Thursday, 20 April 2006

Tripping in Tripoli

Libya was the first foreign country my father visited, at the age of 18 when he did his nationa
l service in Tripoli in 1949-50, before the country's independence in 1951. (I think the first one I set foot in, at the age of 8, was Sri Lanka - don't remember getting off the boat before then, anyway.)

According to him, what
he l
earned from his time in the army was 1) to type and 2) to swim, in the Mediterranean! He described how they would go running down to the sea for a dip and rapidly run out again when they found it full of jelly-fish. It must have been an incredibly exotic experience for a young lad from Belfast and Lancashire in the North of England.

As a child, I was fascinated by a collection of black-and-white photographs of Tripoli, many featuring a corniche bordered by luxuriant palm trees - I would guess this was where there is now a beach-front recreation area, and that the only parts of the city he would recognise - if he was still around - are the medina and the Italian quarter.

It's a shame I didn't quiz my father more about his time in Libya before he died unexpectedly in 1988 - I would have loved to have discussed it with him now. Among other things, I had always assumed he served with the Irish Guards who went to Tripoli when the British left Palestine in May 1948, but it seems they returned to the UK in 1949, and the Tripoli garrison was manned by the Coldstream Guards, 1st Battalion until November 1950 and 3rd Battalion after that (British troops left Libya only in 1969).


At 20/4/06 20:00, Blogger Mridula said...

Such lovely pictures. But how did you pick up Libia as a vacation spot? Not the regular tourist haunt as far as I understand.

At 21/4/06 09:24, Blogger qaminante said...

Precisely because of the Greek and Roman ruins, and also travel requirements were relaxed last year: you used to have to get a visa in advance and have your passport translated into Arabic, now they issue visas on arrival - though there's a very important piece of paper you have to have, to prove that arrangements have been made, and you still need to be with a group (even of 2!). Also, I've always been curious about it because of my father's pictures, and I've been to the rest of N. Africa except Algeria. Tourism still isn't a priority there (the government regularly requisitions hotels) but I do think the sites are worth it, and the people are mostly very nice. I hope to go back one day to visit the rest of the country...


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