Monday, 26 July 2010

My First Impression Of Tripoli....

I am here, in Tripoli after about 30 years, my first impression was of a stinky disgusting poo but more about that later.... Actually so far I am liking it here even though it has been less than a day since I arrived.

I started my trip early yesterday morning with my 9 year old son Amir, we arrived nice and early at Gatwick airport, we got there at 09:15 just before the check in desk opens but I was shocked to find a queue of at least 100 African people standing there with a colossal amount of luggage, I booked with Afriqiya airways who clearly detailed their luggage allowance of 2 suit cases per passanger at a total of 48 KG each which is quite generous compared to most airlines yet most of the African passangers obviously did not pay any attention to this and brought everything but the kitchen sink! I knew we were in for a long wait, each family in front of us had way over their allowance, many of them had to buy new suit cases at the airport and transfer stuff between cases or had to pay for extra weight, this caused a lot of delay, eventually after I checked in and borded the plane, it was choas, I have never seen anything like it before. the AirBus 330 was full, there was only about 3 Libyan families, the rest were all Africans on transit to Tripoli to catch planes to their respective countries, the problem was that many of them thought they were on a public bus and just sat any and everywhere, the Libya flight crew were overwhelmed and trying very hard to get them into their booked seats, after a struggle we managed to get to our seats just to find a boy sitting in Amir's seat and a bag on my seat, a woman was standing there, I asked her politely to move her boy and the bag, she said in a minute and just stood there, I asked again she shouted at me to leave her alone, I lost it and told her to blah blah blah her bag and boy or else, she was out of there like a flash, some people can only be dealt with that way!
One and a half hours later we were still on the plane, passangers and crew shouting at eachother, when we eventually took off we were nearly 4 hours late and I was not impressed with my trip of a life time, the plane was great and brand new, each seat had a touch screen TV with great entertainment but all this was marred by the behaviour of some of the passangers, even dirty baby nappies were changed on food trays in front of their mums, the smell was out of this world.
I saw Tripoli from the sky and it was just beautiful, lots of sand and some green areas too, I was home.  After we landed, we got on the coach that transfered us to the terminal, as we reached it I saw my younger brother standing outside, he saw us and waved, we got off the coach and it was all hugs and tears, inside the terminal my 2 other brothers were there with my nephews (hugs and tears take 2) now back to the poo story, as I was waiting for my bags I needed to use the toilet, I asked my brother and he poited it to me but advised me not to use it and wait until we get home No I insisted and walked in, grubby not nice then I went inside the only cubicle that was free which had a floor toilet seat, I have never used any of them before but the shock came when I looked inside, a HUGE DISGUSTING SMELLY POO was staring at me, I was in shock I nearly fainted and ran out of the toilet, my brother saw it on my face and laughed and told me that he tried to warn me! that was not a good first impression not for me and not for any new visitor to Libya just getting off the plane, a simple service that is necessary and very easy to be provided hyginically without going to too much trouble, to think that some people say that people in the west are dirty, well there is the answer for them at Tripoli's Airport.
My bags arrived quickly and we were out on our way to my mother's house, crazy driving but I liked the wide roads and the chaotic atmosphere.  I couldnt recognise a thing then my brother said that we arrived in our street, everything looked new to me, the street in Hai Alandalus was lined with trees and looked very pretty, I got out of the car to the sound of ulilation (zaghareet) from my mum and sisters in-law, my neices had confetti and flower petals and were throwing them on us (hugs and tears take 3) my poor mother got all blurry eyed after huging me and started huging one of her little grand daughters and saying to her hello Amir I missed you so much and showered her with kisses, the poor little girl told her that she was Asmaa not Amir, it was so funny we all laughed, they let me walk into the house on my own then they all followed me, I walked straight into my old bedroom which has been turned into a second sitting room now, pictures of me when I was a child were everywhere, I was like a child walking from one room to the other and into the garden trying to remember things, it was magical, something I have been dreaming about for many years.
After a nice dinner, cakes and tea we sat talking until it was time for my brothers and their families to leave, they were all happy to see us and we had gifts for everyone.
This morning I took Amir out for a short walk, I was worried I might get lost, I recognised the main road but the shops changed, we walked back, an hour later one of my brothers came over and took us for a drive, I didnt expect a lot but what I saw was nice, some very impressive buildings and some vile tasteless buildings too but it was home, I loved it, I will write more about my experience as the days go by and I see more and get more experiences (good ones and bad ones I am sure) need to have a nap now, its boiling hot but I am HAPPY.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Passport Adventure!

