Tripoli is huge. There are gazillions of small shops and markets, and there is a mosque on almost every second corner. Well, maybe not quite, but there are quite a few in this city.
I got a cab and went to the city centre to find a hotel or somewhere to stay, and after walking around for half an hour, I found a small hotel where I checked in.
During the first week, I visited museums and looked at historical buildings. The Arch of Marcus Aurelius, a few mosques and Marty’s Square. I also enjoyed looking at the food markets, and I bought food I had never tasted before. There are tons of small shops where I could spend months and months looking at things.
One night I was lazy-walking around the centre of the city, enjoying my relaxed life and looking for a place to buy some food, a café or a restaurant or something, I found an interesting café. Don’t know the name of it. It was in Arabic, and I understand zero Arabic.
The air was warm, and there were still many people in the street. Everybody was dressed in relaxed light clothing, walking around or talking to each other on every corner.
I went in, and the man behind the counter noticed I wasn’t local, so he asked in English.
– Are you hungry, my dear lady?
– Oh yes, I am starving. And I am happy you speak English.
– Well, I had to learn English. I wanted to write tourist guides, you know.
He handed me one.
– You made this? I asked.
– I most certainly did, was his proud answer.
– Wow, I’m impressed. I could really use this. Can I buy it?
– It is yours as we speak, madam.
– Oh, thank you so much. My name is Lenora.
– And my name is Abdul Rahman. I am at your disposal.
Couldn’t help thinking he was a very distinguished and polite gentleman with a noble and proud vibe. I felt very welcome already.
– I have no idea what the menu says, but maybe you can recommend something typical Arabic?
– You should try Bazin with Batata Mubattana, Couscous, Harissa, and Mhalbiya for dessert.
I had no idea what he suggested, but I intended it to be a surprise.
– Sounds good to me, I said with a smile.
He poured a beer from the tap in a giant glass, stepped away from the counter, and walked past me.
– I will find you the best place to enjoy your meal, follow me.
The room was quite big, and there were many people in there. Mostly couples getting a drink.
I looked discretely at everybody. Scanned them. Trying to figure out what kind of people they were.
I noticed two slightly strange-looking men sitting at their table, doing nothing except looking around. They didn’t eat or drink. Maybe they were waiting for food. I think they looked a little too much around. They were watching something. Judging from their suits, they probably were armed.
They all looked normal except for these two guys, who were somehow different from the others. They didn’t fit in.
There were two or three persons at every table except one where a man with a brown hood was eating alone. He wasn’t that suspicious, but his hood covered most of his head, so I figured he didn’t want to be recognized. He had a trimmed beard, sunglasses and a gold ring, so he probably wasn’t poor. All in all, three of them stood out from the crowd – just like me!
That was a skill from my childhood. I mean – looking around and scanning people. Quickly profiling every person in the room to be aware of any danger around.
We arrived at the table. Nicely placed in a corner where I could see the entire room. Abdul pulled out the chair, and I sat down.
– Here is your beer. Enjoy it, and I will be back in 10 minutes with your meal.
– Thanks a lot, I replied.
I was sipping my beer and looking out the window at the garden when I noticed loud voices and shouting. Three men rushed into the café. They weren’t Arabic, and they waved their guns in the air.
In a split second my two ‘suspects’ from before also had guns in their hands. One of them fell to the ground, immediately hit by a bullet, but so did one of the incoming men.
Everybody was shouting and screaming in panic while hot lead was flying through the air.
I watched the second of the two men I thought were different – him who was still standing, and I realized they acted as security guards. I found that strange because there would probably be someone in here they were supposed to protect, and I hadn’t figured out who.
But he was outnumbered. His buddy was down, and he only managed – so far, to take one of the three intruders down.
Two against one! I didn’t like that! I felt I had to even the odds.
I often run into people who want to be beaten up, and this time it was right in the middle of my dinner.
I didn’t know at that time, but the chance to interfere would appear in a short minute.
One of the guys walked sideways through the room as if he was looking for someone. He was almost at my table now, and he had his back towards me. The other had his gun pointing at a corner where the remaining security guard took hide. I could see him from where I was sitting.
