Sonntag, 31. März 2013

Happy Easter

I wish all my readers a Happy Easter.

Picture: Tumb at the Italian (catholic) cemetery in Tripoli.

Samstag, 30. März 2013

Sultan Ahmed in Dahra

Für diejenigen von Euch die nicht wie ich das Glück hatten zu Ostern nach Österreich fliegen zu können, gibt es jetzt ein grosses Trostpflaster: Sultan Ahmed in Dahra ! Dieses Restaurant erfreut sich immer stärkerer Beliebtheit, sowohl bei der lokalen Bevölkerung als auch bei Ausländern. Türkische Küche ist eben beliebt.
Guten Appetit !

Donnerstag, 21. März 2013

Internet fees

Did you already pay your yearly Internet fees ? We managed to do so. 15.000 Libyan Dinars (9.000 EUR) for a 256 leased line connection. This is approximately 20 times the amount you would expect in Europe. Not really a bargain.
For the payment we needed a big plastic bag, as the largest bank note values only 20 LD, but is not widely available.
However, we were told, the next time we can pay by cheque.

Dienstag, 19. März 2013

Tripoli Witness

I learned of Rana Jawad´s book early last year. I could not find it in Libya nor in Austria, so I ordered it through Amazon. It only took the short period of ten weeks from ordering it to its delivery, maybe they thought that time doesn´t matter in Libya ;-)
The book has two parts: At first a surprsingly long part (making up 3/4 of the book) about how life was in in Gadaffi´s Libya. From private life over how journalists were treated up to official events. I you only happen to come to Libya after the revolution, this is your "Dummy´s guide to Libya". For most of this part I could only nod my head and have sometimes a smile on my lips. Of course it also brought up many old memories about how life was at those times.
However, I must add one thing: Rana described the "Great Man Made River Project" as the "Great Man Made Boring", describing it as the most boring thing she had experienced in Libya.
I strongly believe that the whole project is an incredible piece of engineering work. Unseen anywhere in the world. Pumping desert water over thousands of kilometers, making the desert green, bringing water to the coast. Many experienced in late 2011 what the project meant when the water stopped flowing. At the same time I always felt, that from an economic as well as an environmental point of view, this project was completely crazy. A waste of ressources. An Austrian consultancy, entrusted the judge the whole project in 2010 could not believe what they encountered. Their assessment was that water would last only for another 70 years.
On a different note, I would like to add, Rana, that our neighbours Switzerland are not part of Northern Europe !
The second part, tells about the 6 months of the revolution in Tripoli. Interesting insight, however I would have loved to read more about that times. Especially the time after May 2011 is completely missing. I personally, having been in Tripoli end July 2011, found that this was the most fierce but also interesting time of the revolution. It was the time when Tripoli was half empty and you had a feeling of a belagered city while NATO bombs were falling day and night.
Finally I am missing a bit of "witness reports" of the residents of Tripoli. After reading the book, I feel like in Tripoli there were only revolutionaries and that everybody was waiting for the "zero hour". Hearing some reports from the other side would be equally interesting. But I guess the interviews for those people would have to be done in Tunisia these days.

Montag, 18. März 2013

Easter Bbq at Franco´s

Euro crisis, austerity programme, elections, Beppe Grillo, Silvio Berlusconi, ...
When it comes to food, for an Italian all of that is forgotten. What really matters stands on the table. And when Franco Caparotti, born in Africa and having been in Libya for over two decades, calls for a barbecue, the whole "old" expat crowd arrives. A "new" expat from French Total feels stupid among all the Libya veterans, as she has been in the desert metropolis only for one year.
All of a sudden I also realised how many Italian nationals are back to Tripoli. Most of them work in oil and gas, but also transport, construction and some other fields of activities attract the spaghetti lovers.
With Franco one wonders only how he can maintain and even further reduce his weight with such a great cuisine.
There is only one explanation: It must be the very demanding and stressful job with an Austrian energy group in Libya.  

