Thursday, July 9, 2009

An evening in Tripoli

Bob and I left the office at about 7pm so he could show me where my hotel was. The hotel El Koura was a nice little family owned place down a very narrow street. I'd only been booked in for one night because Bob had manage to arrange for me to stay in a Norweigan colleague's room in an apartment with three others for the next 3-4 weeks - such a relief to have time up my sleeve to find somewhere to live permanently!! Bob had told me there was an internet cafe across the street from the hotel so after dumping my bags I headed down to find it closed. Not to worry, I thought, I'll just go for a wander and find some dinner.

I found stores selling the latest fashions (blue and purple seem to be the colours of summer), men sitting on the side of the road smoking their shishas, young guys cruising around with the windows down and music blaring, but no food. I turned around and walked back the other way, making sure I knew which ways to turn on the way back. Again, I reached a point where it didn't look like there was much beyond, so I turned around again.

A guy my age was standing with an older gentlemen who looked quite bemused by me, and they asked if I was lost. No, I replied politely, I'm just looking for somewhere to get some food. "Ghassan, help the young lady with some food," the old man directed. I protested (of course), but he was very insistent, and pointed at a little shop across the street. So I went with Ghassan, minding myself on the crazy street, and we walked into a little shop that sold nuts. Ghassan and Yousef were old friends, and Ghassan went straight behind the display case like he owned the place and started handing me different nuts to try. He told me he was a lawyer, and that he'd recently applied for a masters degree in Australia. I didn't know whether to believe him or not, but he seemed nice enough. After Yousef had given me a bag of nuts (and wouldn't let me pay) Ghassan led me to another shop across the street where of course he knew the proprieter. I can't remember what the food was, but it was chickpeas, onions, some other type of chickpea thing, and a bright pink vegetable like a turnip rolled up in a wrap. Again, my money wasn't accepted and the food was delicious.

I took Ghassan's number, thanked him and said goodbye. Who knows if I'll actually get in touch with him again, but the kindness of strangers (whatever their motivation...) is something that never fails to surprise me. The rest of my evening was spent watching a movie and smiling at the old man who's family owned the hotel who couldn't speak of word of English but was very friendly.

This morning, his wife brought out a tray for my breakfast with some flat bread, marmalade and moo cheese. As I was tucking into my second piece she brought out a freshly baked, homemade chocolate croissant...mouthwatering, chocolaty goodness!!! I love this country!!

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