March 12, 2010

Friday Prayers

Not mine, you understand. No, today around 1.8 million people here in Tripoli are trotting down to their local mosque to do their thing.

I worship at the altar of freedom but my god appears to have buggered off on holiday.

The wailing had reached new highs outside my bedroom window, and then the imam jumped in, and is presently giving his sermon not just to the pious inside, but he has left the 1 million watt sub-woofers switched on, so we are all benefitting from his wisdom. I am half-listening, (I don't have a choice), but I am only understanding one word in a hundred. That word would be Allah.

It has been an interesting week, but my trip here is almost over. I have the day off today, and half of tomorrow. I will jump onto the big silver bird on Sunday to head home. It will no doubt involve hiccups at the airport, it always does. Take last time: I got to the airport early, checked in, dumped my luggage, went through passport control and sat in the business lounge. Smoked like a free being and availed myself of the free coffee and cake. There are great steaming tureens of couscous but it isn't my thing. Eventually, we get called for boarding. I am about sixth in the queue so I figure I will be on the plane in a few minutes. Chappy checking passports looks puzzled when he sees mine, and shouts for Tariq. Tariq shuffles over, a short staccato conversation follows. Although I don't understand it all, I am fairly sure it is something like "Take this heathen away, his passport is fucked up". Tariq drags me out of the queue and shouts for Mohammed. Mohammed gets the story from Tariq, and drags me another five yards, then he shouts for Mahmoud. Mahmoud gets filled in, then drags me towards the staircase leading back to passport control. Gripping my arm, he shouts for Ahmed. Ahmed gets briefed, nods, grabs my arm, and we head downstairs, away from the plane. We find the Immigration Man, who is sat having a smoke with his friends. Ahmed tells him that something is amiss with the heathens passport. Immigration Man looks at my passport, looks at me, then sneers. "Why you not put stamp?", he asks me. "I don't have any stamps", I say. "Where is stamp?", he asks again. "Look", says Ranty, "I'm not sure how to tell you this, but" (I slow down my speech at this point) "you have all the stamps". He looks at me like I'm an imbecile, digs out a stamp from his pocket and stamps my passport, then waves dismissively. Obviously the whole cock-up was my fault. I am returned to the gate, I board the plane, and now have to hunt for a space for my carry-on bag. Deep joy.

I have been arrested a couple of times at Tripoli airport. Stamps are very important to these people and if one is missing from your passport life gets messy. When you arrive here you are supposed to get your passport stamped at the local police station. If you don't, then they "arrest" you at the airport and some intense negotiation takes place. The stamp at the local nick costs 15 dinars. The same stamp at the airport costs 50 dinars. (About £25). I am now convinced it is a scam operated between the hotel people and their cousins/brothers/uncles who work at the airport. I obsess about this "entry stamp" as soon as I get off the plane. I am only happy when I see that little green triangle parked alongside my Visa. I am safe. I just have to watch for the lazy bastard on the way out now. I will watch him like a hawk on Sunday to make sure he stamps my passport on the way through.

We are moving home on Monday. Mrs Ranty has been utterly delighted that I have been abroad in the days leading up to the move. Which means that blogging will be light next week as well. No doubt the usual chaos will ensue regarding phone lines and broadband connections. I'll get back to the keyboard as often as I can.

Have a bodacious weekend.



Angry Exile said...

Look, when in Rome and all that, but for a long time I've wondered what it is about Islam and modern technology. A cell phone is okay for a mad Islamist wanting to blow something up but not for the sane ones (relative term) wanting to call the faithful to prayer quietly by mass text message? It can't be technology since speakers and big fuck off amps seem to be okay.

Captain Ranty said...


Are you confusing Islam with the Amish?

I am assuming that the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer from the minarets is a traditional thing that then graduated to loud-hailers (megaphones), then speaker systems.

I will ask and see what I can learn.


CrazyDaisy said...


Good luck with the move, I stayed in Algiers once and had no entry stamp, but the chaps that were my bodyguards looked after me and I got a in and out stamp at the same time - no charge!

Just dont hang about in town the average life expectancy is 20 mins for a westerner.


Captain Ranty said...


I am in Libya. Next door to Algeria.

I spent a couple of years in Algeria as well. Working for Mr Halliburton. I also went to Algiers several times and you are right, it is/was a scary place.

Not wishing to boast but I flew in and out on a Gulfstream III. They took us into the airport via the Diplomats entrance and apart from a quick squint at my passport I had no problems whatsoever. Screaming through the city in a four car convoy was fun though. I felt like a rock star.

The second or third time I was leaving was a little too much fun for my liking. They (the bad guys) sent two mortar teams to the airport and they started lobbing over little gifts. The airport security lads seemed to be lost. They left us in the G3 while the baddies bombed the crap out of the surrounding buildings.

I was a bit twitchy but here I am, alive and well. Still allergic to mortar rounds though.


hangemall said...

I have been to Poland twice but have officially left it only once. Both from East(ern) Germany.

The first time was on a coach trip with my girl friend, who had lived in England most of her life, and her brother. (We were over there for the wedding of another brother and the christening of her nephew at the same time.)

It was to a market just over the border where Germans went to do cheap shopping. The Germans on the coach didn't need any passports stamped but I did. The coach wasn't even searched. Maybe the Poles took the word of the woman who shouted "Kein hash an bord." My passport duly stamped on the way back.

The second time was after the wall came down. This time we went with my girl friend's sister and brother in law, who drove. We went in all right, but got lost on the way back.

We came across a road which petered out into a sort of being-built road with Polish border guards/soldiers all over the place. They just sort of gawped at us with their rifles slung over their shoulders as we crept along and found a made-up road again on the German side.

So my question is this. Does this make me me and illegal emmigrant or immigrant?


watching said...

My Grandad was at Oran in WWII in a sloop covering the North African invasion. His ship, part of Force H, had the misfortune to berth in the port. (shit hole to quote a phrase) He got out again without a green stamp but then again he didn't require a stamp on the way in either!

CrazyDaisy said...


Aye the night before I left I was told to stay locked in my hotel room. During the night I awoke to 9mm rounds being losed off beneath my window, thankfully 15m drop! At breakfast I found out that a man had been killed!

The diplomatic side has those big comfy chairs Saddamesque with the Arabic carved screens and the men stewards dressed traditionally, nice!