WARNING!
Very long post, read at your own risk :o)

I had a passport adventure! it started when I decided to renew my 10 year old never used Libyan passport about 3 weeks ago, I have been thinking about going to Libya for a visit after 30 years of living in the UK without going back all this time.
I went to the Libyan consulate near Knightsbridge, the guy working at the reception while he wasnt the friendliest guy in town he actually was polite even if slow, he called someone from inside who explained that they can not renew my passport as it is very old and that I need a new one, at only £15 I agreed, filled the forms handed in 6 photos (yes 6!) and was told to come back in 2 weeks time, I asked them to add my son Amir to my passport which they refused as he was already registered in his mother's passport, the idea is if I decide to go back to Libya at the end of this month I want to take Amir with me as he hasn't been there for 5 years and can not remember a thing about Libya. this annoyed me and I asked them how I am going to be able to take Amir, they wouldn't even issue him with a passport, eventually I asked them if he can travel on his British passport to which they said yes he can but he has to pay for a visa, I said fine lets do that and how much is the Visa fee please? £65! yes £65 pounds for a 9 year old Libyan boy to visit his country! and as if that was not enough, I had to go to the British passport office to get an Arabic stamp on Amir's passport, as far as I know Libya is the only country in the world that requires that to be done.
Anyway, I left the consulate and went back home without applying for Amir's visa as I wanted to wait for my new Libyan passport first.
After few unsuccessful phone calls to the Libyan consulate, I decided to pay them another visit, yesterday, first I got Amir's Arabic stamp then travelled to Knightsbridge, I met the same receptionist again, to be fair he tried to help but told me the passport hadn't  been done, few minutes later he came back and said because of lack of new passports they are having to renew my old passport for another year which is fine by me, they refunded £5 back and I was told to come back at 3 in the after-noon to pick it up, I thought OK great lets apply for Amir's visa since I'm there, I handed in the forms and the fee of £65 and again I was told to come back about 3 in the after-noon so I had about 3 hours to kill, it had been many years since I went to Knightsbridge so I thought lets go for a walk around and maybe visit Harvey Nichols and Harrods which I haven't visited in many long years so next starts my Knightsbridge adventure, I will get back to the passport adventure later:

I gave Harvey Nichols a miss and went to Harrods instead, the first thing you notice is the huge number of people entering Harrods from all entrances, many of them are just tourists with no intention of buying anything (just like me) I walked inside and straight away I got that feeling that I shouldn't be there, that it is too much, over rated and just uncomfortably over the top and over priced, I didn't feel like taking pictures of all the bling they sell instead I just walked around trying to find something interesting, my first thought was if the Princess Diana & Dodi Fayed shrine was still there! Harrods was sold recently by its Egyptian owner Mohamed Al-Fayed to the Qatari Royal family and I thought perhaps they removed the shrine (which I have never seen before) but as I was walking in the Egyptian Hall I found the huge shrine surrounded by many tourists taking pictures, obviously the new owners thought it was a good people puller that will bring many more people to the shop.

inside this glass pyramid is the engagement ring that's allegedly was given to Diana by Dodi just before they died!

This is a book of condolences I found on the second floor, notice on the plaque the word "Killed" without any mention of the car crash, Mohamed Al-Fayed is still convinced that Diana & Dodi's accident was organised by the British establishment but that of course was never proved.

When Mohamed Al-Fayed bought Harrods he added the Egyptian Hall which is OK but still looks like a fair ride in a theme park, what he did then is he added many  statues dotted near the roof of a sphinx with a man's face, the face is actually modelled on Mohamed Al-Fayed's own face so that you can see him staring at you where ever you walk, what he did after that is he got the Egyptian Hall listed, that means no one would ever be able to change anything, including his face, he left his legacy there for everyone to see, now and in the future.

