The way to Libya started in Tunisia, as it all began during this year of revolutions. I took the plane from Tunis to Djerba around six o’clock in the evening. The Tunisair express plane was full of Libyan families, with children mostly wearing t-shirts brandishing the images and symbols of the Libyan revolution. A lone young man with crutches hopping on the plane stairs, his left arm bandaged, which I assumed was one of the injured and wounded young Libyans crushed in this bloody war for liberation.
Arriving at Djerba in the after seven in the evening, I took a car to the Tunisian Libyan border. Ali the driver is a Tunisian who hires his car for Libyans taking this journey. We passed empty streets and sleeping town and villages that still reflect the rural life of Tunisia outside the hustle and bustle of the capital Tunis. We stopped at nearly four check points by Tunisian police and Army before we reached the border town of Ben Gerdan, which is only 30km from the border crossing into Libya.
Many used this road for different reasons in the last several months, and recently the Tunisian government became on high alert as many Libyan and African refugees poured into their country, and smugglers used the area to achieve a quick score, dealing with basic goods, gasoline, currency and recently humans and arms, which kept the Tunisian military on alert in this remote area of the country.
After less than two hours Ali the driver dropped me near the Tunisian side of the border crossing. Carrying my bags and crossing the border at night I was an odd presence between the lines of cars and trucks crowding the narrow lanes leading into Libya. I walked the 800 meters of no man’s land to the Libyan check point where I saw the free Libyan flag and the Amazighi flag with its distinctive Yaz (free man) symbol, a declaration that the Amazigh people from Nafusa Mountain and the coastal town of Zawara are controlling the area. Graffiti slogans were covering walls of buildings, cursing Gaddafi and affirming the rights of Libyans to freedom and democracy, and calls for Amazighi language to be declared an official language.
After getting my entry stamp from the Libyan officer who was stamping all passports automatically on any page without checking the identity of the passport holder,I continued to walk until reaching the last checkpoint. Many Libyans in their cars offered to give me a ride, and another guy driving a battered pickup truck with the word 'Zintan' spray painted on the side of the car offered to help me in broken English confused me with a foreigner, before he realised I'm Libyan when I thanked him for offering to help.
My brother and a cousin were waiting for me near the last check point, I was thankful that he made the difficult journey to the border at night. The road was lined with Libyan car full of families returning from months of war.
The way to Zawara through the towns of Zultin, Regdalain and Ejmail was closed as reports of sporadic skirmishes and clashes at that area erupted on Tuesday night;the traffic was diverted by the revolutionaries towards the Abu Kammash road closer to the sea.
All the way until passing the city of Zawiya, we were stopped at more than a dozen checkpoints by revolutionaries either from towns we passed or other revolutionary brigades. Most of them asked the same questions, "where are you from (means which city in Libya)? where are you coming from? And is the car owned by the driver?" and once we were asked about our surname, I wondered then what will happen if my family name was "Gaddafi".
The road to the family home on the west outskirts of Tripoli, took us nearly three hours, but I wasn't bothered, I was observing attentively the new signs of there birth of a new Libya that is still confused and chaotic, but hopeful and optimistic about its future.
To be continued…