Benghazi is an open shopping mall: How we exchanged money with chaos

"We're not lucky that our home aren't located on main road"

“We’re not lucky that our home aren’t located on main road”

“I am not rich!!” I usually use this phrase as a response to some friends when they ask me why you do not buy that thing!. Some Benghazi’s residents have their own answer. They use “My father is not rich, nor our home does locate on a main street”. The second part of the answer is referred to the convenient stores attached to their houses.

People who own homes facing the main road or streets switch number of rooms to shops. They either rent them or start their own businesses. Therefore, houses located on the main streets are much more expensive than ones are not on the main streets. New shops are opened wherever new roads are paved. The whole city switched to become one shopping mall.

Problems

There are (Or I should say there WERE) regulations, rules, and standards classify and arrange zones in Benghazi. The land use was set precisely to split between zones. There are culture, commercial, residents, services, and other zones. These zones arranged to work perfectly with each other. In addition, zones could be mixed up together, which called in urban development mixed-use. Benghazi center set up to be mixed-used due to some historical restrictions and geographical location. People completely neglect these regulations and standards. They act on their only own benefits. In addition, the absence of following up and monitoring by the government makes it for residents easier to break out these regulations.

The Current Land Use by Alemarha Office

The Current Land Use by Alemarha Office

Another issue to be addressed is updating Benghazi’s master plan. The last master plan generation should be finished in 2000. Since that year, we live in planing vacuum which results the chaos attached with slums everywhere.

One should admit that the new shops opening up everyday take a systematic approach for the type of business. That has been said the one street is form from many shops specialized in one business type. Therefore, you can find streets sell only furniture, other sell computers.

The convenient stores within walkable radius should be a great idea especially in terms of sustainability. This could sound perfect as we do not have to go far using cars to get our stuff. However, with the current situation of Benghazi’s infrastructure turns the advantages to disadvantages. Main roads are completely in urgent need to maintenance. These roads were not designed to handle this mixed-used zone. There should be some standards with certain number of parking spots to handle these shops. Tight roads make it difficult to find parking spots and drive smoothly. Too much traffic in these roads as some or many people park in the middle of the way. Some say there are six millions cars in a city has a million population. All that make our commute so difficult.

For example, 20th Street is one of the busiest streets in Benghazi. It has too many shops. People moving around shopping and parking their cars adjacent or on the sidewalk. Before opening these shops, the street was one of the preferable rout as it connects some critical areas as shortcut. Nowadays, people, including myself, avoid using this street as it becomes nightmare to drive in.

The busy 20th Street

The busy 20th Street

Solution

It is easy to fix these issues. First, we have to embrace the current situation. It is too difficult to ask people to close their shops. There should be some organized way to study and analyze which shops should be closed and which ones are OK to operate. Some shops hurts the city and some benefit the city. Second, we should upgrade our infrastructure, maintaining and providing some parking spots (Multi-story garages for example). We have a great number of convenient stores, but Benghazi is not walkable city, we need to improve walkability. Most of neighbors lack of good walk side. Third, drivers should follow traffic rules and drive in lanes and park correctly in places designated for parking.

We complain of many issues in our daily life. We must realize that we created these issues. Therefore, no one will fix them to us unless we do. We should understand the problem first, then act accordingly for the best result. To change Benghazi from one open mall to a real developed city, we have to admit the issues now, and start to act immediately.

Children of Allah- A Book About Libyans and the Pulling Magnet of Benghazi

I started reading The Almost Nearly Perfect People book by Michael Booth, who talks about his life in Nordic countries and how their daily lifes make them the almost perfect people. It turns out there’s a book talks on Libyans exactly the same Booth’s book.  Children of Allah: Between the Sea and Sahara is written by Agnes Newton Keith. Mohammed AlKeilani wrote perfect words discribing this books.

By: Mohammed Khaled Alkeilani

In the name of Allah the most gracious the most mercifulWhom we seek supportAnd peace be upon the honorable of all apostles

Prophet Mohamed, his family and companions

Before anybody accuses me of blasphemy the Arabic word “عيال” does not mean children but actually means dependents.

The Hadeeth says:”All people are (members of) ِAllah’s household, and the dearest to Him are the most beneficial for their own family”.

Everybody now knows that Benghazi is going through some tragedies but we are hoping that this last one would be the last.
If the blood from Benghazi is the ink used in writing the Libyan history, how is the state going to be as we are now about to write the constitution.
I ask Allah almighty for all of us peace and security.
I wish that this article helps in getting us out of the state of sadness, depression and hopelessness even for only few hours.
Starting off I say:
Some writers have a very elegant and captivating style of writing that makes the reader feel like being invited to a shady tent on a clean pristine beach with cool breeze, and listening to tales making him unable to leave the place even after sunset.

Some other writers have such a lumpish and prosaic style that makes the reader feel as a high school student setting in the seventh session of classes on a hot day for a subject that he hates. All what that student would be thinking of at that time is “Oh what a long day when will it just end ”

The author of this book Agnes Newton Keith is of the first type. Her narrative style of using simple language in short sentences resulting in very powerful expressions gets hold of the reader. When she has to stretch a sentence she does it in a smooth way.

The book was published in 1966 (about fifty years ago). The author was an American woman accompanying her husband who worked for FAO (part of UN ). He was assigned the job of an advisor to the government of the newly created Libyan state.

The value of this book is that it documents the period of building the first Libyan state under the leadership of king Idris. In a similar way we are now building the second Libyan state under the leadership of the free Libyan citizen may Allah provide him with guidance.

I first heard of this book many years ago. I searched for it whenever I traveled abroad, but I found out later that it was out of print, and the only copies are available in libraries or held by whoever bought it when it was published. But it is the will of Allah that permitted me to receive a used copy of this book only few weeks ago and due the effort of kind people whom I pray and ask Allah guidance and mercy for them.

The book is subdivided into five parts in 460 pages of the medium size. The first chapter describes the air trip from Rome to Idris airport in Tripoli in September 1955.
The Libyan state then was the youngest UN state with less than four years of age. The population was about a million people of whom only four had a college degree.

