Last year, almost all the fighting in the Libyan civil war took place in the north of the country - on a relatively narrow strip along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The fighting in the depths of the country, in the Western mountains, took place only in summer, but also relatively close to the seashore.
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The messages were so contradictory that it became clear that without a personal trip there it was impossible to make a clear picture of what was happening.
My old Benghazian acquaintance, Mohammed Khamis, a former helicopter pilot, a graduate of the Frunzensky Flight School, who, during his studies, found himself and a Russian wife, came to the rescue:
- I myself come from Al-Kufra, all my relatives live there. What happens there, I know first hand. Therefore, if you want, just take a new reliable car for rent and drive there.
“It's dangerous to go there.” My friends in Benghazi say that it is better to settle down with an army convoy. And even better - somehow board a military transport plane that flies there from Benghazi.
- That's nonsense. Driving a car is dangerous not by road thieves who are not there, but by the fact that 200 km away from Al-Kufra itself has no road. Therefore, it is better to leave at night, so in any case to get to the city before dark. But you need to go there only by car, because the road is the key to understanding life not only in Kufra, but throughout southern Libya.
In Benghazi, car rental costs 20 dinars per day (approximately $ 16). But if you need to Kufru, then you have to pay all 50 - for additional depreciation.
CAST TO THE SOUTH
We left Benghazi on 5 in the morning. With us in the company was still the daughter of Mohammed Amir and the American journalist Claire Gillis. The distance from Benghazi to Kufra is the same as from Benghazi to Tripoli - 1050 km. The difference between the roads in Eastern and Western Libya now is that in Benghazi itself and until Ajdabiya the checkpoints are already empty. While in the Western part of the road operates round-the-clock inspection of cars and documents. That is, the security situation in the western part of the country, including Tripoli, is about the same as it was in Benghazi six months ago.
Ajdabiya is a key city in Eastern Libya. From it, the roads diverge to Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk and the Egyptian border, and to the south - the cities of Ujl, Jala, Kufru and on to Chad and Sudan.
And today we are not going to the west, but to the south.
From Ajdabiya naked desert almost immediately begins. On the way, trucks with goods came across, but most of the trucks carried drill pipes. On the intensity of traffic on this route said deposits of abandoned cargo tires, which stretched from Adzhdabii kilometers on 50. On the way, a herd of camels met. In Libya, from a vehicle of merchants - a ship of the desert, camels turned exclusively into a source of wool, milk and meat.
Historically, the movement of caravan routes was reduced to rolls from one oasis to another. On the way to Kufra, there are only two such oasis cities - Ujla and Jala. These are garden towns. Jalu is the main tomato plantation in Benghazi. Oasis looks like a green spot in the middle of the desert - palm groves, surrounded by fences of palm branches, protecting from the sand. However, in the bare desert it is in these parts that the main wealth of Libya is located - oil fields, where ordinary visitors are not allowed - a special permit is required. It was in Djalo that a peasant in a Halliburton brand jumpsuit caught his eye. It’s not a fact, however, that he works at Halliburton, he could buy a suit at the bazaar.
THE GREAT MANUFACTURING RIVER
Gaddafi's Cyclopean Megaproject Close-Up
Perhaps it was in the Great Man-made River Gaddafi. Gaddafi ordered to build a huge water supply almost from the most southern desert margins to the shore.
Asphalt ended precisely in those places where there was a laying of huge pipes 4-meter diameter.
At point N 27.96352 E 21.58587 is a factory for the production of these pipes. From Ajdabiya to Djalo the water supply goes already underground, and only technological hatches stick out on the surface.
The pipe plant looks abandoned, around the rows of pipes.
We go further. Mohammed says:
- This is what I also wanted to show you. Next will be two campus builders. The pipe was laid by Turkish builders. Last year after the start of the revolution, all workers were immediately evacuated from here. And the local people here have torn up all the equipment, removed everything that was valuable, took them to Chad and Sudan, looted the towns and burned them.
And here everything died - both the water supply system and the road construction.
In Kufra, the new government is most displeased because the new government has completely frozen the construction of the road. But the road, apparently, was postponed until the end of the construction of the pipeline.
This water supply system in Kufra is not needed, as in other oasis cities like Tazirboo. The geography of the Libyan oases can be explored by labels on bottles with drinking water - in many cities this water is bottled from local fresh sources.
“The great man-made river is considered by us one of the greatest achievements of Gaddafi. But for a year in Libya, I heard only skeptical opinions. What is the reason?
- Gaddafi built this water supply primarily as a monument to himself. Underground lakes in the desert were discovered by geologists under the king. When they estimated the costs, they decided that the game was not worth the trouble. It is more expedient to build desalination stations in each large city of Libya, which are located right on the seashore. Moreover, having a source of energy from oil and gas.
