Life must go on for Libyans despite war on their doorstep

Libyan children pose for a picture in front of Tripoli's Corinthia hotel after a swim near the city's main port on April 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2019
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Life must go on for Libyans despite war on their doorstep

  • “Life has to go on. It will end when it ends,” said Samira, who runs a salon in Tripoli

TRIPOLI: Despite the war on Tripoli’s doorstep, residents are filling the salons and cafes in some quarters of the Libyan capital as they carry on as best they can.

“Life has to go on. It will end when it ends,” said Samira, who runs a hair and beauty salon in Tripoli’s central Ben Achour neighborhood.

Originally from neighboring Tunisia, Samira has been living in Libya for years and her salon is always packed with clients.

“At least three or four brides come in each week to have their hair done and get ready for their big day,” she said, as she prepared a palette of eyeshadows and brushes to start making up a young bride.

“That’s as well as dozens of women who come for a haircut, to get a makeover, or skincare before a big event,” she added.

Clashes between warring sides have centered on the southern outskirts of the city, just 15 km from the center.

Fighting intensified with a counter-attack launched by GNA force on Saturday, when sustained rocket and shellfire could be heard in several districts and some witnesses reported airstrikes.

Tripoli residents fear that the battle could escalate into a wider conflict that would devastate the North African country, already rocked by years of instability and economic hardship since former ruler Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in 2011.

But for now, the honking of car horns on the seafront is louder than the distant boom of rockets and gunfire.

Schools and businesses in Tripoli remain open when they can, while residents of the Mediterranean city try to indulge in their favorite leisure activities.

“Libya is not just about television footage showing tanks and militiamen brandishing their guns or destroyed buildings,” said schoolteacher Mariam Abdallah.

“We are still having weddings, parties, school activities and sports events.” On the seafront in the west of Tripoli, outdoor cafes are packed, especially toward the end of the day when residents like to unwind after a day’s work.

Many of the clients are students and young employees attracted by the offers of free wifi.

Issam, a waiter at a cafe, said coffee shops and restaurants provide a “rare” form of leisure in Libya, a country that has “no cinemas, theaters or concert halls.”

So the “best places to meet (friends) and spend some good times are cafes and restaurants,” he said.

“My daughter, her husband and their children came to shelter in our house because of the fighting, so the family has grown,” said Faiza, as she shopped for some crockery and other supplies.

“It is always nice to have something new in the kitchen,” she said cheerfully as she checked out some bowls with a flowery motif.

Faiza said she needed to prepare ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in early May.

“New things inspire me to create new dishes for the family,” she added, her grandchildren running up and down the aisles of the supermarket.

“It’s hard to come up with different meals to break the (Ramadan) fast every evening for a month,” she said.


Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

Updated 20 May 2019
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Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

  • Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut
  • Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt

BEIRUT: Security forces opened water cannons on Lebanese anti-austerity protesters in the country’s capital on Monday, as the government continued to hold marathon meetings to discuss severe budget cuts.
Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government’s tightened budget and key reforms aim to unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. But planned cuts have unleashed a wave of public discontent, amid leaks that austerity could target public wages, services and social benefits.

A retired Lebanese soldier chants slogans while holding an army flag, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday. (AP)

Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut shouting “Thieves, thieves!” as the Cabinet met for its 16th session and struggles to reach agreement.
Protesters pushed back against police lines and set fire to tires outside the building. At least two policemen and one civilian were wounded in the scuffles.
Among those demonstrating Monday were public and private school teachers and retired officers.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has sought to calm nerves while also describing the upcoming budget as the most austere in Lebanon’s history.
Hariri said he hopes the government will be able to send the budget to parliament later this week.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the cabinet made “important progress” in discussions Sunday.