Libya – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com Expat destinations off the beaten paths Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:32:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/wp-content/uploads/logo-2-161x150.png Libya – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com 32 32 68156955 Libya Jobs – Getting a Health Certificate http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/libya-jobs-health-certificate/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/libya-jobs-health-certificate/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 07:24:52 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2184 Despite the war, the instability and the very real dangers, Libya jobs continue to attract expats from all over the world. Very little can be found on the internet to help those expats prepare a move to Libya. My expat life in Libya may be over but I lived

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Despite the war, the instability and the very real dangers, Libya jobs continue to attract expats from all over the world. Very little can be found on the internet to help those expats prepare a move to Libya. My expat life in Libya may be over but I lived there and i can tell you what google can’t: getting a Health Certificate is both extremely important and terribly difficult. You ready?

Essential information for expats to Libya is missing. That is a fact. Before moving to Libya in 2012, i had no idea that i would need a health certificate to be allowed to work in that country. No one ever told me, i never read about it online, specialised Libya jobs websites had nothing to say on the subject. Yet i found out later (almost too late) that without medical clearance your employment contract becomes automatically void, your visas will be cancelled and you will be asked to leave Libya as the earliest possible time. That’s how important it is.

But how do you get that health certificate? Where do you need to go? How much does it cost? I’ll try my best to answer all those questions but as usual with the administration in Libya nothing is easy or straight forward and information, even on the ground, is hard to find. As for actually getting a health certificate, it’s gonna take some work.

Important Things to Remember:

  1. only certificates issued in Libya by Libyan authorities are accepted by employers. They may ask you to go and pay for a medical check in your country of origin but they will disregard it and ask you to do it again soon after you arrive in Libya.
  2. Certificates usually expire after 1 year
  3. Prices vary from one city to another but 65 LYD per person per certificate is a good average

 

Libya Jobs: Getting a Health CERTIFICATE

So you got a job offer in Libya which you have accepted, you’ve packed up your life in a few suitcases and you’ve finally arrived. This is when you learn (probably for the first time) that you need a health certificate. Well, brace yourself, it’s not gonna be easy, it’s gonna drive you mad but it can be done and you may even be able to laugh about it afterwards. Here is the day by day, place by place, step by step procedure you are likely to have to follow to get that precious document.

Libya jobs

Day 1 – Step 1:

We go to the University Hospital in Zawia, walk back and forth for some time until we find the right office and as soon as we find it, the person in charge tells us that they can’t issue receipt. In any other country, that wouldn’t be a problem but in Libya that’s the end of the world. Therefore we are asked to move straight to step 2 and for that we need to go elsewhere. No no, not another office in the hospital, elsewhere as in take you car and drive.

Day 1 – Step 2:

We were asked to go to the Ministry of Health in Zawia, which happens to be quite on the other side of the city and so far from the hospital that we almost arrived too late. At the Ministry of Health we paid for our medical and lab analysis and got a receipt. We are now 120 LYD lighter but that’s it, there is no more we can do here. We are directed to go back to the University Hospital in the city.

Day 1 – Step 3:

Back to square 1 in University Hospital we struggle once again to find the right wing of the hospital. There you hand in your passport and in exchange they open a file for you and start the admin process of getting you the right paperwork to get your medical exams done. After that we finally get to the medical part of this whole operation and they take some blood sample. They will keep your passport and issue you with a receipt to get it back once you get the final certificate. I guess this is where things would go badly if you couldn’t get the certificate validated. If your results are positive and you are shown to have HIV, TB or Hep then you will get your passport back but only so that you can exit the country!

Libya jobs

Day 2:

In order to do a series of chest X-rays we went to a different hospital in Zawia. We arrived at 9am only to be told they were done for the day, please come back tomorrow! This is where we learnt that some days are for Libyans only, others for expats. Which days exactly? who knows? No one ever tells you which day to come or at what time. Best thing is to hope you come on the right day and time next time. Ohhh and we’ll need to fork out another 20LYD per person for the X-ray. Didn’t we have to travel all around the city to the Ministry of Health to settle all payments??? Apparently not!

Libya jobs

Day 3 – Step 1:

We went back to the second hospital where we had been the day before arriving at 8am this time. We gave 2 ID pictures and 20LYD each to get yet another file opened in our name. There is no such thing as a centralised bank of information in Libya, so everywhere you go, you need to provide the same documents again and again. We once had to hand out 3 passport copies and sets of pictures in the same place just because it was for different people, whose desk were actually on the same floor and within sight of each other. Anyway after we handed out money and pictures we ….. waited…. for a loooooong time! Finally our turn to do the X-ray came at about 10am. Let’s move to the next step.

Day 3 – Step 2:

Oooops can’t do step 2. A signature is needed on our X-ray card and the only person who can sign won’t be in until 12pm. That’s another thing you’ll learn fast, Libyans love signatures and stamps. Just check out our health certificates once they were done with it!

Libya jobs

How many stamps and signatures can you count?

Instead, we went back to the 1st hospital (the University Hospital in Zawia) to collect our file, the one from Day 1 – Step 3 remember? It’s now ready for us and it already has 6 different stamps on it. We need that file for the next day in order to get our last 3 medical checks done, namely general well-being check, eye check and skin check. Don’t ask!

Libya jobs

Day 4 – Step 1:

At this point, if you’re reading this you may wonder how all this can be done during a normal working week because of course you can’t do all that during the weekend. Answer is simple, you’ll need to take time off work, cancel and reschedule lessons and catch up on other work related business later.

Anyway on Day 4, we went first to the same hospital as day 3 (not the University one, the other one, you keeping up?) to collect our X-Ray card with that signature and the results of the X-ray on it. Not sure which one is actually more important in Libya but i wouldn’t be so sure it’s the results.

