On March 6th, We host a Libyan International Women of Courage Recipient

February 20, 2012

Since we were in Libya in October 2009 much has happened.  Here we were then at the Tripoli Airport.

Delegation begins Tripoli, Libya 2009

 Since then there has been a governmental change but we continue to maintain our support to those we met in Libya.

Now we look forward to developing another contact.  The Secretary of State has announced a Libyan woman will be a recipient for the International Women of Courage Award for 2012.   

AWIU is hosting these women at an event on March 6 in Washington DC at the National Press Club.  See our past events here.  A few seats remain for our gala you can register here 

We thank our readers for continuing to read this blog.  And we are pleased that nearly 25,000 visits have been made to our Libya Delegation Images



Learn what’s happened since our Delegation and links to pics

January 4, 2010

Now that we have returned from Libya we are reflecting on our delegation and doing presentations of our information to others we want to give you an update and more overview of the delegation experience.

We have had nearly 1000  visits to our blog and over nearly 6000  visits to our flickr account and hosted seveb presentations around the country.  More presentations are scheduled for 2010.  Please contact infor@awiu.org if you would like a presentation for your organization.

You are reading the  blog.  You can find out about the next presentation by e mailing awiudelegations1@yahoo.  And you can check out flickr at


We have 29 sets of pictures out there with some explanation to go with it.  You can turn each set into a slide show by clicking on the set and then clicking on “slide show” on the right).

As you watch the slide show you can see comments by clicking on the picture and then clicking “show info”

To make it easier to follow our trip we have re ordered our posts from first to last.  (normal blog entries are last to first)

Tell us what you think of our trip and our images at awiudelegations1@yahoo.com.


January 4, 2010

Hello from the AWIU–American Women for International Understanding–delegation to Libya.  Ten members are traveling to Libya with our first stop being Tripoli.

In Libya we will be meeting with ngos, government agencies  and local people.

We will spend 11 days learning about the country, the culture and the citizens

Please follow our blog to follow our journey.

And a big thank you goes to our Member Magda Sharkasi who made this delegation possdible.  Magda who belongs to the Chicago Chapter was born in Libya, has a home there and has worked very hard to help AWIU get this delegation on it’s way.

Anne Tonks, President


January 4, 2010


Several readers have asked for more information about the country and its history. Here is a copy and paste of the background section of the CIA FACTBOOK. The link


The Italians supplanted the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated in World War II. Libya then passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951. Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI began to espouse his own political system, the Third Universal Theory. The system is a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices and is supposed to be implemented by the Libyan people themselves in a unique form of “direct democracy.” QADHAFI has always seen himself as a revolutionary and visionary leader. He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. In addition, beginning in 1973, he engaged in military operations in northern Chad’s Aozou Strip – to gain access to minerals and to use as a base of influence in Chadian politics – but was forced to retreat in 1987. UN sanctions in 1992 isolated QADHAFI politically following the downing of Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. During the 1990s, QADHAFI began to rebuild his relationships with Europe. UN sanctions were suspended in April 1999 and finally lifted in September 2003 after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism. QADHAFI has made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations since then. He has received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. The US rescinded Libya’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In January 2008, Libya assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term. In August 2008, the US and Libya signed a bilateral comprehensive claims settlement agreement to compensate claimants in both countries who allege injury or death at the hands of the other country, including the Lockerbie bombing, the LaBelle disco bombing, and the UTA 772 bombing. In October 2008, the US Government received $1.5 billion pursuant to the agreement to distribute to US national claimants, and as a result effectively normalized its bilateral relationship with Libya. The two countries then exchanged ambassadors for the first time since 1973 in January 2009.


January 4, 2010

OUR ARRIVAL:  Friday October 23, 1:55 PM, right on time we arrive in Libya. The AWIU delegation is 7 members from Chicago, 1 from San Diego, 1 from Washington, DC and 2 from the virtual. Chicago members are Robin Winter Odem, Chapter Chair;, Martha Atherton, Past President and Bernice Behrens award winner; Kathleen Heffernan, Lois Ryan, Kathleen Foerster, Joan McEachern and Magda Fehema Sharkasi. Magda is originally from Libya and has been the catalyst for this trip. The other members are Anne Tonks, President; Gayle Morin, Delegation Leader; Kathleen Roche-Tansey and Laura Schuldt.

