Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tripoli and the outstanding Jamahiriya Museum

Tripoli was something of a blur.

A morning in the outstanding Jamahiriya Museum, meandering around the stunning collection of ancient statuary, was curtailed by the guards. A princess and her entourage had turned up and I was politely asked to leave and return in a few hours. I bumped into another member of our group and we decided to explore the medina for a few hours.

The streets of the medina were crooked and bustling, but lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Istanbul has more character, Cairo has more bustle. Perhaps I'm getting jaded in my old age. Perhaps I was just too hungry to enjoy the wander - very aware that most of the eateries were at the south end of the medina when I found myself, at the height of my hunger, at the north end.

Still, after lunch I felt a lot better (skipping breakfast and not drinking enough water are not the recipe for a grand day out) and we returned to the museum. And there I had my worst (personal) experience in Libya.

I put my bag back into the cloakroom, and went to enter the museum. As I walked past the ticket booth I showed the ticket I had bought in the morning. But he shook his head. I walked over and showed him the date stamp on the ticket. He shook his head. I tried to say that I was coming back after lunch, as I was told to do. He shook his head, and motioned to a guard to come over.

The guard was dark skinned and scowling. He had an exchange in Arabic with the ticket man then turned to me. I opened my mouth to try to explain but he cut me short.
"You were here this morning?"
"Yes - until I was asked to leave."
"You need to buy another ticket (8 dinars, about $6)."
"But, I was here until the princess arrived then left when I was ask-"
"You are in my country, not yours. You must respect this." He looked me up and down, as his face twisted into a snarl and his eyebrows curled up like panthers ready to pounce off his forehead. He continued, "This is the law. I am the police, I am the law. You will not enter without a new ticket."
"I am not interested. You buy a ticket or leave."

So I left.

Without exception, every other guard we had encountered was great. They usually seemed delighted to have some contact with foreigners (and were often most amused by the truck). Totally trouble free, totally easy. Except this one.

Jumpeduplittleoverpompoustwobitsonofagun that he was. There was no reasoning, no appeal. Just the impassable wall that he presented - and there was no way I was going to pay after he'd had that 'little chat' with me. Most frustrating, but not worth fighting over (or getting arrested for!). Although that might have been an interesting adventure in itself...


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