Day 4 – Step 2:

We then had to drive to yet another hospital, 3rd one we visited in this whole process so far, to have the 3 check ups done. This is where it gets funny. Despite being tired and frustrated by the whole thing, when we left the hospital my husband and i bursted in laughter and couldn’t stop for a long time. Here’s why. Remember it’s Day 4, it’s location 4 or 5 or 6… so you’d be expecting something serious and important to happen. Well not in Libya! For the general well-being and skin check “exams” the doctor didn’t even look at us, she just signed the forms. The doctor was actually already in consultation, we were ushered in the room, and we stood there while she signed, her eyes on her patient the whole time.

As for the eye check, this is how it happened. We were both asked to step in the exam room at the same time. My husband went first, he was asked to sit on a stool and to read 1 (ONE) letter from the first line, the extra large font line. Please cover your other eye, Sir. Read that letter please. Can you guess which letter that is? Yep the same one, on the same extra large font line. Thank you. Sir. Could you ask your wife to sit? I sit down, cover my right eye and wait. Please read that letter. And yes, i’m sure you guessed this time, i was asked the read the SAME letter my husband had already read twice while i waited next to him. Cover your other eye and read that letter please, said the lady. Are you laughing already? Yes of course, SAME LETTER AGAIN!!! After this very thorough eye exam, we were both awarded 10 out of 10 for both eyes. Thank you very much. Where it get even funnier is that both my husband and i wear glasses without which we can’t see much. Now you see why we couldn’t stop laughing afterwards?

Anyway can’t stay here all day laughing our heads off in the car, we got some more things to do.

Day 4 – Step 3:

We drove quickly (it was getting late and close to the end of office hours) to the other side of town to yet another branch of the Ministry of Health (nope, not the same as before, that would be too simple) to collect our passports. Unfortunately we arrived too late, the only guy who could give us our passports back had already left… without telling anyone apparently if his colleague’s surprise was any indication.

So???

Well yes, we waited! It was the weekend, so nothing happened for another 2 days!

Libya jobs

Day 5:

After the weekend we went back to the Ministry of Health after work to collect our passports. We arrived in time, went upstairs to the office but at first they told us “come back at 8am“. We explained that we were teaching and that it would be very hard. “Come back in 3 days then” was the answer. Why? Who knows? The guy was there, our passports were ready, it was office hours, we were there but no: come back in 3 days! Ahhh Libya, if you didn’t exist, we would have to invent you. Anyway we insist, they agree to see us. Oh oh turns out we need 4 ID pictures and 10 LYD each!

Luckily we have learnt our lessons and we always carried about 20 ID pictures with us at all times, 20 LYD were not hard to find either so we were back in business. A few more forms, a few more signatures, a few more improbable questions to answer and we were done. They gave us our passports back and they had even made us some laminated Immigrant ID Card, which had our medical results at the back of it.

For the anecdote when i checked my new ID card i was surprised to see that my passport number was written incorrectly, which most likely would make the whole thing invalid if there ever was a problem. But the whole experience had drained us of all our energy and patience so we let it pass. And anyway, remember what i said at the beginning? This whole circus has to be done once a year. Cheers!

Libya jobs

 

One last word

Libya being Libya, this kind of hell rides are only too common at work, at the bank, at the doctor and everywhere else where you need paperwork. Still, i must admit that i miss Libya in many ways. It may sound crazy but Libya is a really nice place to live.

As for that awful system well believe it or not but there are many occasions where the chaos plays in your favour and you can get away with a lot in Libya. I’m not talking anything illegal, just little things that can make your life simple sometimes. Libya i DO miss you.

Have you been to Libya? Did you experience something similar in other countries? Where? Leave comments and share your experience with us.

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House and Flat for Rent in Libya http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/house-flat-rent-libya/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/house-flat-rent-libya/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:47:37 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1237 More than once I’ve been asked about the standards of living in Libya and people are usually surprised to find that standards are actually pretty high. Libya is a very rich country thanks to its production of oil and petrol and Libyans like to build very confortable houses and

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More than once I’ve been asked about the standards of living in Libya and people are usually surprised to find that standards are actually pretty high. Libya is a very rich country thanks to its production of oil and petrol and Libyans like to build very confortable houses and flats for themselves. What can you expect when looking for a house or flat for rent?

As an ESL university teacher (or any other well paid position) in Libya you’ll be able to afford some very decent housing, not only because of your handsome salary but also thanks to the monthly housing allowance included in your contract. Some employers even offer housing for single employees and in that case don’t worry you’ll be in a very nice house.

Prices vary obviously from one city to another, Tripoli the capital city being more expensive. Prices also very much depends on your face: there is nothing regulating the rental markets and landlords and agents will ask for any price they want. Since they usually have the upper hand (more demands than offers) you’ll need to haggle hard and be ready to go over your budget.

To give you an idea of what you can expect when looking for a house or flat for rent in Libya I want to share pictures and details of the properties we rented out in Zawia.

House for rent in Zawia, Libya

The first place we rented out when we moved to Zawia was a little house just outside the city, right by the sea, with very good commute links to the University. Here are some pictures (click to see them full size and get the full content of the captions)

zawia

The back of the house, hidden from view to ensure privacy. The terrace was my favourite place.

house for rent zawia libya house for rent zawia libya house for rent zawia libya house for rent zawia libya

As you can see from the pictures above the house was brand new, in fact it had never been lived in. The landlord had built it for himself but was working away from Zawia for a while.