The Gibli wind (hot wind from the Sahara)was the first to receive the author at the Tripoli airport and it was her first lesson on desert climate. She spent several weeks searching for a house till she finally settled in Giorgimpopoli the resident of the families of Americans working at the Wheelus air base. ( Mitiga airport currently)

After settling down she started interacting with the local Libyan population without any sort of transcendence. She devotes a chapter in her book for every one around her including the house boy.

She reviews the Libyan history and describes the economic status of that newly independent state which was more like Somalia nowadays.
Her interest in the history of the country led her to visit many of the historical sites such as Ghadames, Leptus Mangna, Cyrene and Ghat.

It is unfortunate that I will not be able in this relatively short article to cover what is in the book about Ghadames, Ghat, Al Kufra and even Tripoli that had no particular chapter devoted to it because that is where most events took place.
Other cities were briefly covered like horse racing in Zawia.
She also gave some important details about places she passed by in her travel like Uweinat and Washka.
Derna was mentioned within the historical account of the hostility with the USA.
Susa and its historical sites as well as Cyrene (Shahat) had been covered well.
Tobruk is covered in relation to king Idris where he had his residence in the Dar Alsalam palace.
Misurata is mentioned only as a passing point in her travel.
What strikes me about the book is that it conveys the author’s close feelings toward the country, its people and even its animals as if she is part of this place.
During her return trip from the Green Mountain to Tripoli she describes the area after Adjedabia as wholesale death region but at the end of that paragraph she says “Perhaps there would be rain this year In sha’ Allah In sha’ Allah.

The book got hold of me so much and I just wish I could translate most of it.

The author excelled in covering many events that we the Libyans have almost forgotten in our daily struggle.
There are certain aspects of the book that I particularly like:

  • How she described her trip to Ghadames with details of the old houses, the roof tops that were restricted to women and children.
  • How she described in detail the Libyan independence day parade in Benghazi.
  • How she lived the January 1964 riots, giving a view account of someone who knew how that government worked, describing what happened between the prime minister Fkini and king Idris.
  • How she described the El Marj earthquake from the viewpoint of a local family that she previously visited.
  • How she described spending El Eid in Tripoli and then in Benghazi.
  • How she described in detail the wedding party she attended.
  • How she documented the daily living of Libyans including the habit of mixing roasted peanuts with tea.
  • How she felt so united with the locals to the point of nursing their wounds.
  • How she mixed the coverage of her daily events with political discussions about the king and the queen Fatima and about the assassination of Shalhi and talked about Buquwaytin.

All of this in a captivating style using simple words without making the reader feeling any flatter or exaggeration.
She describes things in such a way that the reader feels them being metalized in front of his eyes.
She describes sounds in such a way that the reader feels that he hears them in the back of his head.
She describes people in such a way the reader feels he would know these people if he was to meet them.
Agnes Newton Keith was not only a writer but she was an artist as well. She drew some very expressive sketches enhancing the topic she covered.


Her sketches of the Libyans were not rigid or sarcastic, they were living graphics either smiling or expressing emotions.

 

One can deduce some facts about life in Libya at that time as the case when her Jeep got stuck in the sand.
She started negotiating with some kids to dig it out. When they asked for money she said that “she had two five-pound notes (about thirty dollars) in small purse in her pocketbook”.
What this says is that the Libyan pound was equal to 3 dollars.

As I tried to uncover the religious aspects of her character, particularly in relation to Islam, I found that she mentioned the “Koran” few times.
All was related to forbidden foods like meat. During her travel she gives details of preparing separate meals for Muslims accompanying her.
Another mention of the “Koran” was when a friend of theirs talked about his father marrying another woman and how the “Koran” allows that.
Other than these occasions I could not find any sign of abuse or insult to the “Koran” or Islam.
Even though she showed interest in the ruins of churches and temples she never revealed her personal believes.

From time to time she talks about the political situation of Libya at that time (the sixties of the last century).
The constitution of Libya specifies the existence of two capitals Tripoli in Tripolitania and Benghazi in Cyrenaica.
The government should accordingly move between the two cities followed by the experts who should advise it.
Both the king and the constitution were determined that the government should move. It might be possible to change the constitution she says, but never the king’s will.

The Cyrenaica Defense Force was mentioned in several occasions as this is the force responsible for protecting the king. It is also responsible for the protection of Benghazi.
And it is this force that ignited the riots of 1964.
The Cyrenaica Defense Force however was portrayed differently during the festival of the Independence day of December 24 in Benghazi when this force was the prize of the parade. Mounted on top the camels the soldiers were visibly impressive as the camels stand tall and move quitly compared to the horses and cars.

“The solemn camels with their high mounted riders and their unhurried pace seem to move in a desert vision.”
“Walahi! I say excitedly That’s one thing we will never see in a parade at home!

Thanks be to Allah that we got here before the camels were mechanized ”

While describing that parade she wrote a sentence that deserves a pause. Watching that parade she looked closely at the faces of the soldiers then wrote:
“Well I never saw so many different shades of skin in all my life”
“There is everything from white to tan to brown to black And some with blue eyes too, Berber I guess”
What this means dear Libyans, besides being a clever remark is that we are a multi ethnic society as proved by the different shades of color of our skins. In spite of this we have been living together peacefully except for what is going on among us these days.
I must point out that the author has traveled extensively and has lived alongside her husband in many countries.
She was not like some women of neighboring countries that during their lifetime they never leave the suburb of the city they born in.

Last month I read an article in an American magazine about ethnic diversity in all countries of the world. With the article was a map of world in which maps of countries were colored according to their ethnic diversity.
What surprised me was that Libya ranked among the highest and it scored the highest among all Arab countries.
At first I thought maybe there is a mistake and whoever wrote that is isolated from reality, but upon reading the full article and knowing that the research was done by the Harvard institute for economic research I realized the striking fact.
We are really a multi ethnic society but we have been living together and intermixing peacefully.
This is a grace from Allah, and I hope that we will never reach the point of realizing it only after losing it.
As I am keen not to disperse the topic, I can not publish that map with all the details now.