Sooooo I waited for the right moment, and then I rocketed out of my chair, put my right arm around his neck, and kicked him behind his knee, so he lost his balance, locked him, and choked him. That made the other guy turn around and point his gun in my direction, but I was in cover behind his buddy – at least as long as I could keep him vertical!
Luckily the other security guard was aware! He looked out from his corner and immediately shot the guy who was now pointing his gun at me. I let go of the man I choked. He fell to the floor, and I immediately took his gun and pointed it at him. He would only be out for ten seconds or so.
Man – this was supposed to be a relaxing holiday, and here I was involved in a shootout in Libya.
The security guard checked the two men he shot, and he looked like they wouldn’t be a problem anymore. Then he checked his friend. He was still alive but bleeding a lot.
He came over to me, and I said:
– Watch him! He will wake up in a few seconds, so you better tie him up or something. I’m a nurse. I’ll check your buddy.
I gave him the gun, and I noticed Abdul was on the phone. Probably calling the police, so I asked him to get an ambulance.
He had no exit wound on his back, so the bullet was still in there. The best I could do was to press my hand to the bullet hole and try to stop the bleeding.
Then the older man with the brown hoodie left his table and came over to me.
– I thank you, he said. It was me they were after. Can I do something?
– Yeah, you can put your hand here and press. Then I will go find some towels.
One minute later, I came back with a towel I folded and put under the older man’s hand.
The ambulance and a dozen police officers arrived shortly after, but it seemed the older man had a lot of authority as he explained the situation to the police and asked them to pick up the two dead guys and the one I took down and leave – which they did.
That was strange. If I asked a policeman in the US to leave, he would be offended and do everything in his power to intimidate me.
Everything quieted, and we got the blood washed off our hands, and then Abdul arrived with my food. Right on time!
He apologized for the trouble and the shooting, and I smiled at him, and while I semi-squeezed his hand, I said:
– Don’t worry. Everything is all right!
The food looked fantastic. It was arranged very artistically, and I didn’t know if I was ready to spoil this beautiful artwork. But I was hungry enough to do precisely that!
– You are a true chef! All these colours and the smell and the beauty – It’s incredible!
– Bon appétit, Abdul said and left with a big warm but a little stressful smile.
So – as I was sitting here enjoying this luxurious meal, the older man from before came over to me.
– May I ask you a question?
He kinda looked familiar, but I knew I hadn’t seen him before. He didn’t look dangerous in any way, and I guess he was in his late sixties or early seventies. The remaining security guard sat at the table next to us.
– Please sit down, I said.
– Thank you.
– My name is Muammar. I noticed you are not a local. Where do you come from?
– I was born in London, but I moved to Detroit when I was fifteen and have lived there until very recently.
– What are you doing for a living?
– I work in a café in Detroit, and I recently finished school. I’m a nurse, and when I get back to the States, I plan to find a job.
– What you did before was very brave and dangerous, and I thank you for your help. Why did you do it?
– I honestly don’t know. Sometimes life acts out like a play where I’m supposed to play my role and simply do what my heart tells me to do.
Then I remembered the first thing he said to me.
– You said… it was you they were after?
– Yes. These guys are Mossad. Or more precisely – they are trained by Mossad.
Holy shit, I thought. Glad I didn’t know that before.
– You’re kiddin’ – right?
– No. I’m not a funny man, so I am not kidding you.
– I wanted to ask you if you know how people in your country look at Libya.
– I haven’t really checked up on the world status outside Detroit, but I think many people see Libya as a terrorist state. I have only been here for a few days, and so far, I haven’t seen any terrorists. I wanted to visit a warm place because Detroit is cold as an ice age.
– You won’t find any terrorists here! He said firmly. We are nice and friendly people. Those men were not from here.
– I have no complaints so far, I said, and Yes – I noticed these dudes weren’t African or Arabic.
– And Abdul, who runs this place, is a terrific guy and a great cook, I might add, and the people at my hotel are extremely nice, and the service is impeccable. I feel safe here.
He looked at me as if I offended his camels or something.
– Safe? The way you handled this situation made me think of hiring you as my bodyguard.
– Bodyguard? Me? But who are you?