When it comes to house for rent i’m not too fussy but i like my confort and i put my foot down for 2 things: modern and clean bathroom and kitchen. For the rest i can make it do if necessary. In that first house, we had 2 bathrooms, both brand new and spotless (apart from the sand that gets everywhere in Libya).

zawia

Ensuite bathroom to the Master bedroom with shower (unseen on the left), a corner bath, sink and toilet (behind the wall where the sink is).

zawia

The second bathroom with shower over bath, toilet and sink.

zawia

The Master bedroom with the ensuite bathroom on the left. The bed is a king size so it gives you an idea of the overall size. French doors on the right led to the terrace at the back of the house.

The house came with outdoor space, all around the house, acres of space with olive trees and the occasional sheep, as well as roof space. In countries like Libya, houses are built with flat roofs which serve as an extension to the house and provide “cool” quarters in the evening during the summer.

zawia

Part of the outdoor space that came with the house, enough for children to run wild and the neighboors’ sheep to stroll by.

zawia

Sunset over the olive trees at the back of the house (by the terrace). Again plenty space on that side of the house too.

zawia

The view that makes the house: sea view from the roof top. You could actually hear the sound of the waves from the terrace and the roof

 

  • House rent: 800 LYD (Libyan Dinnars) a month (Landlord initially asked for 1200 LYD, property is actually worth 600-700 LYD but English speaking expats tend to pay more)
  • Rent paid for 6 months in advance
  • Agency fee: 400 LYD
  • Bills: free electricity, refill gaz container = less than 5 LYD per month, free water
  • Reason for leaving: house wasn’t connected to the city water network, water came from the property well and there was too many problems with the pump. Also we became aware that isolated properties like this one were easy targets for gangs operating not far.

 

Flat for rent in Zawia, Libya

After we left the house by the sea (above) we looked for a property that was more secure, that meant going back into the city. We used an agency that found us a brand new flat just a minute away from the “Saahili” the express ring road going in, out and through Zawia. The flat was close to the city centre and not far from the university.

zawia

The block of flat was built by our landlord for his children. 3 flats and a shop on the ground floor on the right. Our flat was on the first floor on the right.

zawia

Our flat occupied the whole first floor on this picture (yellow, beige and brown parts). There was also some outdoor space on the ground to park cars and a large sand/grass area. We also had sole use of the roof space.

 

The flat contained: a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, 2 lounges, 1 dinning room, 3 bedrooms and some large corridor/sun room space. The flat was about 300 meters square + the same in roof space, roughly 600 meters square of living quarters.

zawia

This is a rough floor plan, measures are not exact but pretty close i reckon

Unlike in the previous house, the rooms in this flat were a normal size (not too big). Everything was modern and clean. The flat had never been lived in so everything was spotless. The pictures below will give you a good idea of the sort of things you can expect when you look for flats for rent in Zawia.

zawia

The kitchen is fully tiled on the walls with marble floors. Quite typically there are no cupbards, instead large open spaces below the worktop. Plumbing is modern and worked fine, there was plenty plugs and storage space.

zawia zawia zawia

These are pictures of the main bathroom, the guest bathroom was of the same size if not slightly bigger and of the same standards.

zawia

Bathrooms were fully tiled with white ceramic sink/toilet and shower over bath.

zawia

Each bathroom had its own style and colour pattern over the sink

 

Since the flat had so many bedrooms we turned one into an office. With 2 teachers in the family this was probably the most used room in the flat.

zawia

We used the 3rd bedroom, which gave onto the lounge (on the left outside the door) and the dinning area, as an office. As you can see, we managed to easily fit 2 very big desks in it.

zawia

Ok i actually tidied up for the picture the office was rarely that tidy, especially as the boys liked to bring all their toys and play on the carpet.

zawia

Like all the other rooms in the house the office had many plug points and we had more than enough to plug our computers, printers, wifi router, phone chargers… you name it.

 

The biggest downside of this property was obviously the lack of garden or outdoor space but we had a spacious roof. We manage to turn it into an outdoor play area for the boys where they would freshen up in a small paddling pool and where i could relax as well. Add to that some pretty special views and you won’t be surprised to hear we liked it there.

zawia

If you think our house and flat were big check out the white house with red roof tiles right in the middle of the picture… Libyans love gigantic family houses.

zawia

On the other side the neighbours had managed to create a green garden (water is free in Libya so irrigation is no problem) with date palm trees too.

zawia

Sunset view from the roof of our flat. Is there anything more beautiful than a sunset over palm trees?

 

  • Flat rent: 700 LYD (Libyan Dinnars) a month (Landlord initially asked for 750 LYD)
  • Rent paid for 1 month in advance
  • Agency fee: 350 LYD
  • Bills: free electricity, refill gaz container = less than 5 LYD per month, free water
  • Reason for leaving: We only left the flat when we left Libya otherwise we would have stayed there. The flat was just perfect.

That’s all for the pictures i’m pretty sure i’ve surprised a few people. Libya doesn’t usually have the right image in the media. If you’re thinking of moving to Libya don’t worry, you’ll be able to afford a very nice place and enjoy a very confortable life with your salary. This blog’s main purpose is to provide real life info on expat life in Libya so don’t hesitate to ask questions. Leave a comment below or contact me anytime.

Did you know Libya had such high standards of living? Would you consider living in Libya?

 

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Libya in Pictures: Zawia University http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/travel-shots-zawia-university-libya/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/travel-shots-zawia-university-libya/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 13:13:50 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1154 I don’t know if you’re like me but when I start looking into a destination I want to see some pictures. I need to get a feel of the place and this is something that words alone can’t give. For future expats to Libya the process of

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I don’t know if you’re like me but when I start looking into a destination I want to see some pictures. I need to get a feel of the place and this is something that words alone can’t give. For future expats to Libya the process of finding pictures is very frustrating, I know, there are virtually no pictures other than those of the war.

