This morning we pack, have breakfast, and check out of the Garyunis Resort. First stop is a walking tour of Benghazi’s high end shopping area and its Souk. Benghazi is relatively new, since it was badly bombed during WW II. Some of our group find a great fabric shop with some amazing patterns and colours on imported fabrics. Several women in our group buy lots of fabric to take back home. We have lunch at a Turkish restaurant, which serves us a very nice meal: salad, grilled ground meat (skinless sausages) and chicken chunks, and warm flatbread.
We were then driven to the airport and depart for Tripoli on a Buraq Air Boeing 737-200. We are staying at a different hotel this time: Bab Al-Bahr Hotel. I think it is a grade better than Al-Safina Hotel, where we were staying before. The only problem is that it isn’t close to the Souk, so several people in my group hire taxis. Personally, I’m not interested in more shopping, and decide to catch up on my blog at the Internet Café located in the lobby. Several clients in the Internet Café see me posting my eclipse photo, and want the URL to send in their email messages to their friends and family.
After lunch, we go to the Tripoli airport. It is controlled chaos, since we have to sort out our luggage, some of which was brought on a separate bus. Then we are all checked in as a group, since the tour operator holds all the airline tickets. The flight to Benghazi is on a Buraq Air Boeing 737-300. We depart on time, cruise at 460kt at 29,000ft. The flight is 90% full of Bestway Tours‘ three groups. At Benghazi Airport, we board our bus and head for the Garyounis Resort. We have a police escort the whole way – complete with sirens and flashing lights!
When we arrive my bag is missing, but it is found on one of the other buses. We have supper at 8:30pm, and afterwards Ralph tells us the eclipse camp arrangements have changed. Apparently our camp was hit with a sand storm, and the government had security concerns, so they insist our camp be moved to south of Jalu on the centerline. This is actually a bonus, since we would have had to be bused to the centerline in the morning from where we were to originally camp.
We leave at 8AM this morning on our bus headed to the Eclipse Camp, south of Jalu. After stopping to pick up some water and box lunches, we finally get underway at 9:30am for the long journey south to the middle of the Sahara Desert.
March 25, 2006 – Saturday – It’s 6:30am when I wake up, and when I stick my head out the hotel window, I hear the Muslims being called to worship by chanting being broadcast from loudspeakers in minaret towers in the mosques around the city. Today we travel to the ancient Roman city of Sabratha, about 80km west of Tripoli.
March 26, 2006 – Sunday – Today we travel to the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna, just over 100km east of Tripoli. There are lots of olive trees along the highways around Tripoli. Sheep are sometimes being grazed in the olive groves, and are always being watched by shepherds. I even spotted a sheep dog once!
This afternoon, I join three of our group for a walk through the Souk (market) in the Medina (old city). This evening, there is a Tuareg cultural display across the street from our hotel, so after dinner a few of us walk over to see the displays. The Tuarag women are very camera shy, so I put my camera away. Later in the evening there is Tuarag folkloric dancing and singing, and our little group end up being the guests of honour! Despite it being very dark, I take some video and hope for the best.
March 27, 2006 – Monday – This morning Fatid takes us on a walking tour of the Medina, which includes the Souk. I take several photos in the Souk today because it is less busy. I’m very careful to avoid taking photos of local people whose faces would be recognizable. The Tuarag women last night were shielding themselves from any cameras. I know Arabs do not like their photos to be taken, especially women.
On the way back to our hotel, we stop at the Safir Restaurant for lunch. One of the other Libyan tour guides joins our table, so I ask him what one litre of gas costs. He tells us most cars use diesel, which costs 0.15 Dinar/litre (about 0.09€/litre).
Later, Fatid helps me find some Arab headgear: a Ghutra (fabric) and an Igal (rope) to go with it in the men’s wear section of the Souk just before it closes. I now have a “Lawrence of Arabia” head cover to wear when we get to the desert, so I will probably use it during the eclipse observations to ward off the expected hot temperatures.
We are told that Libya has about 40 years of oil supply left, and coincidentally, they also have about 40 years of water supply left. Our bottled water comes from the Great Manmade River – a water supply system that pipes water from aquifers found deep under the Sahara to the coastal cities in a huge network of aqueducts.
After lunch, we go to the airport to catch our flight to Benghazi, our jumping off point to see the Total Solar Eclipse from the eclipse camp south of Jalu, in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
March 31, 2006 – Friday – After breakfast this morning we walk through Tripoli to see the Jamahiriya Museum, which houses many of the originals of the statues we saw copies of earlier at Sabratha and Leptis Magna. There is a 5 Dinar camera charge at the Museum (10 Dinars for video), which we encountered at all historical sites in Libya. It would have been valuable to have an English-speaking guide, since all the informational signs were in Arabic.
Our time in Libya ends today with a flight to Rome aboard Alitalia airline.