Some readers may be thinking of the different sectors in some Arab countries like Lebanon, but that is different as all people of these sectors could belong to just one ethnic group.
While the opposite is true in Libya all ethnic groups adopt Islam and one particular school in most places.

There is a famous parable that says “Good Health is a crown on the healthy man’s head seen only by the sick”
In the same way I say that peaceful coexistence in a multi ethnic society is a crown worn by peaceful nations which can be seen only by torn nations or by people of very clear vision like the author of this book.

She covers Benghazi in two contrasting ways.
In the first she says that Benghazi was never much more than a Bedawi village under deemed by lengthy Italian occupation and partially destroyed by WWII bombing, with no trees.
The move to Benghazi was unpopular with everybody, Libyans and strangers. One reason for that was the lack of housing in Benghazi and almost “there is nothing in Benghazi”.
She thinks of her house as foreigners were living in the American ghetto of Giorgimpopoli out-of-town with running water sanitation and garden space and friends to talk to.
Every body was hoping that the government of Abd al-Majid Kubar would fail and Ben Halim returns to power. There was a rumor that a third capital city was to be built in El Beida in the Green Mountain financed by foreign aid money.

“The government in Tripoli existed in organized disorder but in Benghazi in disorganized disorder. If anyone asks for a file he would be given three glasses of tea and a kind word. If he asked for a minister he was told to go to Tripoli, if he went to Tripoli he found the minister in Italy for his health”.

She describes how for three months they were negotiating in Tripoli for a house for rent in Benghazi. By the time they agree to pay the rental fee someone would pay higher and rent the house.

The house they finally got was in an area clean from all trees by goats and later was used as a garbage dump in the Fuihat suburban district.
“Out in our graceless, gardenless suburb of Gardens City it only matters that we have a house, when it seemed for a while that we would have to put up a tent! Although history claims that trees grew here in Roman times, trees and Romans have long since gone, leaving as sole survivors of the arid land, goats, sheep, and Bedawi. The three have combined to destroy, consume, and burn every branch, twig and leaf of possible vegetation”.

“Camels with heavy, creaking loads pass hourly, carefully cushioning their steps with the sway of their torsos placing their great padded feet with faultless rhythm on both sand and rock. Disregarding the road, they pass just outside our gate, their haughty heads undulating smoothly above the wall. their utilitarian, inelegant desert adapted bodies and their disregard for the discomfort of the terrain well merit their supercilious expressions”.

“Meanwhile sheep in all numbers wander about, and if our gate and door stood open they would be in our kitchen; less gentlemanly goats actually assault the gate with evident intention of gnawing their way inside”.

(Warning — If you’re a fan of Benghazi and have a sensitive heart and you are living abroad then please do not continue to read this topic on your own – – else you bear the consequences )

This reminds me of how when we, as young children used to watch the herd of sheep and goats pass by our street every morning when the shepherd collects them from the houses of residents and return them back at sunset
The residents of Benghazi used to keep one or two sheep or goats inside the house.

Our joy is not only in seeing the herd but another source of our pleasure was the different sounds that accompany the herd from the sounds of male goat to the small lambs and the ringing of small bells tied the necks of goats. The shepherd is also doing his part by whistling and shouting at the stray animals whose march on the road provides the Rhythm. And it occurs in three stages, the coming stage when the lambs lead the way, the surrounding stage when we had the chance to touch the young lambs and little goats, and the farewell stage when all the sounds fade away. All of this is mixed with the distinctive smell of sheep and goats.

One of the happy moments for us as kids, was to see the shepherd carrying a small newly born lamb or goat that could not walk a long distance so he carries that young animal between his arms or in his sack while the mother walks very close to him watching her newly born.
We used to get excited seeing some young goats eat the vegetables from the shop on the side of the street. The shop keeper used to get so mad shouting at the black skinned shepherd who feels so embarrassed that the color of his skin changes.

Coming back to our book where we have covered her first viewpoint of Benghazi next we’ll see her contrasting opinion.
In the chapter “The Dump Develops” Agnes Newton Keith gave a totally different account of Benghazi.

“We had called it a dump and hated to come, but our year in Benghazi proved to be one of the happiest of our lives. Here on the edge of the Libyan Sahara we lived a small, cozy life in the little Bedawi tribal village, which dabbled its Arabic feet in Mare Nostrum while its backside was smitten by saffron winds. The shift of capital turned out to be a first-class real estate promotion deal and tides of foreign prosperity poured in on the sandy, red air.”

The fact was that the place grew on you. Its dilapidation, its fierceness, its sadness, its guts, its tattooed Bedawi dames with their high, orange-calf boots and gaudy striped baracans, its tattered, untamed, gentle-spoken men, its enclosed secretive suk, its incandescent salt plains shimmering in the sun, its closer contact with friends and its increased simplicity in living, all took hold of your heart as no big city could.



Oh my god ! ! !
At this point I would like to stop reading and translating the book as I will address a very interesting thing that stirred mixed feelings inside me, it is the magic or the mysterious love of Benghazi. The secret that makes Benghazi beloved by anybody who resides within the city, as if she is a magnet pulling gently anybody approaching.

— Anybody who has not been exposed to the whiffs of Benghazi should excuse my next talk —

But if you have been stung by her passion then welcome to a “hazra” party where we will loosen up and get high on the love of the lover’s beloved.
(Hazra is a Sufi gathering where people through chanting transcend into a higher state of consciousness)

What is the secret of her love:

Is her love from her air ? in Arabic “Hawaha min hawaha”
Is her love from her fragrant ? in Arabic “Aishgoha min abigaha”
Is her love from the generosity of her generous people ? in Arabic “Gharamoha min karmi kiramiha”
Is her goodness from her soil ? in Arabic “Teibatoha min torbatiha”
Is her love from her grains ? in Arabic “Hoboha min habiha”
Is her heritage is from her soil ? in Arabic “Torathoha min torabiha”
Is she like a kind mother whose tenderness is from her milk ? in Arabic “Leenoha min labaniha”
Is her inspiration is from her water ? in Arabic “Ilhamoha min Miahiha”.