Enough words, here are some pictures of Zawia University in Libya. Just one last word, I worked on the new campus in Zawia, the one just outside the city where the English Department is currently located.

 Zawia University – Faculty of Arts

Zawia University Libya

This is the main car park for students and staff of the Faculty of Arts. The English Department is located in the sand colour building. The white building on the right is for classrooms.

Zawia University Libya

The English Department is by far the largest in the Faculty of Arts yet it is given the same number of classrooms as the other departments. Teacher are often left without a classroom and have to roam for one at the beginning of their lesson.

Zawia University Libya

The 2 floor building is where the English Department classrooms are located. In front of it is a the chill out spot and pick up point.

 

Zawia University – The structure

Zawia University Libya

The buildings are organised in a square shape around a little green garden. All buildings have 2 floors.

Zawia University Libya

View from the first floor over the Department of English offices in the sand colour building in the middle. In the background the white building is another Faculty.

Zawia University Libya

White buildings are for classrooms, there are no auditorium in Zawia University.

 

Zawia University – Classrooms

Zawia University Libya

All classroom buildings are the same. A long corridor with 5 or 6 classrooms on each floor. As you can see there is no equipment, no notice board, nothing to indicate you are in a learning environment.

Zawia University Libya

Typical classroom: spacious, high ceilings that are bad for acoustics, no desk for the teachers, sometimes a white board, no AC units and no other form of equipment either.

 

Zawia University – the Mall

Zawia University Libya

The Mall is located just behind the English Department offices, there you’ll find stationary and photocopy shops, cafes and cafeterias as well as all kind of shops selling shoes, make up, clothes…

Zawia University Libya

Like all the other buildings the Mall is built over 2 floors

Zawia University Libya

On the left hand side of this picture, in the Mall, there are the offices and classrooms of the Art Department. The year I taught in Zawia, the Art Department had no registered student.

 

Zawia University – the best of the rest

Zawia University Libya

When you leave the university by the road you can’t help but notice this striking building. Not sure what Faculty it houses but it does look nice.

Zawia University Libya

This building with a yellow dome is the Administration Building for the campus of Zawia University. The offices of the Dean is there as well as the Finance offices where you can get your pay check.

Zawia University Libya

Shortly before I left, Zawia University had been fully fitted with Wifi Internet. They built a huge tower to get the service in place. It worked for a few weeks then went dead… not sure how it works (or not) now.

 

That’s about all the pictures I have of the Zawia University Campus. If you plan on working there I suggest you read this article first, it explains why and how I left. Click HERE to read about my last months in Zawia.

If you still have questions i’ll be more than happy to answer them so leave a comment or Contact me.

 

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Expat in Libya – The end http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-in-libya-the-end/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-in-libya-the-end/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:48:02 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=986 I lived as an expat in Libya for almost 2 years and I’m now headed to a new destination. It’s time to look back and share my last impressions of my time in Libya.  The big question is: was it all worth it or was

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I lived as an expat in Libya for almost 2 years and I’m now headed to a new destination. It’s time to look back and share my last impressions of my time in Libya.  The big question is: was it all worth it or was it in fact a crazy move like so many people said before I left? and would i ever go back to Libya?

Let’s start with a brief summary of what happened in our last month as expats in Libya. Ever since we left Libya in July 2014 i’ve travelled to 3 other countries and I haven’t found the time to write this post before.

On the other hand it gave me some “de-pressurisation” time: we left Libya after months of extremely high levels of stress at work and a growing unrest was gripping the country, leading to fightings in Tripoli first and then all over the country.

LIBYA NEWS

This was on the TV screen in the travel agency the day we booked out tickets to leave Zawia. This shows the airport we were supposed to fly from and a plane from the company we normally use.

Flashback:

By the time exams started at the University of Zawia, we realised that the situation was totally out of control and truly dangerous on campus! It may sound crazy but I’m not exaggerating when I say that teaching English in Libya can be a life threatening job! It came to a point where I had to give up a group of students to remain safe. Of course the crazier it got the more we wanted out and we started looking for jobs out of Libya, focussing on Saudi Arabia and Oman.

It’s difficult to explain the whole situation, I’ve tried before to tell my friends who asked but every time I realise that people don’t get it. Quite understandably people use their own frame of knowledge, their own circumstances to process what I’m telling them. Only this doesn’t work with a place like Libya where things are wild beyond anything words can describe. I’ll try anyway.

Basically, lawlessness is the rule in Libya, where there is still no stable government and many warring groups fight to gain control of a rich oil producing country. At city level, like in Zawia there are family clans who control many things, including the university of Zawia. They own it, they rule it! and they’re not about to be told what to do by expats like me. So when I tried to do my job and teach them, assess them and when necessary fail them… I got into a world of trouble (very real, scary troubles).

Death threats, physical intimidation and the presence of weapons on campus doesn’t make for a pleasant work environment. It’s even worse for non-Libyans who don’t have the backing and protection of a clan. So you end up having to make a choice between doing your job properly or saving your neck. You can also “cave in” and do as you’re told, become a pawn in their power game but I just couldn’t do that. It became clear that we wouldn’t be able to function in these conditions.

At the end of the academic year, we left Libya without officially quiting our jobs as we didn’t yet have contracts for other jobs so we thought we would leave the door open to return to Libya after the summer break… just in case. However the overall safety situation changed drastically by the time we were booking our tickets out of Libya. In fact we had to fly to the UK from Tunisia as the main Airport in Tripoli has just been bombed and totally destroyed.

By the time we reached Tunisia by road things in Libya got out of control and it became so dangerous that the Tunisian border wouldn’t allow non-Libyans to cross back into Libya. Obviously for us it meant we were not coming back and we had to concentrate our efforts to secure a job in another country.

