17 February 2011
Staying in Tripoli
Yesterday afternoon we went straight away to the Tunisian Embassy to check whether we can get a visa in order to get to Tunis in order to catch a ferry to Italy. We have been told by some officials that we can get one at the border but after the experience with Syria and Egypt, we do not trust the system anymore. The Tunisians told us with a smirk on their faces that it will take 2 weeks to get a visa Insh'Allah (God willing). This off course is out of the question as by then our Libyan visa is finished and the cost to stay here is about R200 per person per day just to have an obligatory guide.
Shortly after the visit to the Tunisian Embassy, I went to an internet café and searched for the South African Embassy and saw the name of an Afrikaans gentleman, Mr Janse Van Rensburg. I called him immediately and he was most helpful and told me to come to his office first thing in the morning. So even before 'first thing in the morning' we were standing on the doorsteps of the SA Embassy. He could not do enough to assist us. He drove us to the Embassy which was supposed to be open by 9 but as everyone was late, he demanded the cell number of the Head Consular Officer and called him in person and explained to him our situation that we could not get a visa while in SA as it would have been expired even before we got here and that the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo was closed while we were in Egypt. No problem the Officer said, two weeks. But Mr Van Rensburg once again stood his ground and demanded an immediate delivery. He wrote a letter for us and had it translated and shortly after 11am we had our visa. THANK YOU Mr Van Rensburg. We are truly grateful for your help.
Afterwards we headed back to our hotel which is 100m away from the Martyr's Square and the roads to the hotel were blocked off by police as a pro-Khaddafi demonstration was taking place. Again the trouble is following us like a bad smell. We went into the medina to have a look all the shops however they were nearly all closed because of the demonstrations. However, with all the bad news, we must say that Tripoli is one of the cleanest and beautiful cities we have come across in Africa. The medina market is very pretty with shop-filled alleyways, decorated doorways, colourful squares and little coffee shops. We can only imagine how lively it must be when people are busy with their daily lives.
Interesting fact: Mr Van Rensburg told us today that in Libya the official sick days one is allowed to take is 180 days! Can you imagine how well a country must run (not!) when people take off every second day because they are 'sick'?
Tomorrow we are heading to Tunisia and hopefully by Sunday we will be on the ferry to Italy. We are smelling the scent of home…