People come to her by their will but stay by her will
Her kindliness when leaving her turns into yearning
Notes:
1-Using the pronoun “her” may not be grammatically correct but her status does not permit me to use the pronoun “its”. In English pets get the he or she pronouns.
2- I included the Arabic sound so the English reader would get the rhyme of the expression.

In an article published in 2004 about climate change I described this relation to the city:
“The first thing noticed by a visitor to the city is the serenity, tranquility, its mild weather.
As he starts interacting with the people he will feel the kindliness that will turn into yearning upon leaving the city.”

In the 60’s and 70’s of the last century the residents of the city of Benghazi used to drink from the public water supply coming from the wells surrounding the city which had high salinity. This is one property of this city that all residents of Tripoli know well.
When asked if they were willing to travel to Benghazi, Tripoli residents would say “No; the water is salty”. This is true Compared to the water in Tripoli which used to be fresh.

The established residents of Benghazi used to drink from small reservoirs dug underground in their houses to collect rain water from the roof of the house.
Or some of them collect the rain water in large jars.
People who have such facilities do not talk about them in public as the water was not abundant, but they do not turn down any body asking for fresh rain water.
After the discovery of oil the wealthy started drinking “Bin Ghisheer” bottled water imported from Tripoli, in later years they started drinking the “Kufra” water which was bottled aquifer water imported from the Kufra region in the desert south of Benghazi.

Most people still drink this bottled Kufra water but some do drink from the tab which comes from the “Man made River” (also coming from the south through huge pipeline).
In this period ( the 60’s & 70’s ) the residents of Benghazi along with the rest of Libyans started traveling abroad either as students or working in the Libyan embassies.
When feeling homesick some Benghazi scholars would say “The salt has pulled us” referring to the salt in the water that they used to drink.

As in all big cities some slang expressions become popular from time to another.
There is one description for the city of Benghazi as “rearing the homeless”, which I really do not like with due respect to all who repeat it without really understanding the full meaning of such an expression.
I think that it was true for a limited period of time regarding some refugees who came from the western part of Libya during some harsh and difficult years with drought and hunger well spread. Now that should have been the end of it.

Applying this expression to all its residents and visitors implies an insult.
And it does not reflect this emotional bond between the city and her lovers.
The current residents are the offspring of the first generation of immigrants to the city who were not allhomeless.
They all came to Benghazi by their own will but settled in by her will, and the two wills are under the will of Allah.

This American writer said the place “grew on you”. These words were written in 1966( publishing date ), or few years before that ( Actual writing ) when the city was in ruins.
This educated and kind lady was not homeless and she needed no rearing from the city. She did not come to earn a living, nor to learn new technologies, or religious lessons from the city.She had no motive to be a hypocrite by saying this to please us. She wrote her book in her native language for her people about her travel.

Now if anybody feels offended by what I have written with regard to the expression “rearing the homeless”, I would like them to know that I have presented them with very nice alternate slogans.
With these slogans we may have opened a new page in what I am pleased to call the Benghazi literature.
This new page will not be restricted to this article of mine but this beloved city has among her lovers many gifted poets who can write glamorous poems starting with these slogans.
Some of you readers may want to try themselves, so give it a shot.
Some internet thieves may like these slogans and want to adopt them to their cities or villages.
But these slogans are like Cinderella’s shoes. They can only be worn by this pretty princess.
And the shoe maker who made them is driven crazy by her love.
He has been nourished by her love and grains.( in Arabic “Hoboha wa habiha” ).
He has been stung by her passion and breathed her air. ( in Arabic “Iktawa bihawaha kama tanafasa hawaha” )
His wounds were mixed by her wounds as if the umbilical cord between them was never cut.

I will remind you of what this American lady has said living in the city when it was a waste and its inhabitants were poor and hungry and there is almost nothing in the city.
She loved the place in such a way that makes her say that the year they spent in Benghazi is one of the happiest in their lives and not just the years spent in Libya.
And that all what is in the city “took hold of your heart as no big city could”

Now that’s a remarkable statement.

So what is the secret of this place? And what is this “magnet” ?
The other strange thing about this city is that in here you can find people whose last names indicate the city they came from like: Trabolsi from Tripoli, Misrati from Misurata, Tarhooni from Tarhoona, Awjili from Awjila and so on,
And you will find these names in other Libyan cities as well.
But you will never hear Benghazi or Benaghzi from Benghazi .. why is that?

There is no alternative word to express the origin of Benghazi as in the case of Bani Waleed you won’t expect to hear “Bani Waleedi”, but you will hear the alternate word Werfali.
The same case for Jalo, there is no “Jaloi”word like Awjili from Awjila, but there is the word Majbiri.
So why there is no surname Benghazian in our country ? Excluding of course some Facebook page titles.

This cannot be explained by the difficulty in pronouncing the word as you may hear in Trpoli for example: “some Benaghza live in this villa” meaning some people from Benghazi.
To be fair this does not mean that there had been no migration from the city. After the discovery of oil in Libya there was a boom so some merchants from Benghazi moved to Tripoli. And in the last few years a lot of computer engineers from this city could not find work so they moved to Tripoli because of this horrible centralization policy that concentrated most oil companies, public institutes and foreign companies in Tripoli.

I personally have never heard any last name or surname of “Benghazian”, so what is the reason?
Is it that this is no ethnic race by this name as the city is really a mixture of all races of the country?
Or is it that the city imports but does not export ?
That is this city is like a magnet pulling whoever come inside not allowing them to escape?

So you fans and lovers…

Didn’t I tell you that we will “loosen up and get high” in a “hazra” party?

And you emotionally sensitive folks, didn’t I warn you?

Very well then.
Let’s just dry up what has fallen from their summit onto the cheeks.

To our Libyan brothers who cannot understand this relation to the city and these fizzy emotions I say:
Our love for Benghazi is part of our love of Libya.
But there is something that we do not understand and don’t expect you to understand it either.
How the part is sometimes becomes bigger than the whole that is supposed to contain it ! ! !

