Tripoli, Libya – Hotel del Mehari
Tripoli, Libya, 22 February 2006 – In a previous iteration of my life I traveled the world doing a job that was at once a dream job and the job from hell at the same time. The dream was being able to go places like Libya while my boss did his job. During the Winter Olympics in Torino we made an overnight trip to Tripoli, Libya. It was a time when the diplomatic status of that country was warming with the U.S. Government and with it opportunities for business ventures.
We landed at a Mitiga International Airport, a former military air base. I will never forget seeing the carcasses of surface-to-air guns rusting in the fields between the runways as we landed and taxied. They were stark reminders of the sordid history of the country. I wish I had the nerve to take pictures as we taxied.
After securing the plane we were met by our handlers who spoke little English. And as we passed through Customs government agents retained our passports, which was not at all comforting even for our very experienced flight crew. On the ride to the hotel our driver pointed out some of the local sights. I recall most clearly a large palace where he said people enter but were never seen again.
We stayed at the Hotel del Mehari a hotel that appeared to have stopped in time from the day it was built. In researching the history of the hotel I learned that in 2009 it was completely updated to the Radisson Blu Hotel, a five-star resort.
Unfortunately, because security was tight we were told we should not leave the hotel unaccompanied so the only images I have of the city around came from my room balcony. What I do remember about the hotel was the food was very good and was a mix of both local cuisine and Italian and French dishes.
My boss’ meetings did not go as planned so we were heading back to the plane by mid-morning the next day. The lasting impression of Libya I have is of the Customs agents rifling through a cardboard box filled with passports. In a heated conversation the two agents would pull a passport from the box, open it and compare the picture with our faces. The longer the process took the more nervous we all became. Finally, with passports in hand we were back at the plane and in the air in record time back to Italy.