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Day 82: Benghazi

Michael Palin - SaharaIn the lobby of the Hotel Tibesti hang neat placards with quotes from Colonel Gaddafi's Green Book. To us sophisticated Westerners, for whom talking about political theory is about as uncomfortable as talking about piles, it seems pretty odd to have 'Committees Everywhere' hanging up in a place of hospitality and entertainment, not to mention the even less catchy 'The Social i.e. National Factor is the Driving Force Of Human History'. But that's how it is here in the Jamahiriya, the 'state of the masses', where Muammar Gaddafi has run the show for the last thirty-one years. After he and fellow army officers got rid of a monarchy backed by America and Britain, Gaddafi made sweeping changes. Private enterprise was banned, foreign influence discouraged and the country reorganised around people's committees and congresses. Alcohol was banned.

Bankrolling the revolution was not a problem, Libya being in the enviable position of having the world's third largest oil earnings and a population less than that of Greater London.

Gaddafi's survival owes much to his ability to reinvent himself. He's been at various times scourge of the West and leader of the Arab world; currently he is the great Pan-African. The change can be charted on the billboards.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 82
  • Country/sea: Libya
  • Place: Benghazi
  • Book page no: 218

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