Al-Fayed staring at you!



By then I was really bored and was really ready to leave, the place was heaving with people from all over the world but the majority I would say were Americans and Gulf Arabs then I remembered that many years ago (about 20 years) I visited the pet department which was full of all sorts of exotic and purebred pets so I looked around and indeed they still had a pet department but with very few animals for sale, you were not allowed to take pictures so I respected the rule and only looked at the fluffy kittens that were for sale at £1000 each! then I went to an enclosure that had 5 white Chihuahua puppies, they looked like white rats but were really cute and full of life, what is the price you might ask! the price was a measly £2,200 each! wow do people actually spend that much money to buy a purebred animal??
At this point I saw some people take pictures so being me, I just took my phone out of my pocket and clicked away, here are a couple in case someone is considering buying a Harrods Chihuahua :o)

Chihuahua anyone?

Well after you buy your precious puppy, what about accessories, clothing, bedding and treats? yes they do have them all, here are some items you might consider buying for your spoilt pet:
 Princess pink dog bed

 only £399 lol

 all the latest in pets fashion!!

Yummy cupcakes, biscuits and birthday cakes, no they are not for humans, these are treats for pets!

I know some people will think that some Europeans value animals more than people and they laugh at them for buying expensive items for their pets, yes many do care about animals and there is nothing wrong with that, most of the stupid items I mentioned up are thankfully only bought by few people, the majority have more sense than fall for this stupid bling, to be honest, to me there is NO difference between an Arab buying a diamond studded mobile phone at £100,000 and a European/British person buying a diamond studded dog collar at £100,000 too, they are both the same, lots of money, no taste and no sense what so ever.

It was time to leave by then and head back to the Libyan consulate, as I arrived about 2:30 a number of Libyan people were waiting for their passports, the receptionist then came with a pile of passports and started handing them, he saw me and said he had my passport, as he was ready to give it to me, he noticed something, a note, he then told me sorry I need to take it back it needs one more stamp by then the nice Libyan lady that works at the visa section came over and gave me Amir's passport with the Visa to enter Libya, I sat down for a while not knowing what is going on until a man from the consulate came out to talk to me, he said that my passport was never renewed and therefore could not be extended and that I need a new passport, I started to get angry by then and told him that I originally applied for a new one and so on... then he said that it might take a week to one month for my passport to be ready, I was shocked I told him that I applied about 3 weeks ago and that because they told me it was going to be ready this after-noon that I payed £65 for Amir's visa, he was actually very nice and understanding, he told me to go upstairs and ask to talk to the consul, I did just that, while I was waiting the same guy came over and asked me to follow him, he took me to the consul who was surprisingly very friendly, I explained the situation to him and he actually was very angry that they refused to add Amir to my passport and that I was made to pay £65 for a visa for my Libyan son to visit his country, he picked up the phone and told them downstairs off and that they had no right to make rules and decisions, he then agreed to renew my passport for another year and asked me to come back as soon as I am back from Libya and promised me a brand new passport he then told me to go downstairs to pick up the £65 I paid, I was very pleased with him, he really did do his job well, unfortunately there are some there that think just because they work in an office then they can make up the rules and do what ever they want, the money was refunded immediately and I left the consulate a happy bunny, all in all it was not a bad experience, I expected a lot worse but there are some really good people there that do try to help. I am still not sure if I will be going to Libya, after a 30 years absence  for me this is a major step, if I do go it will have to be soon (in the next week or so) as I want to be back before Ramadan, InshaAllah Khair.

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This morning I received an Email which read:

Dear Anglo-Libyan,
Congratulations! Emma Lee here, and your blog, Anglo Libyan, has received
our 2010 Top 40 Muslim Blogs award!
You can see your name amongst our winners here at:
Winners were chosen through a scoring system led by internet nominations,
which came from your reader base!

I had no idea about the Muslim Blogs Awards, I do not know who voted for me but I am honoured.  many thanks to Emma and all that voted me.

Top Muslim Blog