Your Middle East
Last updated: 29 January, 2013

Cappuccino and gunfights in a yet to be stable Libya

Although crude production in Libya is back to pre-war levels, there is a long way to go before being a stable, prospering country. This becomes particularly apparent in the capital Tripoli, reports Bloomberg.

Infrastructure in Tripoli is in dismal condition, building projects are at a standstill, and attempts to create a city council have stalled. Like the country as a whole, the capital remains fractured and divided into spheres of interest with militias, some loyal to the former regime, competing with the police for control of the streets.

“If you can’t get Tripoli organized and functioning more smoothly, then it’s going to be harder to do outside of the capital,” Ronald Bruce St John, author of 14 books on Libya, told Bloomberg.

The eastern part of the city is largely controlled by former rebels, while in the southern district of Abu Salem – which used to be home to many of Qaddafi’s most loyal supporters – you seldom see the new national flag. The western coastal Gargaresh district is neutral and home to families who did well under the old regime as well as the new one. In the fortified Palm City district, you’ll find pristine beaches and exclusive villas inhabited by diplomats and executives in the oil industry.

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The city center is the only zone that belongs to everyone with its “untidy mixture of government offices, hotels, shops and apartments in elegant buildings from the Italian colonial era of 1911-1942,” writes Bloomberg. Moving between the different areas requires some precaution, especially at night.

At Cinnabon in Gargaresh, a popular café that is part of a US franchise, customers have grown accustomed to enjoying their cappuccino and cakes with gunfire as a background noise to the conversation.

“You get used to it,” says Majdi Nakua, a photographer and former rebel fighter. “But if it goes on for long, that’s not good. That’s not why we fought a revolution.”