But Gaddafi decided otherwise and the water supply system, a total length of several thousand kilometers, began to be built. In fact, it is not entirely clear why, since the pipes are designed for a lifetime of only 40 years. Cities do not need such huge amounts of water, the whole calculation was on planting the desert and growing agricultural products. From the air you can see huge green circles in the middle of the desert, which are located in clusters next to each other.
- In the USSR, too, they set about trying to deploy Siberian rivers in the desert regions of Central Asia, in order to provide cotton plantation with water. But this was abandoned in the second half of 80-s due to exorbitant costs and unpredictable environmental damage.
The plundered and abandoned town of the Turkish construction company TEKFEN is located at point N 25.06897 E 22.95279, but it is not visible on Google Earth - an old survey.
Further away is the last section of pipe laying. There is a huge crane in the trench - an excavator and lined rings a kilometer long, if not more.
To Kufra - 110 km. From this place, the dirt road with rolled gravel passes simply into the direction, and the black desert begins, with basalt hills, and basalt dust eroded from the cliffs sticking out from under the sand, which gives the impression that “something was burning” here.
- For 200 km to Kufra, where the normal road ends, there was always an extreme post of traffic police and security services. Their bread is a check and collection of tribute from transit trucks going to Kufra. Drivers were forced to completely unload the contents of the trailers on the ground and bring the goods to the inspection. To pay off, not to unload and go on without inspection, it cost 400 dinars.
It is impossible to ignore the police in this place, because you cannot run far away along such a road - they will quickly catch up.
But the Libyan frontier guards and customs officers removed even more fat. With a salary in 500 dinars, they took 2000 dinars from each truck. They paid everything because the market value of cargo in Sudan was on average 250 thousand dinars. The system was completely corrupt from top to bottom - from the customs of the port of Benghazi, the administration of social shops, which allowed the bulk of the products to the left, the carriers of Ajdabiya, who had a monopoly on transportation, to the last customs officer on the southern border.
Control over the border has always been quite conditional. A pair of helicopters took off from the airfield to fly over the border, but in the summer heat they could not get into the air during the day due to the high temperature.
“Did the Egyptians also have such a powerful smuggling channel?”
No, the Egyptians, who have 80 or 90 millions of people, have an army too large and they have enough troops to completely block their border with Sudan. And Libya does not. Because all traffic goes through us.
TUBU AND CALL
The smuggling in Kufr was held in the hands of the people of the tribe of Zwai, of whom the vast majority were in Kufr. The smuggling was given to them at the mercy of feeding as privileges for Gaddafi’s loyalty. Therefore, the city actually consists of its supporters, who now just changed the flag. But at the same time in 2011, their entire business completely went downhill. Zvay in Adzhdabii supported the revolution after the shooting of demonstrators there last February.
The tribe call in Kufra itself are former slave traders who came from Chad about 200 years ago, who settled down and married with black women whom they caught for sale.
(Other sources say that the tribe of nomadic shepherds called appeared in the south of Libya in 1840 year and drove out the tribe of the tuba from there, taking the plantations of palm trees into oases and turning the tuba into oppressed farm laborers. Approx. Author)
Tubu, the total number from 12000 to 350 000, live mainly in Chad around the Tibesti mountains. But the total area of their settlement extends from southern Egypt, northern Sudan, through Chad, inclusive, to Niger.
In Kufra, the total population is about 60 thousand, although according to official data. Of these, the tuba is thousands of 4. This is what remains of them in 160 years, although their territories in the first half of the 19 century extended to Djalo.
From Gaddafi, they received only further persecution from the call, on which Gaddafi made a bid. Clashes between the tuba and the shout occurred in Kufra every year, but there were equal fights and stabbings. Weapons on the hands was neither the one nor the other side. When the revolution began, the calls were divided into those who fattened on smuggling and supported Gaddafi, and those who supported the opposition.
Tuba also had their scores for Gaddafi and completely moved to the side of the revolution. But the most important thing is that their relatives, who live along the border in Chad and Niger and control the desert, blocked the routes of black mercenaries from Chad and Niger across the desert to Libya to help Gaddafi.
The biggest irony is that, unlike Tawerghi or Mashashia, who fought for Gaddafi and paid for it by expelling the entire population from their cities, they try one hundred percent supporters of the revolution - the tuba - from Kufra. And moreover, the former Kaddafists, who changed the flag, fill the whole process. I myself - from, but what is, that is.
A warm welcome in Kufra
We drove the last 20 km to Kufra just along the sand, guessing the direction on fresh tracks and oncoming wagons.
At the checkpoint, we got into trouble. The local police officers on duty at the checkpoint did not like the papers on the car. A fighter jumped into the car and ordered him to go to the squad headquarters and then to the local “Military Council”. In the "headquarters" we took the documents on the car and passports. In the "Military Council" ordered to appear in the morning for questioning - to explain how they ended up in the city without special permission.