimes becomes bigger than the whole that is supposed to contain it ! ! !

We will come back now to our first topic about this author Agnes Newton Keith.
There are two things that bother or hurt me.
The first is that there is no mention of this book or the author in our literature or writings, and there is no street named after her name.
The situation is even beyond our culture. Her honest and loving opinion of this Islamic society showing its bright side in the hardest of all conditions did not seem to please the anti islamists to the point that in many websites listing the works of Agnes Newton Keith there is no mention of this book.

The second thing that hurts me more is that this writer has died in the year 1982 at an age of 80 years, her husband has also died in the same year.
So I have missed an opportunity to write to her expressing my gratitude for what she has done and written, describing for her the state of this country that she loved. I am sure that she would have been eager to hear, and she may not believe the state of the country now.
This lady was not a Moslem, but in her book she had been using expressions that we Moslems normally use like Walahi – In sha’Allah – Bismi-llahi.
The one she liked most was El hamdu li’llah (Thanks to Allah).
She used it to express her own feelings whenever she encountered something she liked.

So I pray and ask Allah to reward her richly for what she has written and done.

Finally I would like to ask readers for an advice regarding a matter that was difficult for me to solve.
I have made a photocopy of this book, so I can keep this copy for myself.
and I would like to give away the book as a gift for the benefit of all Libyans, but whom shall I give it to?
To the National Libyan Library?
To the library of the university?
To some computer center for scanning the book turning it to an eBook that can be easily distributed, and what about copyrights?
To a translation bureau to translate it into Arabic, and once again what about copyrights?
To one of the book stores to photocopy it, and once again what about copyrights?
To a distinguished writer?

I am asking for an advice, so please advise me.

This article should have been the first of thirty articles in a series called “Banquet for fasters” that I used to write during the month of Ramadan on a daily basis.
After what has happened in Benghazi of killings and explosions I expected many writers to comment on the event in such a way that makes the reader sick of reading in the same way that he got sick of television and all the analysts and their shows.
So I decided to publish this article early, as this is the will of Allah to make this article an introduction to the series. Many Libyans have never heard of this series of articles nor the author, because I used to write on the first and most popular board “Alsaha Alarabyia” in addition to http://www.I3jaz.com.ly website.

That series was directed towards the Arab homeland, but this year it will be dressed in a Libya dress.
I have started writing these articles in 2007, but stopped in the years 2011 and 2012 because of what Libya was going through.
The “Banquet” this year will go through a unique development, as it will be written in Arabic and English just like this article, besides the diversity of the topics.
The reason for writing in English is that this “banquet” will not be restricted to the boundaries of Arab countries, because the internet is now available worldwide. And there are many Arab and Muslim communities in all parts of the world, so no longer are there boundaries for thought or communications.

The second generation of immigrants do not speak Arabic well, or they understand English better because it is the first international language.
These communities have friends who inquire about the Arab culture and our way of living, so these articles can lead to more socializing as they give a firsthand account of our lives.
As you may know most translation activities here move in most cases in one direction from foreign languages into Arabic, we never ask ourselves what literature works have we giving back to the rest of the world?

All previous excuses for not translating our works are no longer valid with the spread on the internet and the role that search engines play in spreading ideas. One can barely finish writing an article to discover that search engines have picked it up and classified it.
Translation depends on understanding the “spirit or the soul of the subject”, and the translator is sometimes required to clarify some aspects of an idea, but when the writer is translating his own work as he writes it, that adds more clarity and would really convey whatever ideas the writer intends to express.
The writer may benefit from this in improving his work, as language is a tool for thinking as well as for expressing ideas. Computer translation can not suffice especially between languages of different origins.

Writing in English is not a new experience for me as I have previously written some articles regarding miracles in the Quraan in both Arabic and English languages, but writing about general topics that deal with our daily lives using some colloquial language requires some special handling.
I hope that I have succeeded in the selection of content, for the style of writing, for the timing, and for the websites to allow you the reader to receive my message.

If this article pleased you, then you can expect more of the same during Ramadan every day In Shaa Allah. The cook who prepared this meal for you is now “between his pots and his lines” (in Arabic: baina godoorihi wa sotoorihi)

Peace, mercy and blessings upon you from Allah

Mohamed Khaled Alkeilani is an electronics engineer and a private researcher. He is also a graduate of the university of California Davis, currently residing in Benghazi Libya. You can read the orginal article from here http://www.alkeilani.com/n-coa.html