On February 17 we were invited to a large event hosted by the Libyan Embassy for the commemoration of the “Glorious National Blood of our Martyrs Liberation Day” marking the first day of the Arab Spring in Libya and the beginning of the end for Muammar Gaddafi’s longstanding regime. We really had no idea what it would be like but there was free food and we theorized that we might find baklava there as well…so we were sold!
We arrived and I immediately knew this event was way out of my league when I heard a well dressed man in front of me introducing himself as prince so and so of Saudi Arabia. Wow. He’s a Saudi Arabian prince practically soaked in oil money and I’m a twenty three year old English teacher with a mountain student debt. Awesome! As we listened throughout the rest of the night we heard snippets from a plethora of interesting looking people. “Traditional wear” was the garb of the night, so dressed up Italian ambassadors, Iraqi diplomats, Sudanese cabinet ministers and Eritrean officials with their wives and kids in tow all mingled together in one of the most intriguing cultural mixes I've ever experienced.
After a prayer to Allah in sing-song Arabic, there was a chaotic rush for the food. I ate my fill of couscous, mutton kebabs and shwarma then devoured an embarrassing amount of baklava. As we left the flag-covered hotel, we received an issue of The Islamic Times celebrating the “Febryary 17 Revolation,” a surprisingly nice photo-book displaying Libyan landscapes, a “Touristic Map of Libya” and a mug proclaiming in English and Arabic that “Libya writes history with the blood of the martyrs.” All in all it was a pretty good haul!
The uniqueness of this experience astounds me. If you had told me a year ago that I would be living in Bangladesh, attending a Libyan Embassy event frequented by Saudi Arabian princes and delegates from as far away as Iraq, UAE and Maldives, I would have laughed in your face at the randomness and absurdity of such a suggestion. But that is exactly what I did last night.