LIBYA NEWS

Don’t be fooled by appearances, it’s not quite as peaceful as it looks

Expat in Libya – the best and the worst

Despite some really hard time in Zawia, I actually have some very good memories of Libya.

The Best of Libya in no particular order:

  • The weather
  • The colour of the sea
  • A society that value people
  • Misurata
  • Really nice salaries for ESL uni teachers
  • my children’s schools

The Worst of Libya in no particular order:

  • Zawia university
  • Gun fire/shots day and night
  • the admin chaos (although it had its good sides too)
  • the stress of living in a country on the verge of implosion

Conclusion

So what about being en expat in Libya then? Would I ever return? In fact yes I would return to Libya but probably not Zawia. I loved my time in Misurata and life in Libya in general as you can see from my many posts on this blog. However I have never managed to feel at ease in Zawia and later events just confirmed my first impressions so I wouldn’t willingly go back to Zawia. As for Libya, when things calm down again why not? After all it’s got loads to offer.

Have you ever lived in a country considered unsafe? How long did you stay? What made you leave? If you’d like to share your story be in touch please.

 

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Fun Facts #4 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-4/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-4/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 22:02:58 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=754 Another series of fun facts (100% true) that you’ll read nowhere else… Blogging is not all about serious stuff, impressive knowledge and incomparable wisdom from far away lands. I like to share little things that crack me up, that make my mind spin with incomprehension

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Another series of fun facts (100% true) that you’ll read nowhere else…

Blogging is not all about serious stuff, impressive knowledge and incomparable wisdom from far away lands. I like to share little things that crack me up, that make my mind spin with incomprehension and makes me wonder what i’m doing here.

#1 People born in hot countries do not like the heat. Shocking I know, coming from a mild climate country, I always imagined people living under the sun enjoying the heat, the sea and everything else. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. After meeting loads of people from Tunisia, Libya and other hot countries, i can tell you they like the cold! As soon as it get hot they turn on the AC to freezing temperatures and when i say oh-so-happily that i enjoy the heat, they think i’m joking. Who’s kidding who here?

fun facts

Yeah looks horrible!!!

 

#2 There are no (or very few) Libyan restaurants or take away in Zawia, Libya. No matter what it says on the front door or on the menu, chances are extremely high that you are in a Tunisian restaurant. The owner may be Libyan but the cook, the staff and yes, the food is Tunisian. I don’t know the actual numbers but i’m pretty sure the Tunisian community in Zawia is just as large as the Libyan one.

fun facts

 

#3 Despite Libya being an oil and petrol producing country, petrol shortage is all too common. Sometimes it’s because of a strike somewhere, sometimes there is a clash on the delivery route, it could also be a political act. Regardless of the reason, every so often people find themselves unable to go anywhere, instead spending the day queuing for a ration of petrol. And when strikes or fighting isn’t the source of the problem, you can always count on rats (no kidding). Typical of Libya they have the money and the oil yet basic services are rubbish: infrastructures and networks are very old, outdated and in a very bad state of maintenance.

fun facts

Click on the picture to read more about power cuts in Libya

#4 Bump or no bump, that is the question. More than once we have noticed in Zawia bumps appearing and disappearing from the road. In exactly the same place, one day there is a massive bump and the next the road is smooth. And the presence/absence of the bump keeps changing. Not 100% sure why but my guess is disagreement between family clans. Since people make bumps themselves in their neighbourhoods, i’m sure this is something they would do if for instance two families were having a feud (all too common in Zawia, like petrol shortage).  On the bright side it keeps you on your toes when you drive, never know what to expect.

#5 In Zawia there are loads of funny (or scary*, insane*, dangerous* delete as appropriate) things on the road. If i tell you that 2 = 5 or even 6. No, it’s not poor maths skills, it’s Libyan Road Logic. Where you have two lanes to drive on or to wait at the traffic light, you can usually count 5 or even 6 lines of cars.

That’s how it works

While driving on a 2 lanes road, you should always leave some space in the middle for speedy overtaking (that’s 3 lanes already, keep up), add to that cars driving against traffic on one or either side of the road (sometimes people don’t want to make a long turn so they just drive in the wrong direction). Oh and they don’t slow down one bit! (that’s now 4 or 5 lanes) and when you get to a traffic light, add 1 or 2 more lanes for people turning in any direction, including zigzagging against traffic or turning far right coming from the far left lane, the imaginary one, that is.

 

fun facts

The craziest thing is that somehow it works… most of the time. People just know the “rules” and noone seems to find anything odd. The problem is when you arrive in town… believe me though, you learn fast lol.

I just love those little things you learn when living abroad. I’m pretty sure i’m gonna miss driving Libyan style, honestly i used to enjoy it.

Check out my other FUN FACTS and i’ll bring you some new ones very soon from Saudi Arabia.

 

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Ramadan 2014 in Zawia, Libya http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/ramadan-2014-in-zawia-libya/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/ramadan-2014-in-zawia-libya/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:14:51 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=582 On Sunday 29th June 2014, the Holy  month of Ramadan started in Libya and in most of the world. Ramadan is the name of the month in the Islamic calendar but the name is most commonly used on its own to refer to the period

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On Sunday 29th June 2014, the Holy  month of Ramadan started in Libya and in most of the world. Ramadan is the name of the month in the Islamic calendar but the name is most commonly used on its own to refer to the period of fasting that Muslims all over the world observe once a year. So what does Ramadan really means and how does it affect people’s lives?

What is Ramadan exactly?

