It felt like I had ended up face to the fround at the second to last hurdle, being refused overland entry into Libya.
The suspension of the coach to Cairo is soft, feeling like I was on a boat, so I only kept my eyes open for an hour or so of the 3.5 journey. I know I am not missing anything, I have done this all before. At the airport there is a lot of waiting. An hour after our scheduled take off time the first announcement says the flight will be delayed until 11am; from 8.30. As flights scheduled after mine take off, to Juba, Moscow, Malta, Berlin, and as time moves on I became more and more convinced my flight was going to be cancelled. It seemed I could not escape Egypt.
But from the air Libya looked a dry and very symmetrical country: neat squares of land containing neatly spaced out trees, separated by roads. On the ground Libya and its people seem to keep themselves to themselves; there are quite queues of people or cars, with no horns being used, traffic lights obeyed, and everyone very friendly.
In the centre of Tripoli I have a short walk around as night falls. I feel very safe, and young families enjoy the bouncy castles, popcorn, and candy floss. Fountains flow, cafes are open, and streets are clean. Cars wait for me to cross at zebra crossings. Its extraordinary compared to Egypt.
My hotel is on a seaward edge of the medina, which covers a square kilometre if its lucky I would judge. As I go further into the medina the roads get worse, with dripping water and some open drains. Libya is clearly a rich country without its people necessarily being rich. I stop at an Ottomon clocktower for tea. As well as the clocktower, from behind which comes the noise of men shaping metal with hammers for their shop, is a corner of the red castle. All memories of Libya’s colonial past. What’s more, its all very serene, polite, and industrious.