Libya - worlds worst place to backpack #7

Libya. Gaddafis playground.

The country that lies inbetween Tunisia and Egypt was bound to feel the heat at some stage. Fever and fear grip this nation, this destination is probably one of the worlds worst places to backpack right now.

Libya is a big country. 40 times larger than Denmark yet only has a population of 6 million. Large swaths of the country are covered by the mighty Sahara desert, almost 90%.
Salty lake in desert near Temissah

The ruling leader, Muammar Gaddafi, is famous for his Bedouin tent. He takes it whereever he goes. Even pitches it up at the UN headquarters in New York until lately when he was been banned. This sparkled a strange response from the big man, after he refused a Russian plane to land, where it was due to pick up some nuclear waste uranium to despose of in regulation with a UN ruling. The crates of weapon grade unranium were left out in the sun on the runway, guarded by only one solider, where they almost spilled out of their containment due to the temperatures at which they were left. The effects would of been Chernobyl style proportions.

Battery Leak

Gaddafi is up there with the worst of the present day Arab ruling dictators. After Saddam Hussein and Tunisia's Ben Ali, Gaddafi has earned his stripes of terror infliction, abuse of power and ravage display of corruption. He also exposes a reflection of some Western governments hipocrisy. A closed and isolated country in many respects up until the past 10 years when oil reserves have been tapped and international business has started to flow and in some instances, gush.

OiLibya, Essaouira

Its now a precarious situation. A delicate power vacum potentially could follow Gaddafi if he vacates as there is no such thing as organised opposition to his regime. A 40 year gap.

Gaddafi came to power riding the usual wave of reform and aspiring political ideals.

Make Love not Capitalism - II

His socialist flag was soon lowered from the mast, abandoned as power corrupted the libertating hero rising from the ashes of a 1969 coup. You have to understand the geopolitcs of the era to put this episode into context. Revolutions and coups were taking place worldwide, a lot of them based on the model of socialism and to a more extreme extent, communision. Fidel Castro had liberated Cuba from a dictatorship, (to effectively turn it into another), .... Che Guerva had helped and was attempting to do so in Bolivia and even the Congo. The legend Omar Torrijos had overthrown the Panamanian government. From Peru and Brazil to Sudan and Somalia, 1969 was a torrid time for regime changes on a global scale.

Muammar al-Gaddafi, pictured in 2009

The man has deluded himself with power over 41 long years.

Who's Next...

He is Africa's longest serving ruler. During his reign he has desposed of those close to him, getting rid of those that assisted him in his original coup, public hangings of 'counter revolutionaries' or people who thought differently from him.
Although he has some mates....
Muammar Gaddafi w gorgeous amazon guard, and , that berlusconi crook

The green passport of LIbya is always in that last list of least desirable nationalities on most immigration forms.

What has spurred these recent developments across the middle east? The uprisings In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Dijdouti, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain? Its no secret that a lack of faith in the ruling powers is one of the reasons, but the real reasons are deeper. People are fed up of decades of blatant corruption, decades of human right violations, state controlled media, the margalisation of the youth and the disregard for the elderly have all played a part in these revoltuions unfolding around the world.

Its serious here. So far over 500 people have been merked by the security forces loyal to Gaddafi.

Security forces are generally well paid in Libya, quite crazy to think that some of the most well paid people in society are those that weld authority and can abuse it the easiest. Although reports are emerging that some defections from the military were occuring nationwide, after officers and entire battalions have refused direct orders to fire on protestors. 2 fighter jets have even landed in Malta after the pilots refused orders to fire on protestors. They are now claiming political aslyum.

This is a very hostile environment to be anywhere near. But....

Granary at Gasr al-Haj
(budgetpacker accomodation)

The Mediterranean is lush with life. Fruitful and green, its abudent with beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees and turquoise warm waters. What more can you ask for for a beachpacking experience? Tripoli is a culturally rich city on the edges of the Mediterranean. The red castle is a glimpse into life in during the Ottoman empire, Medina, the famous market that dates back to the fourth century. Its cheap, its cheerful, its warm, its not crowded. Its a budgetpackers ideal destination. Why wouldn't you consider Libya as your next backpacking destination?!

Arch of Marco Aurelio, Tripoli, Libya, August 2007.

Gadafis regime has closed the doors on most of the world during the last 40 years, only in the last 10 years has tourism had a chance to really breath. Theres a reason for this. The ruling regime generally despise the west and its culture. Just take a look at the responses dribbling out from the regime at the moment, blaming the EU, Britain, the US and even Canada of all nations, I mean no one has blamed Canada for anything since South Park.