Sonntag, 17. März 2013

Stadtporträt Tripolis - Ö1

Nach über zwei Jahren kommt der Ö1 Journalist Michael Schrott wieder nach Tripolis. Und vergleicht so was sich geändert hat. Dass er beispielsweise in der Nacht Schüsse hört, oder wie das jetzt mit der Demokratie so ist.
Ein Überblick über Geschichte, Politik, Wirtschaft und Alltag eines Landes im Neustart-Modus.
Hörenswert !
Wer es verpasst hat, kann es eine Woche lang unter


Freitag, 15. März 2013

Old projects on hold

Nearly all of the old government financed old projects are on hold. So what is happening to them in the meantime ? One project is very close to my office: It is an office tower development project on the premises of the old "Oea Brewery"which, at that time, was owned by a family with Italian roots. However, the cardbord that announced the new project, can be found among all the litter thrown into the excavation for the ground bricks.
During a meeting.
In the meantime during a meeting with the Housing and Infrastructure Board´s director (HIB) , Mr.Ajaj confirmed that everything is ready to start. However, companies should start without any precondition, especially when it comes to war damages and compensations. Oh yes, and provided HIB gets removed from the EU sanctions list (Libya has to ask for it first). And provided the budget for 2013 is being put forward in the National Congress. Inshallah.

Donnerstag, 14. März 2013

Alcohol in Libya | Absolut Tripoli

What an irony, already 80 people died in Libya due to consumption of home-made alcohol in bad quality. Here it is called "Bokha" which is a distilled drink made out of dates. In Austria we would simply call it "Schnaps". On the countryside also many Austrians do their own alcohol, and it is well known that it can be very dangerous (deadly as we can see). I won´t go into detail about the tragic death cases - enough has been written in the media about it during the last few days. If you are interested, you might want to read more on the subject in the Libya Herald or even in many international newspapers.
However, the incident brings up a long discussed issue in Libya: Should alcohol be allowed ? And if yes, up to what extend ? Before the revolution it was said that Seif and his group would be backing very strongly a liberalisation of alcohol, as this would be necessary to develop Libya as s tourism destination. However, years passed with people telling international investors in the hospitality sector that it would be "very soon". Already then, there were strong forces in the government who opposed a liberalisation. Rather having no tourists than allowing alcohol (even if it were only in hotels).
The argument was (and still is) that tourists would come in big crowds, even if they would not find alcohol in Libya. Evidence shows a different picture: In 2009 an Italian tour operator started bringing Italian tourists to Dart Eleel (a then newly built hotel close to Sabratah). The idea was to see the magnificent Roman ruins and to relax a bit on an indeed beautiful stretch of Mediterranean beach.
Now imagine yourself a group of true Italian tourists, who, after asking for a cup of red wine for their dinner, were told "Malesh, mafish wine (sorry, no wine)". The news made its way to Italy, and after only very few weeks tourists stopped coming.
Hence, for the last few years (if there was not any other issue which hindered tourists from coming) the only tourism that flourished was the desert tourism.
After all, it is nice to see that a discussion started. I am curious to see the outcome.

Dienstag, 12. März 2013

"Green" investments in Africa (Tchad)

Libya  has a considerable stake in many hotels, telecom companies, farmland, all over Africa. A prominent example can be seen on this picture: The Kempinski hotel in N´djamena, Tchad. By far the biggest, most modern hotel, a real landmark. Too bad it is a bit out of town, and I also doubt that occupancy is very high.
In Libya the Libyan Africa Portfolio (LAP), a subsidiary of the Libyan Investment Authority, was responsible for investments in Sub-Sahara Africa. Investments through the LAP were of course done within the political framework of the government at that time and should, in addition, bring a positive return on the investment.  During the last one-two years LAP also invested in Ukraine, Russia, etc.
But lets continue with the Kempinsky:
Here, Austrian history was written in 2008: when our troops landed in N`djamena, it was just the day when rebels overran the capital. However, we were warned by the French. Luckily, the Kempinsky had some empty rooms available, so our soldier could find a safe retreat there, until the French Army came to rescue our boys.

Sonntag, 10. März 2013

Tchad´s new business friends

Tchad can be seen as "classical" African country with vast natural resources: Oil, minerals, agriculture... and, what also comes with it recently: a lot of chinese businessmen (and women) arriving in N´djamena. Luckily for them, at the airport already they are guided to the right hotels.
In the 5 star hotels you see them having dinners with ministers and having their deals finalized. Deals which are then clearly visible, such as the construction sector.
On a different note, one sees every other project financed through the EU, starting from Medical Centers to capacity building in all different sectors up to rural projects.
Definitely a sense of boom can be felt in the air. But at 44° centigrades every day, combined with sandy wind, the feeling is a very hot one.  

