My friend Tarek Shalaby called one day telling me that we are going to Libya. I trust Tarek, he sometimes takes decisions for both of us (including signing contracts for work!). After thinking it was a crazy but worth exploring idea we saw Seif El Islam that night on TV saying the amount of shit heading towards the fan. A few days later we were getting info on what medicine is needed, collecting money to buy it, and a few more friends took interest in the trip. We then in 24 hours collected around 40 bacos (thousand LE) and bought medicines to join the ride.
Me, Tarek, Hassan El Toukhy, Adel Abdel Ghafar, Mahmoud El Baroudi and Sarah Sea met infront of Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque to start our trip with two cars filled with medicine and excitement. Reaching Salloum beyond midnight – where we already saw at least 25 pick-ups loaded with medical stuff donated from Orascom and coordinated by the Arab Medical Union – we found a long line of at least 250 empty microbuses waiting to get in the city and by the borders, not the usual scene! We drove by until we reached the boarders where on our way we discovered that the magic word to pass army check points was ‘Kafela’ (convoy). The borders were of course closed and the army officer told us that we should come back in the morning but no one will be allowed inside Libya, it seemed our journey would end here.
Waking up in a hotel reception the next day where half of us slept there and the rest in the cars. We met someone that could help bring the medicine inside to trusted people in order to be sure would bring it to the most needed places and won’t keep it stored in some room and sell it later in the black market – which apparently happens. We went beyond the army checkpoint on the borders with the excuse of dropping off the medicine and coming back. We successfully convinced him that we needed 7 people to make the drop off. At that point me, Hassan and Baroudi didn’t have our passports (smart huh! Mainly my fault though) Tarek didn’t have his army permission, luckily 50 pounds and the chaos took care of all this. I hope this will not be the only time for me to pass borders with my ID.
The borders were filled with people from all around Asia and Africa stuck there figuring a way to go back home. This served as our exchange service since they all wanted to get rid of Libyan money and get Egyptian pounds. We also bought a phone sim for 10 LE from Agogo. His friends kept calling his phone the whole trip to ask about him. when they knew he fled, they started asking how they could join. We also met a group of Egyptian doctors and volunteers heading into Libya, they said we could join the group and take our medicine to the next city Tubruq. A free night in a luxurious hotel in Tubruq was the first in many incidents where we got special treatment – special is an understatement though. It was decided that we would move to Benghazi since not much action happened in Tubruq so the doctors and our medicine would be need more in further cities.
The new Libyan flag being put on the borders #History
We arrived to the hospital in Benghazi to find people shooting in the air celebrating our arrival. The city was just liberated a few days before we arrived and celebrations and festivities were all around. Luckily the hospital we were at was beside their Tahrir Square, people were chanting, singing and waving their flags proudly. One different thing is that women and men were not standing together, each had their spot. There was at least two Egyptian medical tents there, which made me proud. We were celebrated by everyone and had zero negative experiences from Libyans. Everyone was happy to see us, some were emotional about us leaving. People that might be holding a gun or that have been detained by past the Egyptian or the Libyan regimes; it’s always more touching when you find a tough person emotional, especially if you have only known them for a day.
As most trips, the people you meet are what makes it special – or shitty. The group of doctors had many interesting and inspiring individuals, starting from a 19 year old guy that was held on shoulders and was leading the chanting in Benghazi. We met also Dina, a friend of ours that was one of the field doctors in Tahrir, she has arrived the day before to Benghazi. She lives in lebanon but came back for the Egyptian revolution to be in the field doctors in front lines in Tahrir. She later went back to Lebanon to hear that the Libya situation have escalated, when her boss refused to give her another vacation to go help Libyans she quit her job and headed to Libya. Abdo has lost his friend in Tahrir, he’s not a doctor, but he was begging the doctors to take them with them to the front lines to offer any kind of help.
During our stay when we sometimes needed to move from one point to another, Taxi? nah, stop any car and they’ll give you a lift. This was the kind of energy around us, peace was definitely in the air.
Some were friendly to the extent that they offered to pass by us the following morning to show us around, don’t you just love the arab hospitality!
A thought that came to my mind is when is the right time for intervention and what kind of intervention should it be? A lot of the people we met refused international intervention fearing its consequences, others asking for someone – anyone – to stop these massacres. But what is our role now? should we pressure for intervention? or send more medical aid and doctors? I couldn’t decide. Is there a magic number of how many people should be mass murdered before we intervene? At the same time I was hearing that each city was training and sending troops to Tripoli to continue the fight, I hope its a matter of days. But knowing more lives will be lost until the lunatic is out of power is painful. I guess its inevitable when people reach the point that the revolution turns into a war for survival and that people know that they will have to either die fighting for their freedom from oppressors or live to celebrate this new life. I guess now we have to respect their will to finish their mission all alone.
The next morning two of our new friends passed by us and we headed to the areas which were the main war zones a few days earlier, all of them were government buildings in some way or the house or a guest house of Qazzafi’s. Families headed to his houses where they were burnt down and with graffiti on its wall. People wanted to explore the world that they were not allowed in, and see where their tax money went, including an underground prison. A few hours after our tour we headed back to Salloum to start our journey back home.
The doctors group where split into three groups, 4 doctors headed towards the war zone in the west, they were trained to shoot guns and escorted with the civilian army in case of encounters. Later they were split again when 2 doctors (Dina being one of them) went even further into the action (her last sms indicated that there is much dead and blood everywhere). Some waited until it was safer to go to the west and others went back to Egypt. The medical supplies we had reached Benghazi, some of it was taken to the front lines, and the rest distributed where needed. I felt lucky meeting these guys, where some are consciously risking their own lives to save others. We see it in the movies, but to live it was a different experience. I am also lucky to live this experience with the smaller group of 6, somehow we had fun even in the frustrating moments for the bigger group, we always managed to balance digesting our surrounding and enjoy the trip as a group since luckily all the places we visiting was liberated and celebrating.
Needles to say our revolution in Egypt is not done, I hope we don’t reach the point that we need to burn the presidential palace to discover what was inside. Where are all of the detention centers we have? Why are the secrets of the past regime have not been exposed? Actual stuff not little bits of information to shut us up.
So this is officially my first actual blog post, it was only the timeline of the events, probably I’ll write another about my opinions on the Libyan revolution, differences between both revolutions. Hopefully by then the Libyan people would have gained their whole country back. Tarek have worked on a video for the trip, you could watch it here.
3ashat Libya 7urra!