We are here under the Sponsorship of the Libyan American Friendship Association headed by Executive Director, Dr. AbdrahimMattoug, who is also a professor at the Seventh of April University ;in a suburb of Tripoli.

 FINALLY OUR TECHNICAL INTERNET DIFFICULTIES ARE OVER:  We have now had three nights in Libya with many meetings but we have not been able to blog because internet access has been very limited and the delegation days start at 8 in the morning and extend typically to 9 or 10 at night.

SO, WE WILL ADD INFORMATION AS WE CAN. This trip is exciting and we are meeting many people and learning much about the country. BUT, tomorrow we begin a 3 day trip outside Tripoli and internet access is likely to be even more limited until we return on the 31st.

We have a flickr account and this blog may morph to a flickr update if we can upload the pictures with the wi fi service from this hotel which is erratic. http://www.flickr.com/photos/awiulibyadelegation/ So this blog will be an on the fly thing—it the wifi is flying and if we have access we will let you know what is happening

THE WEDDING PARTY FOR THE GROOM–BUT WOMEN ONLY (well the groom came in after 4 hours for pics)

The big event of day one was our invitation to the third day of a wedding celebration. We were invited to the groom’s family reception held at a club on the grounds of a former US military installation. The groom’s celebration is women only. There were about 500 women in attendance. With no men involved the women were free to dress as they pleased. And it pleased them very much to wear their finest and most flattering evening gowns and dresses. Satin, beads and decolletage were the order of the day.

 Here is a brief overview of what we have seen so far—we will expand on what we learned as we are able. And we have many many pictures—but to give you an idea of the issues for 12 minutes this internet service has been uploading 6 pictures to flickr. So our time constraints limit the number of pictures we can put up.

Where we took pictures of women at the wedding, we are only going to post those where the women can not be identified. For example, you may see a fabulous blue dress with a trailing skirt made of peacock feathers, but the person wearing the dress will not be shown.

SEVENTH OF APRIL UNIVERSITY. Day one after the wedding we headed off to the 7th of April University which is in a suburban area. We were over an hour late because it has been raining very hard here. And although the infra structure is generally good and serviceable, this is the desert and a couple of inches over few hours causes flooding and delays. At the University we learned about their many programs and met some outstanding women students.

They are looking for many more opportunities to send students to the United States and the subject of Visa was raised by the professor presenting the overview. Visa’s to the US are hard to arrange. The US has only had an ambassador since December 27th of last year and up until April an individual wanting to apply for a Visa had to go to Tunis to do so.

LUNCH WITH WOMN LEADERS: We had a luncheon with distinguished women following our meeting at the embassy. Here we met a woman physician, a college professor who also represents the government on omen’s affairs, a woman politician also prominent in woman’s issues in the government, a lawyer, a journalist and others.

HANDICAPPED THERAPY CENTER: We met with the director of a Handicapped and Therapy Center that focuses on both in patient and out patient care and training of accident victims. FAMILY CARE ASSOCIATION: Another important group who hosted us was the Family Care Association. This group is all volunteer, but since 1993 has served over 900 families. There care and support is ongoing until a family is able to provide for themselves. Over 400 families who were once clients are now living without assistance.

LIBYAN AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION: We met with Dr. Mattoug the director of the Association. We exchanged greetings, discussed our program while in Libya. AWIU presented the Association with a Certificate of Appreciation. The association is directly responsible for our access to Libya. Without their letter of invitation we would not have been able to secure visa’s. Every where we go we find we are among the first Americans to visit. We find our hosts interested in visiting America and/or promoting more understanding and exchanges between the two countries.

VISIT TO A GRADE SCHOOL FOR GRADES 1 TO 6. Here we visited several classrooms and spoke with some students through an interpreter. We asked several classrooms where they might like to travel. Many would like to visit America but others mentioned Europe, Switzerland, Pakistan and other countries as well. Then the school hosted us for light snacks and presentations by boys in English and young girls showing the native costumes of Libya.

TODAY’S HIGHLIGHTS: It’s been over 40 minutes since the photos started uploading to flickr and they are not done yet. It is 11:40 pm and tomorrow we have a day that starts with a checkout from our hotel at 8 am to leave for a TV interview at the Libyan American Friendship Association.