In brief, Ramadan is one of the Holy month of the Muslims, during which they observe a strict fast. Everyone from the age of about 10 years old is encouraged to fast but exceptions are made for people who are sick, pregnant ladies, travellers… In order to complete their fast, Muslims must abstain from food and drink as well as other pleasures from sunrise to sunset. Once the sun has set they are allowed everything again.

Iftaar around the world

Pictures of Iftaar in Africa, India, Pakistan, Syria…

In Libya this year, we fast from about 4:30am to about 8:20pm. As the Islamic calendar follows the lunar system, the month of Ramadan falls at different times every year and this year happens to be the longest period of fasting, as the days are long and the nights short.  It also happens to be the hottest time of the year as we will be fasting all through the month of July with temperature never really going under 30 degrees Celsius and often over 40 degrees.

There is no denying it is a difficult period but that’s the whole point. Muslims are encouraged to fast in order to remember the graces of God in our lives as well as the hardships faced by those who don’t have such an easy life as us. It is a period of self-control which is meant to train our body and mind for the rest of the year.

But Ramadan is also a month of blessings, with families getting together to break their fast and share their meals, people visit their neighbours, relatives and friends and at the end of the month everyone celebrates Eid, a festival which lasts three days and during which children are given gifts and families slaughter sheeps and enjoy the most delicious meat ever.

Only the other day, my neighbours who are from Syria knocked on the door just at the time of sunset with a dish of stuffed vegetables freshly cooked and we sent a plate of traditional Tunisian “brik” the following days.

Ramadan traditional dish tunisia

A plate of Brik that my husband had just cooked. They are filled with meat, vegetables and egg yolk then rolled and fried. Best served with a little lemon or lime squeezed on top…

 

How does Ramadan feel?

Well for a start all the restaurants and cafes are closed during the day and only re-opens late at night. Libya being a Muslim country, the month of ramadan is observed by the vast majority of people here, with the rare exception of the small community of non muslim expats. Even non muslims are asked to refrain from eating or drinking in public.

Another effect of Ramadan is that people tend to lay low during the day so the sounds of city life is like turned off completely, you can’t hear a sound. At night however all the shops re-opens, people are feeling better after their meals and the extreme heat of the day is somehow reduced (just a little bit, it is close to 10pm as i write and it is still more than 33 degrees outside) so the city becomes alive again.

This also means that business almost stops in Libya during Ramadan even though it is not officially considered a holiday. Yet offices are closed, constructions sites are left on stand-by and most shops are closed during the day. It can get difficult getting supplies, as for paperwork don’t even think of getting anything sorted during that month.

ramadan in zawia libya

Fasting/Praying timetable are printed and handed out to Muslims to make it easier to plan the day. The numbers in red indicate the time in the morning when you should stop eating (red column on the right) and when you can break your fast at night (red column on the left)

The situation varies from city to city, in Misurata i remember that while Libyans are… (looking for the opposite of “hibernating”) sleeping it off, foreign workers, especially low paid african workers can still be seen hard at work cleaning the road and working on construction sites. In Zawia however, it seems everyone is off, which is why the city is completely silent during the day. Even the usual sounds of gunfire stops.

As for me i’m lucky enough to be off work from university so i can organise my time easily during the day of fasting. Like everyone we have adopted the summer routine whereby we all wake up late, do as little as possible during the hottest hours of the day, taking naps in the afternoon and thn resume normal activities after 5 or 6pm when the heat is not so intense anymore. And of course we changed our bedtime too, even the children don’t go to bed before midnight. It is simply impossible to sleep before that because of the heat. All throughout the night we can hear children outside playing, i even wonder if they sleep at all during the night.

ramadan-mubarak

People react differently to the trials of fasting, i always find that my body can do very well without food but not drinking is very hard for me, especially in this heat. Even after Iftar (Muslims used the Arabic word) when we break our fast, i don’t feel particularly hungry. I gulped down litres of water but i only eat a plate of fruit salad (a big one with the delicious fruits we find in Libya: peaches, mangoes, grapes, pears, bananas… Later on i drink some tea and eat some nuts but that’s it.

While i can’t speak for everyone, i know that many people like me really enjoy this month of Ramadan. The hardships are turned into positive energy of self-control and remind us to be more generous and compationate. More than fasting Ramadan is a spiritual experience, meant to strengthened the body and mind.

Have you experienced Ramadan on your travels? Have you ever tried fasting or any other spiritual challenges?

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Day out at the Beach in Tripoli, Libya http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/day-out-in-tripoli-libya/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/day-out-in-tripoli-libya/#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:42:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=5 Yesterday we were off work and decided to take a day trip to the capital city, Tripoli. Initially we meant to do some paperwork at the Embassy but it turned out we couldn’t. No problem, we ended up spending the afternoon by the sea, taking

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Yesterday we were off work and decided to take a day trip to the capital city, Tripoli. Initially we meant to do some paperwork at the Embassy but it turned out we couldn’t. No problem, we ended up spending the afternoon by the sea, taking in some breathtaking views and enjoying the first swim of the year. Check out our trip in pictures.

As it is often the case in Libya, you plan for something and you end up doing something completely different. When we arrived at the Embassy in Tripoli we were told the service we needed was no longer available. Of course their website mentioned nothing, even on the phone we couldn’t get the information and we couldn’t even speak to someone at the Embassy. For safety reasons, noone is allowed in unless they have a specific appointment, which you can’t get since they don’t pick up the phone and they won’t receive you. Ahhh Libya…

Having travelled all the way from Zawia (ok so it’s not that far but still) and spent hours in traffic jams we refused to be let down so we headed for the beach. Sounds easy enough put like that, but even this is difficult in Libya. Yep finding the sea in a seaside city IS hard. You see, most cities in Libya (with the exception of Misurata) have grown without any urban planning, it’s a jungle of buildings, sand and roads. You can find the sea, see it, smell it but getting TO it is kinda hard in some areas.

