[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  Field Notes From
Libya: An End to Isolation?

<< Back to Feature Page

View Field Notes
From Author

Andrew Cockburn

View Field Notes
From Photographer


In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mark Thiessen (top) and Reza

In an Outlaw Nation

Field Notes From Author
Andrew Cockburn
A couple of hours east of Tripoli along the coast stand the ruins of Leptis Magna, an ancient Roman city. It was midsummer and on this day the guide and I were the only ones in the city, one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world. We sat in silence on the top row of the amphitheater, watching the Mediterranean sparkle in the sun just a short distance away on the other side of the chariot racetrack. Only a wisp of smoke from a distant power station reminded us that we were still part of the modern world. The common experience for a foreigner on business in Libya is sitting in your hotel room waiting for your phone calls to be returned. I suspect that in some hotels there must be skeletons sitting on the beds still waiting. My advice to anyone going to Libya on official business is to take a very long book. Alcohol consumption is prohibited in Libya so, of course, I decided that I would really like a glass of wine. I had an appointment with the Italian ambassador and thought that certainly, since all of the embassies are exempt from the no-alcohol rule, he would offer me a drink. But he didn’t! Not even a glass of Chianti! Not long after, I was flying on an official plane to meet President Qaddafi in Malta when the pilot announced that we were diverting to pick up the Italian ambassador. We landed and all these Italians in Armani suits—including the ambassador—crossed the tarmac toward the plane. So I stood in the door and said, ‘Welcome on board my plane, Mr. Ambassador! I’m very happy to be able to offer you my hospitality!’ He was rather taken aback because he was the low man on the totem pole among this group. I felt pleased to pay him back that way.

© 2000 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE HOME Contact Us Forums Subscribe [an error occurred while processing this directive]