Dont go backpacking in Libya right now. Helicopters are raining down bullets upon the streets, fighter jets are launching strikes on crowds of people gathered below their telescopic lenses, snipers are picking off protestors from elevated government controlled buildings. The regime has proven in the past, that brutality and terror are the methods to deal with problems. Extermination of this dissent has been broadcast on state run tv by the presidents son. Quote, "we will keep fighting until the last man standing...even the last women"...... He then said that if agreement is not reached immediately then "rivers of blood will flow..."
Sounds ominous.
Make no doubt about it, this uprising is set to be the bloodiest.
Dont get involved.
Grab your backpack and go bush in Botswana instead.

Egypt....Worlds worst place to backpack #8

Egypt - Where it all began...

Egypt vs. Algeria 2-0

That's the countries tourism slogan. Maybe they should change it to, Egypt - Where it all went wrong.

Every embassy in the world has told it's residents to leave. There are hundreds of thousands of steamed up people taking to the streets all over the country. 

Forget your city break in Cairo. There are mercenary thugs on horseback and hooligans on bleeting camels storming down the cities streets. Chances are the camels won't be the only ones spitting on you. Expect a barrage of confrontation and confusion involving most people you run into. Everyone is involved in this uprising, the fever has spread.

Protest on Tahrir Square

But is it all bad? A revolution is a collective wave of like minded values, a sea of souls gathered together in unity of a common fight. Luckily the fight is directed at the ruling president of 30 years, President Mubarak, and not foreigners. If you love throwing stones at authority and screaming chants in a foreign language, this could be on your list of the worlds best place to backpack.

Protest on Tahrir
Protest on Tahrir

Petrol bombs and tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, rocks and concrete slabs flying through the air, it makes for some great photos but the real threat of being struck down by a live round of ammunition is high. Authorities say 11 people have been killed so far, the UN put that figure at close to 300 people in just over a week.

Watch this clip on youtube to see a man shot at close range by the army.

The president is said to be worth $70 billion………thats not just a couple of lazy million lying around a Swiss bank account, thats 70 billion of amassed wealth. No wonder the people are taking to the streets and are really pissed at the high levels of poverty in day to day life.

Visiting the pyramids could take you awhile as most of the tour guides are on the streets. Hotel doors in central Cairo are boarded up and taxis have pretty much ground to a halt, as the streets are too chaotic to drive through.

Downtown Cairo

The media has been all but shut down over the past week, forget trying to log onto your Facebook page as the only tweeting you'll be doing is from a rooftop at the moon. Funnily enough, the revolt in Iran last year took place from the rooftops of its buildings so anything is possible.

Freedom of speech is a pillar of independence, strength and independence in any democratic nation. For 30 years in Egypt the voices of its people have been suppressed and the lid has been finally lifted. Its boiled over. The resulting steam is thick with rage and is flowing throughout the streets of the nations major cities.

Mubarak Burns

So no Facebook, no Twitter, no Youtube. Its not the first time we have witnessed social media trying to bring about social justice.

But perhaps this is the place to go right now? Flights are cheap and hotel prices have been slashed, literally.  Although upon closer inspection, the airports may be unmanned so it could be a rocky landing and even shadier reception. But hey, this is living no?! Walzing into hotspots with your backpack on……errrm, no, no its not. Its just plain stupid. It's hostile there right now, there's anger and violence on the streets.

The infrastructure needed for a seamless backpacking trip is simply not functioning right now. Above all, a backpacking trip to Egypt right now would be just foolish and maybe even ignorant.

The messages on Tahrir Square

Protests like these change the world. From Berlin to Bolivia, when people take to the streets, they mean business. It is their last resort of action. It often means violence is imminent, whether its the venting of the peoples frustrations or from the nervousness of the regimes forces.

Down wt Mobarak

I have been involved in street protests when they turn ugly. Its definitely not pretty. Trying to get that last camera shot, or just out there to soak up the magnitude and power of the people en masse, in a blink of an eye the situation can flip. Bullets fly, people turn and flee in every direction, its panic x 10,000volts, frantic pushing and shoving, tear gas burning your eyes until your stomach retches upon itself, ripping up the lining of your oesophagus.

whole city tear gassed, can't breathe

I remember witnessing a man getting beaten only metres away from me. As we both fled the onslaught of the charging army, he had slipped as we ran rounded a street corner onto another small side street. I didn't dare stop but as I looked behind me he was being beaten with clubs by several soliders. I will never forget that image of him curled up on his back with his hands and feet raised, trying to cushion the storm of blows reigning down upon him.

Egypt. Nah. Not now. Ill rain check this country for the time being til this storm blows over.

So thanks to President Mubarak and his despicable ways, Egypt has made its way onto my list of the worlds worst places to backpack #8


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