We will come back now to our first topic about this author Agnes Newton Keith.
There are two things that bother or hurt me.
The first is that there is no mention of this book or the author in our literature or writings, and there is no street named after her name.
The situation is even beyond our culture. Her honest and loving opinion of this Islamic society showing its bright side in the hardest of all conditions did not seem to please the anti islamists to the point that in many websites listing the works of Agnes Newton Keith there is no mention of this book.

The second thing that hurts me more is that this writer has died in the year 1982 at an age of 80 years, her husband has also died in the same year.
So I have missed an opportunity to write to her expressing my gratitude for what she has done and written, describing for her the state of this country that she loved. I am sure that she would have been eager to hear, and she may not believe the state of the country now.
This lady was not a Moslem, but in her book she had been using expressions that we Moslems normally use like Walahi – In sha’Allah – Bismi-llahi.
The one she liked most was El hamdu li’llah (Thanks to Allah).
She used it to express her own feelings whenever she encountered something she liked.

So I pray and ask Allah to reward her richly for what she has written and done.

Finally I would like to ask readers for an advice regarding a matter that was difficult for me to solve.
I have made a photocopy of this book, so I can keep this copy for myself.
and I would like to give away the book as a gift for the benefit of all Libyans, but whom shall I give it to?
To the National Libyan Library?
To the library of the university?
To some computer center for scanning the book turning it to an eBook that can be easily distributed, and what about copyrights?
To a translation bureau to translate it into Arabic, and once again what about copyrights?
To one of the book stores to photocopy it, and once again what about copyrights?
To a distinguished writer?

I am asking for an advice, so please advise me.

This article should have been the first of thirty articles in a series called “Banquet for fasters” that I used to write during the month of Ramadan on a daily basis.
After what has happened in Benghazi of killings and explosions I expected many writers to comment on the event in such a way that makes the reader sick of reading in the same way that he got sick of television and all the analysts and their shows.
So I decided to publish this article early, as this is the will of Allah to make this article an introduction to the series. Many Libyans have never heard of this series of articles nor the author, because I used to write on the first and most popular board “Alsaha Alarabyia” in addition to http://www.I3jaz.com.ly website.

That series was directed towards the Arab homeland, but this year it will be dressed in a Libya dress.
I have started writing these articles in 2007, but stopped in the years 2011 and 2012 because of what Libya was going through.
The “Banquet” this year will go through a unique development, as it will be written in Arabic and English just like this article, besides the diversity of the topics.
The reason for writing in English is that this “banquet” will not be restricted to the boundaries of Arab countries, because the internet is now available worldwide. And there are many Arab and Muslim communities in all parts of the world, so no longer are there boundaries for thought or communications.

The second generation of immigrants do not speak Arabic well, or they understand English better because it is the first international language.
These communities have friends who inquire about the Arab culture and our way of living, so these articles can lead to more socializing as they give a firsthand account of our lives.
As you may know most translation activities here move in most cases in one direction from foreign languages into Arabic, we never ask ourselves what literature works have we giving back to the rest of the world?

All previous excuses for not translating our works are no longer valid with the spread on the internet and the role that search engines play in spreading ideas. One can barely finish writing an article to discover that search engines have picked it up and classified it.
Translation depends on understanding the “spirit or the soul of the subject”, and the translator is sometimes required to clarify some aspects of an idea, but when the writer is translating his own work as he writes it, that adds more clarity and would really convey whatever ideas the writer intends to express.
The writer may benefit from this in improving his work, as language is a tool for thinking as well as for expressing ideas. Computer translation can not suffice especially between languages of different origins.

Writing in English is not a new experience for me as I have previously written some articles regarding miracles in the Quraan in both Arabic and English languages, but writing about general topics that deal with our daily lives using some colloquial language requires some special handling.
I hope that I have succeeded in the selection of content, for the style of writing, for the timing, and for the websites to allow you the reader to receive my message.

If this article pleased you, then you can expect more of the same during Ramadan every day In Shaa Allah. The cook who prepared this meal for you is now “between his pots and his lines” (in Arabic: baina godoorihi wa sotoorihi)

Peace, mercy and blessings upon you from Allah

Mohamed Khaled Alkeilani is an electronics engineer and a private researcher. He is also a graduate of the university of California Davis, currently residing in Benghazi Libya. You can read the orginal article from here http://www.alkeilani.com/n-coa.html

Benghazi 2014: Another year with Assassinations (Infographic)

A year is almost gone, and Benghazi is facing months that never confronted before. The conflict between Libyan Army and extremists began almost in May. However, Operation Dignity started as a response to the number of assassinations against military people and policemen.
It becomes clear that some people complain that there’s no a proof that Ansar Al-Sharia is behind these assassinations. Because I know data could provide the proof, I have done a little research and gathering some data to make sure it’s easy to provide the poof.
I visited the most reliable news websites to pull out some data, such as who’s assassinated and where he/she was murdered. I came up with this list that contains more than 230 people who were killed or faced an assassination attempt in 2014 only in Benghazi, not mention other cities.

This is a screenshot of the first page.
You can get the full list from here:

This is a screenshot of the first page.

Data is so important that we can study the behavior of things. In this case, we would understand and know who is behind all this assassinations. This data reveals that more than 70% who faced assassination is either military people or policemen. More than 95% of crimes were done by hit and run using guns. Therefore, targets and the way of committing the crime are similar, so it could be only one criminal.
The most days while assassinations where committed is Fridays, which I believe it’s tight back to the idea of Friday is a holy day in Islam. The most month which assassinations were committed is September with 45 people were killed.

There are 11 activists who were killed only because they stood up against extremists. Twfik Ben Soud, Sami AlKwafi, Salwa Boagisis, and Muftah Bozid are the most remarkable people we lost in 2014.


It’s not possible to solve these crimes. People who in charge can go beyond that. They can investigate other aspects of assassinations. They have a complete resource to dig deep, such as tracing victims history and how it affect the crime.

This infographic shows a year in Benghazi with assassination.