So here is quickly the highlight of today. We drove about an hour and ½ out of Tripoli toward the mountains where we met with a branch of El Hanan Association and attended a presentation of awards to orphans with excellent academic records. Also during this awards ceremony they honored an exemplary mother. This woman had 10 children and was widowed in 1973. Now all her children are on their own and successful in their lives. This award involves a present and trip to Mecca for the award winner.

We presented a small monetary award to the association. And we were honored and presented to those present with gifts and a plaque. Later we ate lunch at the home of one of the Executives of the program. Mecca for the award winner.

We have been doing much more in the last few days including learning about the Underground River Project considered by many as the 8th wonder of the world and visiting the Petroleum Institute. We want to expand on what we have learned and are learning.    We also met with a staff member from the embassy.  He was surprised to find that we had been able to get Visa’s and get here.  He said that we are one of very few America groups visiting here. 

Most people we have met are surprised and pleased to be meeting Americans.  Everyone expresses interest in more contact between Americans and Libyans.

For those who don’t know it, the visa story is a fascinating saga of it’s own. But it will have to wait.

 It looks like we may meet the embassador and his wife early next week just before we leave. 

Right now  12:20 am, we have 5 pictures up on flickr—2 from the wedding and 3 from our arrival. More later. Thanks for following us.


January 4, 2010


AWIU IS INTERVIEWED BY LIBYAN TV:  Dr. Matooug, Executive Director of the Libyan Friendship Association arranged for AWIU President Anne Tonks and Delegation Leader Gayle Morin to meet with a TV reporter in his office on Tuesday Morning. The Delegation had met with Dr. Mat0oug earlier in the week in the same office. AWIU is grateful for the invitation of LAFA to visit this wonderful country as well as the efforts of Dr. Matooug and LAFA to ensure that we were able to meet with prominent Libyan women, members and recipients of charitable organizations, professors and students of public schools and universities, and to visit ancient archeological sites and festivals.

We have had reports of four separate appearances on Libyan TV, but we have not had the opportunity to see any of the broadcasts.

We were proudly told that Joe Biden the Vice President had met with Dr. Matooug in the same office. In response to the reporter’s questions on our impressions of Libya, we related some of our wonderful experiences mentioned above. Highlighted were our visit to the Orphan and Mothers Ceremony with HANA, the Man Made River Project and the visit to the 7th of April University where we met with faculty and outstanding women students.

But our strongest message for the interviewer was the warmth and hospitality of the many Libyan people we have met.

THE DESERT TOWN OF GHADAMES: Many of the citizens of Libya are light-skinned, dark haired European or Arabic in appearance.  Having been occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs and Italians over the centuries and having Berber and Touregs who have lived in Libya for thousands of years, Libya has a diverse and proud history.  More than 90% are Muslim which strongly influences behavior and customs in homes, schools, and communities.  Since we last updated you we have spent three days in the desert at Ghadames. Ghadames is a town of about 20,000 people close to the borders of Tunisia and Algiers. For many centuries it was part of the trade route of the desert. Since the revolution in 1969 much of the town has been completely reconstructed.

We toured the Old City which in ancient times was home to about 4500 citizens. The city is a warren of covered passageways with houses and shops extending up to two or three stories. When the opportunity for new housing came in the 80’s most people moved for the convenience of running water, sewers and electricity.

Many of the original residents still own the properties within the old city. Here we toured a shoe factory where the techniques used are centuries old. The men cut the basic patterns for the boots and slippers from soft red leather and young girls add the hand embroidery and jewelry which make them so unique. Today in Libya these shoes are used for special events.

We also had lunch in a typical old Libya home. The advantage of the old city with its thick walls and covered passageways is its adaptation to the conditions of the desert. When it is hot it is cool and when it is cold at night or in the winter it is warm. We went up steep and narrow and uneven steps and stairs to enter these homes. Where we had lunch we continued up another set of stairs to reach the roofs of the old city. Here the homes are connected by a series of steps and the roof was the private road of the women of the city. They could go from home to home and visit and not be seen by the men who passed through the city on the narrow streets below.