This is what happens for instance if you follow the sign “motorway” in Tripoli…

tripoli

Still as we made our way though the maze and we got to see some very interesting pieces of architecture in the process. Along the coast line, there are loads of very tall buildings housing banks, hotels, embassies, conference halls and such which are just waiting to be photographed.

tripoli tripoli tripoli tripoli tripoli tripoli tripoli tripoli tripoli

No way we gave up though and I’m so glad we didn’t. First we found a little spot to stop the car and as soon as we glanced toward the sea, we knew we had hit gold… well turquoise gold. Check out these picture:

tripoli tripoli tripoli

I love it when the sea is so perfectly blue that pictures always look amazing.

tripoli

Nature: 1 Photoshop: 0

tripoli tripoli tripoli

Only problem is we couldn’t take a swim here, especially not with young children so we kept looking and we finally we found this place. We drove all the way onto the beach in pure Libyan style. Don’t be shocked, we even saw a 4×4 driving IN the sea. Why? I really don’t know, maybe no one told them you should get off your car at the beach!

tripoli

tripoli

Anyway, the beach was quiet enough, the water turquoise, transparent and warm and my sons had a real go at it. Splashing in, playing in the sand, collecting sea shells and stones, building sand castles and all. It was wonderful, we had a fantastic time and it felt amazing being out of the house, breathing in the fresh sea air and watching my boys having the time of their life.

tripoli

Tripoli does have fantastic beach spots, I’ve never seen cleaner waters in all my life and the colours of the sea are just amazing. If only everything was that clean and peaceful in Libya, it would be the perfect country for expats.

Did you know Libya had some beautiful beaches? Would you consider going to Libya?

 

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The “oven bake” Effect http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-oven-bake-effect/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-oven-bake-effect/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 18:04:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=6 If you’ve ever been to a hot (i mean HOT) country then you know this “oven bake” effect i’m talking about. It’s obviously not the scientific way to describe the heat you can feel when you are in a country where temperatures can go over

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If you’ve ever been to a hot (i mean HOT) country then you know this “oven bake” effect i’m talking about. It’s obviously not the scientific way to describe the heat you can feel when you are in a country where temperatures can go over 40 degrees Celsius but that’s the closest thing i can think of. How to deal with intense heat in countries such as Libya? Read on i have a few tips and advice…

The Oven Bake Effect 
heat summer libyaThis is what i call that intense heat wave that slaps you in the face when you step outside during the summer in hot countries, just like when you open your oven after it’s been on full heat for some time. Only in this case YOU are in the oven.

Today in Zawia, we had that first heat wave of the year. I’ve already told you guys it is summer in Libya but this is more than summer heat, this is desert heat. Strong wind coming straight from the desert, bringing sand and barely breathable air from the Sahara Desert. Most people find it too hot and uncomfortable but i just love it. It’s like being in a sauna and i can’t get enough of it.

But if you’re not like me there are a few things you can do to protect yourself against the heat:

* Dress up, not down: sounds like i’m talking crazy but i’m not. When the heat is really intense it’s better to cover your skin than expose it the sun, believe me. Wear some very light cotton clothing and i insist on cotton, anything else will just stick to your skin and become very uncomfortably itchy. (Click HERE to read about What to Wear in Libya)

* Water: no matter where you go, carry a bottle of water with you at all times, especially if you’re on the road or away from home from some time. In Libya, you can stop anywhere and you’ll find a place to buy fresh water. All the shops have huge stocks of fresh water during the summer but it’s always better to have one in your bag.

* Wipes and deodorant: in Libya when it is hot, with the wind and the sand, your hands always feel dirty and sticky so i always carry a small bottle of deodorant with me to clean my hands. The deodorant spray is very good to get rid of the sand and dust while making you feel fresh in the same time.

* Stay indoors: again i’m talking crazy… if you’re on holiday in a hot country you probably don’t want to stay indoors but it might be safer though. And remember in hot countries, everything shut down during the hottest hours of the day and reopens late afternoon until late into the night so you won’t really be missing anything.

* Take hot showers: most people run to a cold shower when they feel too hot but that’s a mistake. It certainly cools you down and it feels nice but then you’ll be sweating like crazy as soon as you step out of the bathroom. The key is too keep your body temperature as close as possible to the air temperature so you don’t feel the heat. It is hard at first but when you get used to it, you’ll be feel OK even in very hot weather. This is particularly good if you plan to stay in a hot country for a long time. Better get used to it than suffer the whole time.

27 degree Celsius in March 2014 – it can easily reach over 40

There is obviously the option of using the AC when indoors and this would certainly help bring the temperature down to an acceptable level but i simply don’t like them. First of all i don’t see the point of being in a hot country if you want to be cold.

Second of all, people here use the AC to extremes, to the point where you enter a shop and you feel COLD, not a nice and fresh cool, but totally COLD. This is a problem in itself since the difference of temperature between in and outdoor is so big that you’ll get strong headaches, you’ll feel even hotter when you step outside and you’ll even catch a cold. I’m serious, happened to all of us last year, the first months of the summer we all had runny noses!

Finally if you have to be on the road, take plenty precautions, cover the windows with a wet cloth, keep a small cooler in the back with plenty water. If you travel with children avoid the mid day hours, it is simply too hot, prefer early morning or late evening when it is cooler.

A few tips to keep you and your children cool when you travel:
* seat the children at the back on a wet bath towel
* use baby wipes to freshen up from time to time
* give them plenty of water to drink
* stop often (if possible)

The heat in Libya is simply unavoidable, it’s better to live with it than trying to fight it. I think it is one of the things you must adapt to. Once you do you’ll be able to enjoy the long summer without too much discomfort.