Operation Dignity is one solution to extract this cancer. However, looking for another signs and gathering/analyzing data is another approach.

Update: I’ve recived massages and emails from people who have someone was assassinated in 2014 who is not in the list. Again, I would mention that this list is the least number that I could count. In other words, the reality is more than 230.

 

How We Make Libyans Take Action Toward The Change

Ahmed is a Libyan man who is educated and well known for his passionate for the good change. He uses internet and watch TV everyday. Both of them provide educational material on how to change for the good behavior. However, Ahmed still does the things that he used to do every day, such as crossing the red light while driving. He knows it’s wrong, but he keeps crossing it every time. In general, Ahmed is not a bad guy, but he keeps doing the bad habit every time. 

Isn’t odd? Many Libyans are the same. How we change Ahmed? How we make him follow the rules everyday?

The Golden Circle

Watching the great TEDx talk by Simon Sienk on “How great leaders inspire actions,” he inspired me on how we could embody the good behavior for ever. Even though he’s talking about the leaders of the business world, but we could apply his idea to our conscious. Let me explain his point first:
His theory is called The Golden Circle. It’s basically the three common questions, What, How, and Why. His idea is that most of companies think of their products as WHAT it is ; HOW we created; and WHY we created. So, Imagine the processes as a circle from outside to inside.

Simon idea is to reverse the order of communication. We should start with why first, how, and then what. The why starts with our believe of something that we change for it.
I believe of changing my people. I believe of the idea of waking up and realizing your reality. I launched this blog because I believe in something, not just creating a blog. Creating this blog is not the reason, it’s just the WHAT. The Why is all the purpose. I believe of conveying my thoughts to other people through this Blog.
If Ahmed finds his WHY, before getting to What, he could fulfilled his life with good behavior. If everyone finds his WHY, we can change Libya to a better place. 
The old way to motivate people by rewarding them on good behavior, and punch them on bad behavior is not working anymore. Libya today faces this issue. There’s no powerful government to reward and punch people. Therefore, people like Ahmed will do things just to satisfy their desires. For example, crossing the red light and the reward is getting faster. 
On Contrary, Powerful leaders, parents, teachers, or governments, don’t use the old reward/punishment strategy. They inspire others. They install the good behavior in people . So, people do the good things, not because waiting for reward or because what other want, but because they believe it is good. The key word here is BELIEVE.
If we take the Golden Circle and overlay it on the human brain, as shown in this diagram:

The outside part of the brain (the WHAT level) is responsible for rational and analytical thoughts. We can understand complicated things. 

The middle side of the brain (the HOW level) is responsible for emotional activity, trust, loyalty, and feeling. 

The inside part (the WHY level) is responsible for behavior and decision making. 

If we communicate from outside in, people can understand complicated information, such as facts and benefits. 

However, If we communicate from Inside out, people can change easily because we target the behavior part deep inside, then moving to outside to understand this change in real life.

Eventually, to change people, we have to target the inner side first by making them believe in what is rightful for them and their country. We should start with the WHY he/she must change. Then moving to HOW he/she will change. Then to WHAT to be. This processes should start from inside out. By doing this, we make the change that last for long time.

“Switch: How to change Things when the change is hard” Book Should Every Libyan read it

By looking for any signs of how to change myself and my people, I have targeted some bestseller books that talk about changing and how to influence other people. I’ve done reading the first book. “Switch: How to change Things When The Change Is Hard” By Chip and Dan Heath. It’s an amazing book that I couldn’t stop reading it. I decided to give a summery, blink, or (الزبدة) of this great book here.

First of all, I’m going to illustrate some definitions that are used heavily in the book:

The Rider is the rational side of human brains. The rider goes for knowledge. He’s the thinker and planner. Most important he’s the decision maker.
The Elephant is the emotional side of human brains. It’s motivated and fueled by hope. It could be automated accordingly.
The path is the way to the change. It’s the situation or the environment that affects the change.
Heath uses the rider, elephant, and the path to illustrate the processes toward the change. Moving the elephant by the rider on the path from A to B is what the book is talking about.

Heath suggests that in order to make any change, we have to target one or more of the three parts. People or organizations could be directed to the full change by using one of combination of the technique in this book. Let’s make the change by:

Direct the Rider

This is where we should touch on Libyan people’s rational side. Unfortunately, lots of Libyans don’t use this side. I know it’s not actually true. But the truth is we are live more on our emotional side. Because “what looks like resistance is often lack of clarity” Heath says. For example, lots of regular Libyans, especially the old one, can’t understand the idea of using Visa Cards to purchase  stuff. Because they don’t have any idea on how it works, they refuse the change. They will keep using cash. Therefore, we could make it clear for them that their rational side (The rider) will have an image before making the change .Let’s target their rational side (the rider) by:

1-Find the bright spots :

Give them some case studies. Show them what’s working and not working. We have to dig deep of any bright spots in Libya or outside Libya that succeed. If something is working, we should copy it. Understanding what makes it work, analysis it, then replicate it. For example, Turkey has dramatically succeed creating modern developed country. Libyans should study and analysis their improvements, and then trying to replicate it . We should concentrate on the strength not on problems. Problem solving mood is waste of time. Instead, we should focus on successful things and ask how we replicate it.

2-script the critical moves:

Sometimes if we want to change, we have to remove the ambiguity. Uncertainty exhausts our brain. Then, we stop thinking about the change. Therefore, the path to the full change should be clear. As the rider controls the elephant, he should create some critical moves toward the change. You can write down the most important moves.  If we ask the child to go to school for the first time without hesitation, he will refuse. Because of the ambiguity in his first day. Thus, to make it easier for the child, go with him to the first day inside the class. Planing a head is important. But going too detailed with every move is not helping the change. Planing only just the critical moves is the best why to the rider. “If you want someone to change with new way, explain the new way clearly” Heath. We should change our goals to behaviors.

