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Some brief notes about our involvement with and trips to Libya since 2006, most recently as Election Observers in July, 2012.
For our journal about our Libyan Election experience, see this page.
NOTE: Click thumbnails for larger images
2006: The Eclipse
Our first trip to Libya was to see a solar eclipse. When we first considered the idea, we thought we’d go to Turkey. On further research, it appeared that Libya — of all places — would be the best place to see it.
But, I asked myself, “But what’s there to see in Libya?“. I’ve repeated that story many times since then, and my journal of that trip answers that question. As it turned out, it really was a life-changing experience.
We had the truly awesome experience of a total solar eclipse in the Sahara, visited some of the greatest Roman ruins anywhere in the world, and spent one of the most magnificent weeks of our lives camping in the south-west Sahara.
Most importantly, we were overwhelmed by the Libyan people; they are the reason we have become so involved with Libya and Libyans.
So we went back…
2007: The return
We went back to Libya the next year. Our main reason is that during that although our interaction with Libyan people — both friends we made and strangers we’d meet — was so meaningful, we had little time to really get to know people, or to experience life in Libya, even to walk about a city.
So back we went, the next year, for another emotional visit.
This time we travelled west through the Amazigh (Berber) areas of the Jabal Nefusa (Western mountains) to the ancient trading city of Ghadames, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also went to the east of the country, including some of the great Greek sites of Cyrene, Appolonia and others, with Bilgasem, our friend and travel guide.
We had a magnificent few days in Benghazi, getting to spend time with our friends Ahmed, Ahmed and Abdul Salam, as well as many of their friends and family.
2011: The Revolution
When the first Arab Spring uprisings began in Tunisia and Egypt, we of course immediately wondered about Libya, right in the geographic middle of those countries. We thought that, despite how hated Gaddafi was, few Libyans would go out in the streets, because unlike the rulers of those other two countries, Gaddafi would have no compunction about slaughtering his own people. Or conversely, if they did, there would indeed be a bloodbath.
They did, and there was.
I first spoke to our friend Abdul Salam in Benghazi on February 18, and that call was the beginning of a remarkable year for us, and dramatically more so for Libya and Libyans.
When we attended our first Libyan rally in Toronto on Feb. 20 at Yonge-Dundas Square, we met Libyan Canadians for the first time, a community we came to feel a part of. But on that cold day, we could never have imagined we’d be back at the same site exactly eight months later, celebrating the liberation of Libya. (And after the rally, we went for dinner and toasted the end of Gadaffi with a couple of glasses of champagne).
Through most of the year, a free Libyan flag flew from our house, and throughout the events of the Revolution, we stayed immersed in Libyan issues, keeping in touch with friends there as best we could (depending on phone and Internet connectivity, and the state of government listeners).
We attended rallies and fundraisers, wrote numerous letters to media and politicians, and shared the fears, hopes, and finally celebrations with our Libyan friends in Libya and in Canada
During the year, I created a blog to note local events, and pass on some news of what was happening in Libya, especially for those who didn’t follow all the events. One piece I wrote in February talks about how we became involved in the early days of the Revolution.
We also made a video record of many of the Toronto-area events of that year, “We Will Remain“
2012: The Election
And of course, Libyans, with NATO’s help, won their freedom. We knew how difficult a road they would face, building a country from scratch.
One of the biggest steps Libyans would take would be voting in the first elections held there in almost half a century. Given how involved we’d been with Libya and the Revolution (from afar), we hoped that if there were to be any election observers coming from Canada that we could have the chance to help that first step, even in a small way.
Thanks to the Canadian Libyan Council (of which I’m a member) who sponsored a team of 10 observers — the only Canadian team — we did get that chance, and experienced the most memorable week of our lives.