At the Ghadames Museum: Ghadames has a small museum with four sections devoted to the history of the area. Upon entering the museum we ran into Ambassador Cretz and his wife touring the museum as well. We were all in Ghadames for the annual festival where over 10,000 people come to shop, perform, watch the dancing, and hear music. When we arrived late the evening before, we checked into our hotel, had a quick dinner and went to the evening performance of the festival. Dr Matooug was in Ghadames for this event and met us at the Festival where we were fortunate to have front row seats courtesy of Dr. Matooug. News and TV reporters were plentiful, photographing us along with the many officials who were in attendance.  We stayed till after 11 watching performances of a wide variety of dancers and musicians in fabulous costumes perform that represented their villages and tribes. We saw Berbers and Touregs and others. The performance went on long after we left, but the last performer we saw was a singer in a while blazer and jeans accompanied by two costumed belly dancers. This performance was popular with the crowd and was a long performance lasting at least 8 or 9 minutes. The endurance of the women dancers was noted with some wonder.

WE GO TO THE SAHARA DUNES, EAT SAND BREAD AND SEE A DUNE VERSION OF AN AUTO RALLY. After our morning in town and a lunch at a typical restaurant, we had a rare experience. We took a rare 30 minute break at our hotel. This was the “fast break” version of the desert siesta period. There are so many people to meet and so much to see that we have on all days traveled beginning at 8 or 9 in the morning and continued through 12 to 14 hr days with no breaks.

At 5 PM we got into four wheel vehicles and drove to the Sahara Desert which is about 20 minutes out of Ghadames. Here we climbed the up to the high point of the area where for centuries there was a fort. At the top at the remaining ruins of the fort you can see for miles. From here you can see both the desert dunes rolling on for miles and in the distance both Tunisia and Algeria.

Reentering the vehicles we drove to a gathering point on the dunes to see the sunset. A desert sunset is bright, colorful and quick. We went to a typical desert tent of woven fabric with colorful rugs for seating where watched the cooking of “sand” bread. This bread is made simply with water, flour and salt.  It is seasoned with anise seeds  and decorated with sesame seeds before being buried in a sand pit for cooking. We ate pieces broken from the round flat loaf while still hot. It was delicious, particularly when eaten with a traditional frothed sweet tea drink.

Then we climbed in the sand up to the top of a nearby dune. There were several hundred people lining the tops of nearby dunes. When we drove up in the twilight we could see the figures silhouetted and at first marveled that the desert had “trees”. But the “trees” were people gathered to see the sunset and the informal 4 wheel drive desert races.

Drivers in four-wheel drive vehicles were racing up and down steep dunes. Even after dark this racing demonstrations continued. We were particularly intrigued by one of the drivers who was a woman. (It is not unusual to see women drive in the city, but this was the only woman driver we saw in the desert.) She was driving a dark Mercedes and was a crowd favorite. Men standing around us kept pointing her out to us. His demonstrations of machismo by a woman was a rarity. This is a country where women by choice wear head scarves from their Muslim tradition. And you don’t see many women out in public in the evening. At one point this woman driver got her car stuck in the deep sand. She jumped out and began to let the air pressure out of her tires to give her more traction. This was “old meets new” desert style in the dunes.

WE VISIT A TOUREG Festival: On our second morning we were the first to visit a Toureg Festival. We were early but our guide was able to get us inside. Here the camels were in the center of the camp in a corral made of sticks and branches and the typical tents which serve for sleeping and for selling were not yet ready for the day.

We saw a family preparing their own sand bread for breakfast. Later as the camp came to life we saw camels being saddled. Gayle and Magda each had a camel ride on one very cranky camel who didn’t much seem to appreciate our early morning visit. He was snarling and making rude noises who showing his big dark stained teeth.

The Ambassador and his wife arrived just as we were leaving and we exchanged greetings and met more people traveling with the Ambassador.

VISITING FORTIFIED FOOD STORAGE BUILDINGS IN THE DESERT: There is so much to tell on this trip and so little time to write it that we know this blog may leap from place to place. But on our trip to and from Ghadames we stopped several times to see ruins. Particularly interesting was the town of LaLude. Like the Ancient city of Ghadames this Berber town on the top of a spectacular Mesa was inhabited until the late 70’s when the residents moved to nearby new housing. We toured and photographed the original city. We visited the circular storage center. Food is always a prized commodity but particularly in the desert. The ancient civilizations developed storage buildings which were solid on the outside with large interiors and several stories high with narrow steps built into the walls to reach the top stores. Throughout the building were storage areas with jars for grain and for olive oil. These buildings had a single entrance so all the stores could easily be locked and guarded.