Freitag, 8. März 2013

N´djamena, Tschad

Nach drei Jahren wurde es dann auch wieder einmal Zeit in unseren Betreuungsbereich nach dem rechten zu sehen: Tschad. Eines der wenigen Länder wo wir nicht einmal einen Konsulenten haben, so ist man auf die selbst aufgebauten Kontakte angewiesen wenn Firmen anfragen. Dies kommt natürlich nicht in der Intensität wie für Libyen vor, aber seit der mediale Afrika Hype losgegangen ist, mehren sich auch die Firmen die sich für den Tschad interessieren, bzw. bereits erfolgreich in Geschäftsverbindung stehen. Aber dazu ein anderes mal mehr.
Die Anreise ist etwas beschwerlich, seit Afriqiyah die Direktflüge in nahezu alle sub-Sahara afrikanischen Staaten eingestellt hat. Das waren noch Zeiten: In einem nagelneuen Airbus 330 in 3 Stunden direkt in N´djamena.
Eines hat sich bereits seit dem Beginn des Booms geändert: Hotelpreise sind weiter gestiegen, die Qualität eher schlechter geworden. Das Novotel beispielsweise bot die letzten Zimmer (Executive Rooms) in ihrem abgeschleckten Hotel um 220 EUR an (Frühstück nicht inkludiert). Ein Schnäppchen. Selbst das Standardzimmer kostet noch EUR 185,-. Und so sieht das dann aus.....

Mittwoch, 6. März 2013

Budget for Libya 2013

Of last year´s budget, nearly 10 billion Dinars (6 billion Euros) were not spent. They were given back to the Central Bank where they await further use. In the meantime 2013´s budget is just on the edge of being aproved. This would be really great news then many state owned institutions are waiting for the budget to be allocated in order to to their long awaited orders and contracts. But is it really? The events of the last two days, where "Thuars" and wounded from the Revolution stormed the General National Congress, delayed the process. During the session where the budget was about to be approved, the Congress was stormed. The GNC then decided to move to Tajura, some 20kms away from Tripoli, in order to being able to continue their session. But you know what ? The "Thuars" followed them there and stormed the session another time. The next day they moved to another area (Krimea), where the session was also not friction free.
Lets hope for a a budget within the next few days, it would give a lot of impetus to all economic activity in the country.
Comment from a reader yesterday (thanks Tameem): The budget surplus was even 36 bn LD, which is 20 billion Euros.

Montag, 4. März 2013

What really happened, Part 2

Truth is a daughter of time, and the time has come to continue the story of
"What really happened".
If this does not ring a bell immediately, I recommend you first read my Blog entry about my abduction in November last year:

So, after I flew to Vienna, we informed the Libyan authorities that I had been abducted, mistreated, beaten and finally handed over to a nearby militia.
It was quite easy for one of my colleagues to find out the identity of the aggressors. After my colleague (through the help of a militia) came into contact with the two attackers he found out they were a middle class Libyan family who even own a not so small business. They then came to our office and tried to start negotiating how the case could be settled. At the same time they apologized and said they were extremely sorry, but several circumstances led to their acts.

After I came back to Tripoli we first met the two brothers of the attackers (in total they are four brothers) and then the two other brothers in person at the headquarter of the militia that had originally taken care of me. They are stationed in a nice villa of a former regime person (see first photo).
They apologized at first instance, started kissing and hugging me and stating that if they knew me from the beginning they would never have done that again.
"Mr.David, you are such a nice person. You know Manner Schnitten? I always buy them for my kids."
After that, we still made it clear to them that taking me for an Israeli spy, looking for positions to bomb in Tripoli was a pure stupidity. However they argued, that I was wearing a GPS watch and it was clear to them that I was marking bombing positions for Israel, who had just the day before attacked Gaza.
They then went on admitting that they had drunken "a bit" of alcohol, and then, especially one of the brothers would become a wild beast.

In the end we hugged and one of the brothers revealed that they had a car washing station.
Whenever i felt like, I could come to wash my car at their place in the future.
If I had any problems with people from my neighbourhood, I should even contact them.

Sonntag, 3. März 2013

Church of Santa Maria

A church in a small provincial Italian town ?
No, downtown Tripoli !
It´s the church of Santa Maria, in the middle of the old town. When I tried to visit it with the trade delegation last week, it was closed. However, people are taking care of that church dating back to the 17th century, rebuilt in the 19th century.
So, to all my Christian readers; Have a nice sunday ! 

Freitag, 1. März 2013

Visit to LISCO in Misrata

Misrata has a special status for Austria: It is here where our industrial pioneers, engineers of VOEST built a steel factory in the 80ies. A big steel factory. And although Libya does neither have electric energy nor ore in abundance, the factory is a success story.
It is not a surprise Mr.Figi, the General Director of LISCO (Libyan Steel Company) is happy to see visits from Austria. Stefan Pistauer, regional director for Africa and the Middle East of Advantage Austria paid a visit together with some companies and was treated like a king.
Thank you Misrata !