9 Oct 2011

Return to Tripoli – it's good to be back

Normal life is returning to Tripoli, blogs Lindsey Hilsum, back in Libya to research a book on recent events in the country. Petrol is now plentiful and the population’s attention has turned to the national team’s performance in football’s African Nations Cup.

The rains have come early to Libya this year – the driver who brought me to Tripoli from Tunisia told me it proves that God is happy.

Certainly things are changing here. Six weeks ago, you would see hundreds of cars parked at petrol stations – people might wait for three days, because there was none in Libya, and smugglers couldn’t get enough over the border from Tunisia.

Now the plastic jerry-cans of petrol for sale on the Tunisian side have been smuggled the other way. In Libya, petrol is plentiful, and eight times cheaper. Some Tunisians endure hours of waiting and customs formalities just to nip across and fill the tank.

Revolutionary flags are still festooned across the road, and buildings reduced to rubble by Nato bombings or damaged by shelling line the route. The roadblocks are friendly but frequent.

There was very little traffic, because everyone was inside watching Libya play Zambia in the African Nations Cup. As I arrived in Tripoli, a huge burst of celebratory gunfire sounded across the city. It was only a no-score draw, but I’m told Libya still qualifies for the next round. If they’d won the match, it I might have thought the revolution was starting all over again.

I have returned to research and write a book on Libya so I won’t be appearing on Channel 4 News – unless they find Gaddafi, of course, in which case of course I will.

It’s good to be back. The rain has flooded the roads and made the desert green. Yellow dates cascade from the palm trees. We passed a white truck with 12 camels tied down in the back, their brown furry faces poking out on all sides. It’s good to be back.

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