3-Point to the Destination:

Everyone is able to imagine the goal that one wants to reach. When you start your diet, you probably imagine how you are going to look like. Big goals motivate you (Both sides, rational and emotional sides). It’s like showing the best future of you. Imagine that Libya is a modern developed country. Then go back and ask what we could do to reach their. So, to motivate people, just point to the best destination. Heath refers to this as “Pastcard fro the future”. For example, once the revolution has erupted, every single Libyan has imagined how Libya will look like after the victory. This was a great motivation factor toward the change, and important fact removes ambiguity.

Motivate the elephant

This is the part where it gets excited. The emotional side (The elephant) is the most heavily side used by Libyans. The emotional side is easy to be guided. To make the switch easy and fast, we have to motivate the elephant. It’s easy to control the young Libyans by touching on their emotions. It’s used everyday in the current conflict (How they make impact on their opinion by the media). Therefore, this energy should be used in the correct place. Let’s use their elephant to motivate them for the good change. Let’s target their emotional side by:

1-Find the feeling

Most of the theories say that to change something we should perform analysis, thinking, and then changing steps in this order. However, to motivate the elephant, we need to perform it like this way: see, feel, and then change. That’s why we need to find the feeling. We should motivate the people to become interested in the change. For example, because of their feeling toward their country, Libyans in 2011 were full of motivation to change. Once they lose the feeling, Libya has fallen apart. A father could talk to his son everyday to pay more attention to his studies. But his son can’t get the importance of his study. Therefore, the father, in one of their trips, pointed to some homeless people who sleep in streets and said: son, if you don’t study, you become like these people. This is where we find the feeling. We need to find something that Libyans care about.

2-Shrink the change

It’s another term of “small wins“. The journey of 1000 mile starts with the first mile. People tend to do the short stuff first. So, to make the change easier, we have to split it into small parts. It’s easy to make impact on people feeling by convincing that the change is easy and quick. Once we finish the first easy thing, we will have the motivation to do the other things. For example, in Libya, we can focus on security issues first. Trying not over loaded ourselves with too much changes. Finishing the security issues, we can move to next things, such as education. By focusing on issues part by part we can improve Libya. Once we succeed in something, we will have the motivation to do the next step.

3-Grow your people

This is where we should touch on our identity. Grow your people means make them believe in their ability toward the change. We have to embrace the new Libyan identity as capable of the change. How to make this identity grow, by accepting the current situation as failure. Then, accepting the failure as inevitable but also useful. The failure teaches us how to improve. Not doing it again. The author of the book describes it as muscles that are not fixed but can be trained to become more powerful. That’s way we should implant it in our people. Once people become confident, it becomes easier to change them.

Shape the path

To make it easier for them to change, we have to make the path easy and clear. The path is embedded in our environment. When you drive your car on a road for the first time, you usually pay too much attention to the signs on the side road. So, our path toward the change should be marked down with good signs. Most importantly, make this path a cycle never end. Make it sustainable for the future change. Let’s target the path now by:

1-Tweak the environment

The author says what looks like people’s problem is often situation’s problem. That’s truth. Most Libyans when they travel, they follow the rules perfectly. For example, someone  throws trashes in his Libyan city. While outside Libya, the same person never does that. Why? because of our situation now. There are many factors don’t support the change, such as the absence of orders and laws. I’ve written a complete topic describes the effect of our environment toward the change. 

2-Build habits

The good habit helps the change. The elephant is the responsible of the habit part in our brains. Once we construct the perfect habit, we will get a free ride. The autopilot of our brain will start functioning without any rider’s intervention, which means relief and no stress. To build the good habit, we need to build the habit loop. If we setup it correctly, we will build habit that will make the change. I’ve written a topic talks about Libyan Habit and How to Change it. 

3-Rally the herd

When people lack of clarity, they tend to observe the other people and try to do what they are doing. It’s the social norms. It’s easy to follow other people if you don’t understand something. Such as in airports, when you don’t know where to go in terminal, you follow other people hoping they know the way out. Therefore, spreading the right behavior among the people makes it easier to change. Behavior is contagious.

I made  this video for more illustration:

Summary

When you want to change yourself to others, three important key components affect your success: The rider represents the rational side. The elephant represents the emotional side. The path represents the situation and environment.   The three factors make the change tangible.

 

What It Means To Be Libyan

Originally posted on Journal of a Revolution:

Yes, it’s another culture post. I’m a Libyan who’s obsessed with the intellectual revival of my country, okay? While political flame wars are fun, it’s the artistic manifestations of this unstable and contrasting country that piques my interest. I’ve written about our cultural bankruptcy and Libya’s lost literature. And yes, I’ve revisited this topic several times before.

Pictured: Something difficult to find Libya (the book, not chewing gum) Pictured: Something difficult to find Libya (the book, not chewing gum)

What really pushed me to write about it again was a book, namely Chewing Gum, by Mansour Bushnaf. I stumbled on this book almost by accident. There was a BBC report called “killing books in Libya” in which the author himself describes the dismal state of publishing in the country. My compulsive googling habits led me to discover his recently published book, and my rage at being unable to attain a copy led naturally to a prolonged Twitter rant at the injustice of not being able to buy books…

View original 971 more words

What Would Be If Specifically Designed For Libyans ?

I believe the change starts with us by changing our behavior and our environment. Without government, restrictions, and law and order, we fall in complete chaos.

These are some ideas made specifically for Libyans. It’s just for fun. These things need to be fixed with other ways.

1- Moving out from traffic light in the red:

Car traffic light-01

2- Littering: throwing trashes out of window:

trach can-03

3- Disorganization and not driving  in lanes:

Highways with wall lanes

4- Disorganization and not standing in lines:

stand-01

Note: it works as well in Walmart during the Black Friday events.

5- Disorganization and not parking correctly:

Parking lot with walls

Yes, We Need ِAn Intervention To Help Libya.

 

intervention

 

Do you think this topic is to debate whether the UN should intervene in Libya or not. This topic focuses on the intervention in Libya not militarily, but culturally and ethically.

Anyone lives in Libya could observe the ignorance among Libyans. They lost their identity as an educated people “I don’t think I have ever seen a Libyan in Libya sitting and reading a book for pleasure” as Ann Marlowe describes her feeling after visiting Libya in 2011 . Instead, Libyan people keep neglecting the fact that improving any country requires discipline in anything we do.