MODERN CARAVAN SERRIAS. The old camel routes had centers where camels and people could stop and overnight and refuel both men and beasts. The modern day version of this is the service station with a restaurant. We stopped at one of these both going and coming from Ghadames. We had a couple of chance encounters here that demonstrated the many opportunities for meeting new people. The waiter in the restaurant was a young many in his 20’s wearing a blue turban who had lived for two years in Sweden. Soon he and Martha Atherton were conversing in Swedish. And we met a woman lawyer from Cairo who was working for the ministry of Justice in Libya designing new legal systems. Throughout our journey we are privileged to meet many who added to our experience.

WE MEET THE AMBASSADOR FOR “REAL” Back in Tripoli we are invited to tea at the home of Deputy Chief of Mission Joan Polaschik. Here we met with Ambassador Cretz—see his biography here–(http://libya.usembassy.gov/principal.html). The ambassador has been here since December of last year. He made a presentation to our group about the challenges and opportunities for the US in Libya. The last time the US had an ambassador here was over 40 years ago. Since 2003 when Qaddafi agreed to renounce weapons of mass destruction the US has been working to normalize relations with the government of Libya. Right now Libya is strategically located in the Middle East and is a Muslim country that the U.S. believes will be an ally against terrorism.  There are many business opportunities and the tourism industry is at an early stage.

RECIPROCAL VISA CHALLENGES: We discussed visa’s between Libya and the US. There are over 1500 students from Libya now in the US on student visa’s. Reciprocal student visas to Libya are an unresolved issue.

We are traveling on a business visa which and we are one of the few groups of US to be able to enter Libya. We would not be here without the assistance of the Libyan American Friendship Association.

The embassy is working to improve the visa opportunities between the two countries.

AWIU CAN HELP EDUCATE AMERICANS ABOUT LIBYA TODAY: The Ambassador stressed that our Delegation can help the relationship between Libya and the US by informing people about what we observed during our time in Libya. He encouraged us to write about our experiences here. He urged us to be active and to educate as many as possible about our positive experiences in this hospitable country.

OLD MEETS NEW: The connection between the old and the new says much about a country. And on the old side of the equation, Our group has had the opportunity to tour some of the old sites. Here is a quick recap of our visits to some of the old with some links for more information.  So here we jump back a bit in our travels and tell about our experience with the old.

Libya has some of the best Roman sites in the World.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM: The National Museum in Tripoli is a new treasure displaying old treasures. See some photos here http://www.galenfrysinger.com/tripoli_libya_museum.htm

The Museum is located next to the souk or old Medina on the waterfront. Here they display cars from the revolutionary period in Libya, but most of the items shown here start around the first or second century BC They also have a strong showing of items from the pre civilization period going back to 8000 BC.

SABRATHA: (see pics here http://www.travelpod.com/ad/Roman_Sabratha-SabratahThe Roman cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna are both on the coast an hour or two outside of Tripoli. Both were ancient cities and active trading ports. The museum prominently displays frescoes or “mosaicos” and statuary from both Roman and Greek periods from these two sites and others.

The first day the delegation visited the museum. Then on Day 2 we visited Sabrahta. Sabratha is particularly recognized for its huge theater. Recently, special events have been staged in the theater to commemorate occasions such as the 40th anniversary of the revolution.

LEPTIS MAGNA: (see pics here http://www.travelpod.com/ad/Leptis_Magna-Al_Khums)This is the archeological site of a once-magnificant Roman city occupied by 10,000 citizens.  Among the features here are the ancient baths, the ancient court and church and the largest Roman ampitheater in the World.

BLOG INFORMATION: AWIU has provided this information about our trip in blog form, but we have been limited by a lack of time due to our passion for seeing everything possible and by the lack of internet access. We begin to return to the US in two days—but the blog entries will continue after our return. Each of our Delegation members has many personal experiences and observations which they will be adding in the coming days. For those who have waited with patience for entries to appear—we thank you.

This AWIU delegation is committed to bringing our knowledge back to the US and sharing it with as many as we can. So until later—we sign off from Tripoli.


January 4, 2010

Although the AWIU delegation has returned to the US, we will continue our blog to fill in information that we didn’t have time to report before.