As for me i’m in my element now, i just love the heat, no matter what. I do suffer from it as well but i always remember the 10 years of bad weather in the UK and that helps me to take any heat Libya can throw at me.

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Sending money with Western Union from Libya http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/sending-money-with-western-union-from-libya/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/sending-money-with-western-union-from-libya/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:22:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=8 Like everywhere else in the world, if you need to send money abroad Western Union Libya is the way to go. It’s quite simple, it is available almost everywhere and it’s fairly cheap. In Libya however there are some rules and limitations you need to be aware

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Like everywhere else in the world, if you need to send money abroad Western Union Libya is the way to go. It’s quite simple, it is available almost everywhere and it’s fairly cheap. In Libya however there are some rules and limitations you need to be aware of.

Where to find Western Union?

In Zawia and Misurata most high street banks have a Western Union counter. You can use any bank, not just your own (sounds silly but to withdraw money you can only do so at your own bank, in your own branch). Anyway finding a Western Union counter is really easy, and you can usually spot the well known yellow sign from the road, so drive slowly (but not too slow remember it’s Libya they’ll push you out of the way) and that’s done.

Western Union Libya

send/receive money with Western Union Libya

There are 2 separate forms to send or receive money so make sure you tell the agent the one you need. It is a single sheet asking for very basic details, nothing funny:

  • Amount
  • Country of destination
  • Receiver’s first/last names and address
  • Sender’s first and last names and address as well as phone number
  • Date
  • Signature

That’s all really and the best part is, you can do it in English!!! The form is written in Arabic (on the right) and English (on the left) so it’s a piece of cake even if you don’t speak any Arabic. Since the agents have to deal with Western Union forms, they usually also speaks enough English to get you through. Yeahhhh

Western union libya

WU form to send money Arabic/English

What documents do you need?

Again fairly simple, especially by Libyan standards, but make sure you have everything though or else they’ll send you away. Have those ready:

  • your passport (which they may check)
  • a photocopy of your passport (which they keep)
  • enough money to cover the transfer (sender)
  • a reference number called MTCN that the sender should have given you (10 digits)

And again that’s it!

What are the rules and limitations that apply in Libya?

There are a few limitations regulating the transfer of money outside of Libya.

  1. All transfers are done in US Dollars, but you can bring Libyan money and they’ll change it in the same time, no worries.
  2. By law, you can only send $5000 (USD) in one year. Once you have reached the limit you have to wait for the beginning of the new year, usually in January although this may vary from one place to another, not sure.
  3. You can only send $1000 (USD) at a time (usually per day).
  4. Allowance are recorded using your passport details (so if you’re lucky enough to have 2, you get double allowance).

I wish it was that simple to deal with banking. But that’s another story… Western Union is not only simple, it’s also a reliable and extremely fast way to send and receive money while abroad. It’s perfect for expats and stranded travellers.

What’s your experience with WU? Is it always that easy?

 

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It’s summer! http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/its-summer/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/its-summer/#respond Thu, 03 Apr 2014 10:31:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=14 Ok so if you’ve been following me you know of my obsession about the weather and seasons. I’ve been waiting eagerly, day after day to announce this but i think it’s now time: Summer has arrived in Libya! and i’m so excited about it. Last

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Ok so if you’ve been following me you know of my obsession about the weather and seasons. I’ve been waiting eagerly, day after day to announce this but i think it’s now time: Summer has arrived in Libya! and i’m so excited about it.
Last time i posted on my favorite topic it was January, i was getting excited about some nice sunny days. February turned out to be a repeat of January with some warm and cool days. March was possibly the wettest month i have seen here in Libya and could have competed easily with the UK for wettest month of the year… honestly!

Today is April 3rd and i think we can call it summer by now. Days are HOT not just warm, windows stay open all day and all night, children are sent to school with T-shirts and sandals … AND… we have planned our first trip to the beach of the year for next weekend. That means it’s summer, right?

weather in Libya
Sunrise this morning

I’ve been in Libya for over a year now, so i can draw a pretty accurate picture of the climate and weather in Libya. Let’s me break it down for you it’s easy:

Winter:

Winter lasts about 2 months from end of November til about mid/end of January. Winter in Libya means cool to cold days and nights, a lot of rain and wind. In terms of temperatures it never drops terribly low but cold enough to wear a small woolly jacket or windbreaker. I have been wearing summer shoes throughout the winter though. The worse of winter is actually INDOORS as houses here are built for the heat and in cold weather, it gets very cold. Heating systems are inadequate at best and you’ll need extra covers to keep you warm at night.

Autumn and Spring:

it’s very hard to pinpoint the exact time they start as they are very short seasons and blend in with summer and winter. I’d say autumn lasts about a month in November and Spring stretches over 2 months in February and March.

Summer:

so that leaves 7 months… yes 7 gorgeous months of heat and amazing summer weather. I just love it. Some people complain about the intense heat and all. Its true it can get extremely hot and sometimes it is inconvenient but i just love it. The hotter the better. It seems Libya has the perfect summer weather as we get the heat but without any humidity and along the cost line, there is always a little (sometime really not much) breeze from the sea.

So here we are (i hope) i’m getting ready for my favourite season. Summer clothes have been unpacked and folded in our wardrobes, children are kitted out with new sandals, the beach bag is packed and ready for our first trip next week… bring it on.

I know April is treacherous, they call it the Mad Month here because every day the weather is different and you can go from hot to cold in no time but i’m a cup-is-half-full type of person, i’ll just enjoy the hot days and sleep through the cold one.

weather in Libya
Have a nice summer everyone!

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