[To protect the privacy of friends and colleagues and because of the sensitive nature of Lorianne's work, this post has been edited from its original version.] by guest author T. Lance Monday, January 21, 2013 – Day 2
We started the day with breakfast in the Executive Club of the hotel and met Jamal in the hotel lobby. He drove us to [a work colleague's] home near the Radisson....
[Our friend] left two unused Libyan SIM cards and a phone when he unexpectedly could not return to the country. Lorianne and I were the beneficiaries of that, and we spent a few minutes getting our Libyan phones up and running....While at [our friend's] we met [another friend]....Most interesting for us, he lives in a very large villa with 3-4 others with a room to potentially rent to us. We made plans to meet up with him later that day to see the villa.
After departing [from the colleague's home] we spent the next several hours with Jamal visiting various Tripoli hotels. We had landed in the Corinthia Hotel upon arrival, but the hotel was extremely expensive and we wanted to find a longer-term arrangement that was less expensive yet still safe and reasonably convenient. We visited about five hotels, the visits separated by encounters with extraordinary traffic jams. We had an appointment to meet with Majdi Ben Ali, Lorianne’s friend and resident OB-GYN back at the Corinthia at 3:00pm, so we had a late lunch at a Libyan restaurant before returning to the hotel. Lunch was salad with lemon, soup, and rice with either lamb shank or a lamb & onion stew. Very delicious.
Majdi is a friend Lorianne met through [another] during her work with...a Washington DC-based healthcare start-up trying to break into Libya during her last Libyan trip. Majdi is a very kind man, and, conveniently, a UK-trained OB-GYN with a clean, professional local clinic. (We have no intention whatsoever of having a baby in Libya, but it is nice to have a plan for unexpected and unwelcomed contingencies.) We caught up with Majdi over tea & coffee (us tea, him coffee) in the Corinthia lobby and then headed out to see a flat his friend was willing to rent for a month.
Majdi’s friend is also a doctor and his flat is a sprawling three bed, two bath, three balcony apartment in a very secure building in a somewhat seedy part of town. It offered everything we needed (except internet, which could be installed) and then some, for a small fraction of the price of a hotel. We decided it was a great option and certainly trumped the hotels we had seen earlier in the day. Majdi dropped us off near the Radisson and we walked a short distance to [our new friend's office] to rendezvous to see his villa.
[The] villa was indeed as large as advertised. ...It was a three story home enclosed by a secure, gated wall and barred windows. There are at least 4 bedrooms, 3-4 baths, and about 3 reception areas (the Libyan version of a living room featuring low lounging couches—not designed for the pregnant body, unfortunately). There was a pool in the back, though neglected and little used, and an enormous kitchen. [Our new friend] offered us an upstairs bedroom and shared bathroom for 40 LYD a night and our share of internet charges and the 700 LYD monthly cleaning lady fee (she comes every day and does dishes and ironing as well). After discussing later that night, Lorianne and I decided [the villa] was an ideal housing option for us....We also called [a work colleague] later that night to see if renting office space from her for Lorianne would be a possibility. This would put Lorianne is close proximity to [many things, including] the Radisson, an important business center...[The work colleague] said she was certain something could be worked out. So by our second day in Libya we had found inexpensive, ideal living quarters and potentially office space for Lorianne that provided her with what she most needs: security and the opportunity to meet the right people. We went to bed tired but happy and feeling very blessed.
(A final note: Any guesses how much gas costs here? Answer: [Our new friend] filled his tank for 5.75 LYD. It’s a small car, but nevertheless, a tank of gas for $4.60 is the cheapest I have seen in my life.)