THE PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: On the second day in Tripoli we visited the Petroleum Institute. This school is funded by the oil companies with a budget of $20 million per year. With 1000 students this works out to $20,000 per student. Students who live on campus come from all over Libya. And the competition for places in the school is intense. They have 4 or 5 applications for each opening each year. This campus is complete in all respects including a mosque and some very high tech simulation equipment designed particularly for training in the oil industry.

The managers of the institute are men who were mostly trained in either the United States or the United Kingdom. The institute trains students in the technical aspects of the oil industry, English and office skills such as Excel and Word.  Jobs are readily available for the graduates.

CHICAGO CONNECTIONS: Our Libyan host member, Magda Sharkasi, is from the Chicago Chapter as were 6 other members of the Delegation. So, as we introduced ourselves, Chicago was always mentioned. And we found that Chicago was well known to many we met in Libya for two reasons.

As you might expect Obama was one of the reasons. But the other well known Chicago notable was Ophra. We heard several mention that they watch her every day. Another sign of how “connected” the world is today.

ZAKAT: Several times during our trip we heard about Zakat which is a requirement that Muslims support charitable and religious programs.. On the last night of our trip we talked with the Executive Director of the Family Care Association and gained a greater understanding of the personal nature of the support they provide to families. Most of their funds result from contributions or Zakat. However, in addition to contributions, the volunteers for this organization work closely with each family to help them attain independence. It seems that the financial support from Zakat plus the personal support for volunteers accounts for their almost 50% success rate. Success being measured as families who once needed their services who work themselves into an independent circumstance.

SPECIAL WORLD OF WOMEN: We had the opportunity to meet many women in business and office settings and in personal and private settings. The hijab or head scarf is not required clothing for women in Libya. This contrasts to Iran where s scarf is required by the Islamic Republic and a woman can be arrested for not dressing properly. Even though there is no legal dress requirement in Libya, in public well over 90% of women wear the head scarf. We were told that the percentage wearing black is much higher now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Wearing the scarf seems to be a combination of religious respect and fashion.

WEARING OF THE HIJAB: Women generally start wearing the hijab or head scarf in their early teens. Most wear scarves which drape the head and are wrapped at the neck. There is a wide variation in colors and materials. Girls of 10 or less do not typically wear the scarf. We sometimes saw a woman who had the most conservative use of the scarf–meaning her head and face except for the eyes were covered,–holding the hand of her young daughter who was dressed in jeans and bright tops and sneakers.

WOMEN’S DRESS AT HOME: We had the opportunity to meet women in their homes. At home with only women present, women do not wear the scarf. At our lunch after the HANA association meeting you could sense a special bond between the women. We women gathered in the living room and sat on low couches and ate food from large common bowls. There was was lots of informal conversation and laughter. After the food was cleared the hostesses took their scarves tied it around their hips and began a dance which was followed with laughter and clapping by the other women. There seemed to be a special ease and closeness among the women present. And even though those of us from AWIU came from a different culture, most of us sensed a commonality and bond with the Libyan women we joined in this informal home setting.

When a male reporter came to interview us, scarves were donned again. The scarf delineates a separateness between men and women.

At the wedding, where there were several hundred women and even the musical group was all women, women dressed as they pleased . Most were elaborately dressed in ball gowns or elaborate traditional dress. Most did not wear scarves with only women present. However, when the groom arrived and was now the only man present, most women donned their scarves with respect for the traditional differences between men and women..

GENDER EQUIALITY: Under the law, women and men have equal treatment in employment and education. At a tea on our last day we discussed the topic of gender equality with a number of well educated career women. There was agreement that the opportunities for women are much greater now than they were 20 or so years ago. Qaddafi is seen as supportive of women in education and employment.

The women present clearly demonstrated opportunities in business and the professions. There were teachers, heads of schools and charities, architects, dentists and several other professions in attendance. Several of the women were successful business owners. Some of the businesses had international ties as well as local ties.

On the subject of equal pay for equal work there was disagreement. Some women present said their was no difference between pay for men and women doing the same work. But in private conversations others said they women were often paid less than their male counterparts for the same type of work.  We admitted that studies in the US show that women still on average receive lower pay than men in similar jobs.

URBAN VERSUS RURAL OPPORTUNITY: As might be expected, most of the women we met were from Tripoli, English speaking and well educated. Many of them had traveled out of the country.

These opportunities contributed to their success and sense of well being. But, we heard from them that in the cities women had more opportunities for employment and education than did women in distant or rural areas. Living in an urban setting contributed to the opportunities available to both women and men. Change is slower in more distant areas of the country.