– I am the leader of the people in this country. My name is Moammar Ghadaffi, and I actually have several female bodyguards.
– What the fuck!!! I said while inhaling my couscous – which was a very unpleasant experience. I coughed for half a minute before I was able to talk again. THAT was the reason he seemed familiar!
That was mighty interesting ending up in a café with Mr Ghadaffi. We talked for an hour, and at some point, I remembered the Lockerbie incident. I always had a hunch something was wrong with it, and I thought if anybody knew what really happened, it had to be him. So, I asked him!
– Every Intelligence service in the entire world knew that PFLP was behind the Lockerbie bomb in 1988. There had already been three similar crashes where that exact type of bomb had been linked to PFLP. But the CIA and the White House wanted to make an example of me. You know I introduced the idea of a new valuta in Africa based on the Gold Dinar, which also would mean African oil would be noted in Gold Dinars instead of Dollars.
– The US could not allow this because the US economy is heavily based on the fact all oil transactions in the middle east are done in US dollars.
– They parasite on our oil, and I see no valid reason why they should make money on our oil. We should have this money, not them!
– So, Mr Reagan saw an opportunity to bomb the hell out of Libya, which was meant to be a statement a la Don’t fuck with the United States.
– I know Abdelbaset al-Megrahi personally. You know… He was convicted and imprisoned for the bombing. He is a close friend of mine. He is innocent. But they locked him up in prison anyway.
– The CIA controlled the court 100 per cent. They fiddled with the evidence and nobody ever noticed. They are clever as devils.
– But I think I remember you took responsibility for the bombing. At least that is how the story goes in the US, I said.
– I did! The United States very much controls the UN Security Council, and they imposed sanctions on Libya, which meant we could not buy anything from many countries. We had no medicine, food was in short supply, and they would only lift the embargo if I took responsibility and paid compensation to the families.
– I did that not because I was guilty. I did that because thousands of Libyans would die of hunger and disease if I didn’t. It would make me a real murderer if I said no to that ‘deal’. So, I had to accept it.
Only a man who speaks the truth would take responsibility for crazy things like that to save the lives of thousands of people – I thought. He wasn’t a liar. Not even a political one.
A crazy guy for sure, but my impression was he was very honest.
But it was getting late, and before I left, he made me promise to come to visit him the next day.
The next day I visited Muammar in his home. It was very nice. Not exactly a huge castle, but presentable enough to receive leaders of states from all over the world. He had his kitchen prepare a fantastic dinner with his wife and his kids, so I took the opportunity to feel important for a few hours!
He told me the entire story of Libya starting 10,000 years BC.
Thousands of years ago, the entire country was covered with trees and plants, but around the end of the last ice age twelve thousand years ago, ninety per cent of the country slowly became desert. He told me about the influence of other cultures Phoenician, Greek, Rome, Ottoman, and latest, Italy.
From 1977 the income Per Capita in Libya skyrocketed. Free education made the literacy rate explode from 10 to 90 per cent, and life expectancy rose from 57 to 77 years! At some point, he doubled the minimum wage. They have free healthcare – something the US hasn’t been able to introduce and probably won’t do any time soon! He introduced equal rights for men and women by law. It became illegal to marry a woman without her consent, and likewise, it became illegal to marry girls under sixteen!
Think about that! Gaddafi actually transformed a banana republic into a thriving country!
We talked for hours, and he showed me around his small palace while some of his kids followed us around. And even though this only was a lunch thing, I ended up staying for dinner and more talk during the afternoon. We also said hello to a few of his security guards, of which several were women.
I learned a lot about Libya and Muammar that day, and I will forever be grateful for having had the honour of meeting a very exceptional and misunderstood man.
Only one year after I met Muammar the CIA backed rebels killed him in the most brutal way you can’t even imagine. He didn’t deserve to be dragged into the desert, humiliated, tortured and killed for miserable petro-dollars.
It is unclear how Muammar was killed but it was violent and I don’t believe the NTC explanation for a New York Moment.
I will always remember him as a very special man. Colourful and honest. He transformed a poor country into a thriving, idyllic and very peaceful society. He respected people as human beings. He did what real men should always do. Building a safe world for women and children.