So, as a result
of our obsession, we had the opportunity to spend two days in a
pretty surreal site in the Sahara to enjoy the eclipse.
City”, a few hundred km deep into the Sahara, was home to 4-5000 eclipse
tourists from 47 different nations, all there for one the greatest experiences
we will ever have.
Our site was one
of three government-authorized eclipse viewing sites; we were right
on the eclipse centre line, located a little south of Jalu, a small
city in north-east Libya. We took a charter flight from Tripoli,
which provided us with our first excited view of the great Sahara
desert from the plane windows.
landing approach, those of us looking out wondered if there was
really an airstrip. Until the last seconds, we could see nothing but
sand – no paved strip. At the last moment, one appeared. We landed...
and we were in the Sahara!
It was then
about a 45 minute bus ride to the site through a flat, featureless
hard-packed sand plain with fine gravel. This site was picked partly
for that reason: unobstructed views of the eclipse (and less prone
to blowing sand).
believe what we found when we arrived at our “Tent City”. In a
country with virtually no previous large-scale tourism, the
government and a few tourism companies had prepared a site to
accommodate -- in a large degree of comfort -– thousands of foreign
tourists. Carrying our luggage from the bus across the sand, we were
greeted with a view of thousands of tents stretching off into the
Later we discovered huge dining tents, a free, wireless
Internet café, and other tents which served as corner stores,
souvenir and art stores. There was a large bank of porta-johns,
which were serviced and cleaned so regularly, that many said they
were the best they had ever seen.
through a government-sponsored tent offering a large and free selection of
beautiful books and posters about Libya. On eclipse day, the
Internet café sold Solar Eclipse First Day stamps, to go
along with the many beautiful sheets of stamps, including the
legendary “American Aggression” series of stamps.
(Right next door
however, you could buy cigarette lighters embossed with “God Bless
America” and “Support Our Troops”).
Of course, there
were glitches at the site; although the dining tent was decorated
beautifully, the crowds were more than they had prepared for. It
took us 3 hours of waiting the first night to eat. The
organizers learned however, and lineups for subsequent meals were
handled more quickly. [photo: some famished people waiting and
waiting for some food!]
The food there
was good, but with a limited selection: both dinners and the one
lunch were identical. Both breakfasts would have been identical, but
the food finally ran out late on the last morning.