HOSPITALITY IS EVERYWHERE AND NATURAL: We experienced fabulous hospitality everywhere we went. We were entertained, hosted, gifted and welcomed throughout our time in Libya. We found a sincere desire to have more interaction between US citizens and Libyan citizens. There was an genuine openness to Americans and to US opportunities for both friendship and business connections.


January 4, 2010


TOURISM IN LIBYA: Because of the embargo, tourism in Libya is just developing.  Most of the hotels are still government owned and managed.  American tourists are extremely rare:  we saw no other Americans except those from the embassy, and Libyans often assumed we were European.  No tourist visas are issued to U.S. citizens.  The Libyan embassy in Washington D.C. issues only Diplomatic, Official and Business visas and these are issued only in response to an invitation by the Libyan government.  We were issued business visas after the embassy received a letter of invitation initiated by the Libyan American Friendship Association that had been approved by the Libyan government.  We waited some six months for the letter of invitation to be approved by the government and to reach the embassy.  As a result we had less than a week from our scheduled departure get our passports translated into Arabic (a requirement of the Libyan government) and to get our visas.  By all reports, this was a remarkable achievement as many have waited months and months for their visas.

At our request we stayed primarily in small  hotels which, with one exception, were clean and adequate.  All were conveniently located, some with views of the Mediterranean Sea.  These are the hotels used by most foreign businessmen. We were told that the government could decide to move us to other hotels at any time, but this did not happen to us. The nicest rooms were in a small hotel run by our tour agency, Arkno tours.

THE DUGOUT HOUSE: On the way to Ghadames we stopped for dinner in a subterranean structure that was 343 years old and still owned by the same family. The patriarch of the Berber family built the many roomed structure underground  in 1666.  The entire structure is 27 feet below the surface and has been expanded over the years to include 8 large rooms which each housed one family.  The families were large and shared cooking duties by sharing cooking facilities which were separate from the sleeping and eating rooms. By building structures below ground, these desert peoples were able to protect their dwellings from invaders because you couldn’t see them from above ground and at the same time, control the temperatures  that were above 100 degrees in summer and extremely cold in the winter.

In the desert this underground dwelling is perfect for the extreme conditions there. During the hottest and coldest times, the temperature is a comfortable 68 degrees.

We entered the house to the music of a local group. We had a demonstration by Magda of some local line dancing and we all joined in on the dance floor and tried to copy her. Then we had dinner in one of the family homes (one room about 20 by 30). Our host for the evening had been born in that very room 39 years ago and was the youngest of 9 children that grew up there.  Each of the rooms is divided into three parts separated by curtains.

The first section is the public living section, the second is the area for children and the third area is for the parents. And in an alcove at the very back of the room is a primitive “privy”.

The cooking for all 8 families was done in a communal kitchen. It is now a tourist attraction and no families live there. However, it was occupied by at least one family until 6 or 7 years ago.

LIBYAN SOUP: They say an army travels on its stomach. And that can also be true for tourists. Libyans are famous for their soups and their desserts—and  their white bread (their sand bread with sesame and anise seeds is pretty good too—if a bit gritty). We had Libya soup nearly once a day and it was delicious. And the white bread served with it was just right for dipping (sorry Emily Post)

This is so typically Libyan that we are providing three different links here to slightly different Libyan Soups!!

The first is one with coriander which we would guess is the spice we remember.   However, there are two other versions as well. You can find the recipe in the following links:


And here is another with cinnamon

In the picture this looks right since most have a tomatore base


But our guess is this is the one that is most like what we had in Libya


Lots of soup experimenting here.

Post # 6 Lois Ryan, Chicago Chapter, Adds Her Observations

January 4, 2010


Lois Ryan, former attorney from the Chicago Chapter, adds to our discussion of the Delegation to Libya.

Here are her reflections:


         For those delegates particularly interested in art and history, the highlights of our journey to Libya were our excursions to the Jamahiriya Museum in Tripoli, Sabratha (to the west of Tripoli) and Lepis Magna (to the east of Tripoli), all on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. We particularly enjoyed visiting these sites with our Libyan hostesses.  Several of them had not returned to these inestimable archaeological treasures since they or their youngsters were school children.  Their responses, as more experienced adults, to these amazing sites were wonderful to witness and share. 