Who we should blame? Gaddafi!! or ourselves. If we keep blaming the 42 years ago plus the last 4 years, we will never make any progress. As I always say that what happens in Libya now, it’s the result of the sum of laziness, irresponsibility, and ignorance together by Libyan people.

WAKE UP !! before we lose Libya.

Yes, we need an intervention. An intervention of waking us up.

“Often an intervention is an effective way to persuade loved ones to take the first step toward recovery”. This is what people do in western counties.

We need an intervention in Libya to change our perspective to the modern society.

We need an intervention to make us active and care about our work.

We need an intervention to implant in ourselves the word responsibility. Everyone should do his/her work perfectly.

Ann Marlowe says that it’s not the USA to be blamed for the chaos in Libya, Libyans should be blamed in her report.

“Libya could be a wonderful example to the world, of Muslims who threw off their oppressive government and set out to govern themselves democratically and to create a vibrant and open society. But for that, they would have to have a different culture than the one they’ve inherited” Ann Marlowe says.

 

It’s not coincidence that we have all these problems right now. The big issue relays on us. The absence of the modern culture for 42 years has effected the life in Libya.  Libyans treat their government as just an open bank for them. They totally depend on the oil. Many people work for the government. They receive the full salary, and should be working the full time that they got paid for it. However, they work only half the time they should be. And If they set and work, they wouldn’t do their job perfectly. To be clear, not everyone, but the majority does that. It becomes the Libyan culture of working at the government.

“Americans come from many backgrounds, but one thing most of us share is a work ethic. Libyans do not” Ann Marlowe says.

As I mention before, many countries used  foreigner managers to manage their life , such as UAE. It’s an intervention, not militarily, but ethically.I totally agree with  this type of  intervention, because I’m sure Libyans alone, this generation and the next, will not be able to build a modern society where everyone can take responsibility. The government should replace all Libyans who work in the government with other people by any nationality to work. Yes, it’s investment in the human resource. We will learn how to control our life according to the international standards.

 

10 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW To Help Libya

tripoli libya

As Libya is going to be a failed state, I was wondering what I can do. You and I are not  political or  military people. We are just a normal civilians. So, probably we can do nothing and just watch our homeland collapse. WRONG!!

There are too much possibilities to do a lot of things to your country. I was thinking how to be an active to save and help  Libya. As I mention before in my topic Change Your Environment to Change Benghazi , the change starts from you.

I have shared 10 things you can do now for Libya  with my friends on Facebook. So, I’m just re-write them again here:

1- Get your car’s plate installed today. If you haven’t register your car yet, go and register your car today. It’s free for a limited time. Reducing the number of cars without plates, could save someone’s life from assassination.

2- Respect all the regulations and order. Be a good citizen by flowing every rules. Do NOT cross the traffic light in red. Do NOT steal the public assets. DO NOT be the cause to hurt someone else. Fighting the corruption starts from you.

3- Remove all dark sticker from your car’s windows. We don’t want more anonymous drivers cause problems.

4- Do NOT share any fake news. Make sure that its resource is reliable. If the news hurts someone, don’t post it in your Facebook wall even though it was true.

5- Do NOT comment or replay to anyone on social media with aggressive way. Try to respect other’s opinion. Listen first, then act accordingly with a good behavior. If the other person insists on his viewpoint, you shouldn’t debate with him anymore.

6- Do your job a 100% perfect. Arrive at you work on time. Leave at the time. Try to serve the other with smile. Try help the other people to get their stuff done. We don’t want any more stressful public service places.

7- BE optimistic. Do not use pessimistic words about Libya. If you feel upset with the current situation, just try to change it without negative actions. Do NOT post on your Facebook account “LIBYA IS OVER”. You have to  say just  “LIBYA IS GOING TO BE OK SOON”

8- Supplicate to ALLAH. Ask Allah every time in your pray to help us getting over it.

9- Advise other Libyans to do the good stuff. Every time you meet your friends, ask them to be  good citizens. Start with sharing this list with your friends.

10- Commit to do all this things in your daily life. We are the reason of the current situation in Libya now. Therefore, we will be the reason to over come all this obstacles. REMEMBER, the chain reaction effect. It will start with you, then will move to others.

2 Ways To Add and Find Your Favorite Places Online

Wikifoure

Last January, I talked about establishing your business online on Google Places.  Once people search for a specific business category, they will find a complete list of all businesses and their information. Related: Google Places: Few Steps to Publish your Business Online. It Works Perfect in Benghazi 

But if you want to find, let’s say, a mosque in Benghazi, you won’t find it online unless you ask one of your friends. To find this mosque online and its location on a map, someone has to add this information to any map online.
There are many ways that people can add places on a map online. Google places one of them. This two ways are easier and more informative than any thing else:

1- Using Wikimapia.org 

This website uses the idea of people can add their places. This is the easiest things I found online to add some places. The benefit from this website is people add informal places that no one think to add. It’s not official website that you get official places, but people who are the responsible for these places. The power of people is translated on this map. Go and check it. Try to write any mosque’s name and you will find it easily. Go to wikimapia and add your own places such as your home or your business. As much as people add places, the website will increase its credibility to becomes an important resource.

Screen shot

Screen shot

2- Using Foursquare App

Have you ever checked In using Facebook. Usually people like prove that they are in a specific and spacial place. They share that with other people. What if you find some good information on this place. This is exactly what Foursquare dose.
Foursqaure helps you to check in and gives you some information and people’s review on this place. Foursqaure is an app on your phone and it uses your GPS to locate your location. And then gives you informative review by people, such as best restaurant close to your location. It’s fun, playful, and informative. You can also access to Foursqaure.com  and check some places.

Foursquare

This app uses the power of people, because people who are responsible on adding these places. I use this app daily. I add as many places and review them as much to help other people finding the right information.
People should take advantages of this technology. They can adopt the new way of accessing data and information among this insanely increased technology.