       It was fascinating for all of us to see the various layers of civilization built upon one another by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Arabs, etc. Much of the archaeological work to date was done by the Italians in the 20th Century. There has been a very turbulent history in this part of North Africa.

     We visited the Jamahiriya Museum in Tripoli first to get an overview of the history and art of Libya.  The Museum houses one of the finest collections of classical art in the Mediterranean.  Built in consultation with UNESCO at enormous cost, it is a world class institution with extraordinary displays of the statuary, mosaics, pottery, coins, etc. of the early civilizations.  We were fortunate to have a guide to the exhibits who facilitated our understanding and preparation for visiting the ruins at Sabratha & Leptis  Magna. The exhibit placards of explanation are only in Arabic, so it is necessary to have translations regarding the various displays. The  upper floors of the museum were under restoration, so we did not see those areas of the Museum.  However, the chronological exhibits on the lower floors were breathtaking. 

    There is a new, additional Museum which will open soon in the gorgeous domed Governor’s Palace, in Tripoli, which will house additional exhibits, and should be extremely interesting to see in the future.

     On the day we drove to Sabratha there was a strong rain storm and the highways were flooded, making it difficult to reach our destination(s).  We had completed a wonderful visit with the women students in the School of Education at  the Seventh  of April University in the morning before going on to Sabratha.

    At the Sabratha site, there is an exceptional museum also, which helped our understanding before we ventured out into the ruins.  We had an extremely knowledgeable and helpful docent accompanying us on this tour of Sabratha.  It is hard to express the extraordinary beauty of the architecture, statuary, mosaics, etc. at Sabratha. The Roman Highways are still perfectly serviceable.  The sophisticated techniques used to place the blocks has maintained the roads in working condition for thousands of years. 

     The second century A.D. was the great period in the history of these three great cities, i.e. Sabratha, Oea (Tripoli) and Lepis Magna. Goods such as ivory, animals, slaves, and precious stones were brought by caravans from the south of Africa through the Sahara to the coast and then shipped throughout the Mediterranean areas.   The amphitheater of Sabratha could seat about 5,000 spectators, making it the largest among the theaters of Roman North Africa. The amphitheatre has been quite fully restored, particularly the stage areas. The front of the elevated stage is simply magnificent, and three large concave niches are the highlight.  We met fellow travelers from  France while up in the amphitheatre seats. 

      A huge rain storm had previously caught us walking through the women’s bath ruins.  We had to stay out of the rain and wind under the vaults of the baths until the storm from the Mediterranean stopped raging toward us on the shore line.

    We later also visited Leptis Magna, which is even bigger and more impressive and important than Sabratha (if that is possible).  Leptis Magna had become the greatest Roman city in Africa because of a native son, Septimius Severus (r AD193 – 211), who became Emperor of Rome through the military ranks.  He bestowed enormous prestige on his African capital – Leptis Magna.  Here we saw the magnificent Hadrianic Baths, judicial courts which became the Severan Basilica, the fabulous theatre, etc. etc.  The Arch of Severus at the entry to the ruins is at the intersection of the Roman roads leading to the sea shore and the interior and parallel to the shore.

   These Roman sites seem so much more impressive than the sites at Ephesus and the Moroccan shores.  There is still an enormous amount of archaeological work that could be done in Libya, which makes the future even more exciting.

    We had the good fortune of being escorted for security purposes throughout our journey in Libya by Major Anwar Abu Zhenain, who has also written a book entitled, Mosiac Art in Libya, Stone Lyrics.  Several of our delegates purchased his book  while in Libya.  The book is written in both Arabic and English, and was used as a reference during our trip. 

    Later in our journey, we appreciated the fact that the exhibit placards in the museum in Ghadames were in both Arabic and English. The culture of the southwest oasis city of Ghadames is very different than the Tripoliana cities, but equally fascinating. Eight hundred year old Ghadames is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  We were so lucky to be visiting on the one weekend a year that the three-day town festival is held.  People came from everywhere to celebrate the old city.

       All in all, we were so very fortunate to see and do as much as we did in our short stay of 11 days.  We will be forever grateful to our Libyan hostesses and hosts for their generosity of time and talent during our delegation’s recent visit.

October 20, 2009

Hi  fellow travellers.  Look forward to seeing you all on Thursday and or Friday.

this is my first blog…



Laura Schuldt