|Yet another movie, yet another roadtrip.|
This one started in Casablanca with a dinner the first evening at Rick's Cafe. Kathy Kriger, the American landlady who I met there and spoke with in the bar, has done an incredible job building this restaurant and recreating the exact scene and spirit from the 1942 film with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. That classic was set against the backdrop of World War II. My roadtrip this time was set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring in 2011, when tens of millions of people stood up against their former dictators across northern Africa and the Middle East.
|Throughout this long journey visits were made to other landmarks along the way, such as this huge place of worship, the Hassan II Mosque, with a capacity of 25,000 faithful indoors and another 80,000 in the courtyard. Neatly located right by the Atlantic.|
|In Tunisia and other countries the revolution was still so fresh, so that proper new street signs were not yet available for places that had been renamed during the Arab Spring. This temporary green placard says that this is now "Place 14 janvier 2011", a square and meeting point in central Tunis formerly known under another name associated with the overthrown authoritarian ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.|
|An overriding theme throughout all RTs to date, has been the rise and fall of civilizations; the rise, fall and sometimes rebirth of societies.|
Change. Cycles. Waves. Round and round over time.
The transience of everything.
Here is a glimpse of the frail remains of Carthage. Once a major Mediterranean stronghold, a reputed name for centuries, governed by some of the biggest names in world history. Now almost forgotten, a neglected attraction on the eastern seashore edge of metropolitan Tunis. This day in November 2011 I was almost the only visitor here.
|The roadtrip continued into Libya. When travelling through shaky regions in the world, I sometimes check with the locals what the latest news is. The evening before entering Libya I was warned in a very clear way by people in the bar at my hotel in Gabes in southern Tunisia for crossing the border. This made me weigh the decision carefully, but in the end I decided to go in anyway. The situation in Libya was indeed rather tense. Throughout the country from west to east I passed probably 60-70 checkpoints along the main road. Most people, when initating conversations, were however very friendly. There was a sense of great relief in the country, and in the western parts including Tripoli still even a street party atmosphere. This picture is from the Martyrs' Square in central Tripoli, just a couple of weeks after the civil war ended.|
|Past Misratah and for hundreds of kilometers east, however, the consequences of the civil war were very stark and often dire. Even out in the northern Libyan desert this was apparent, with acute fuel shortages in this otherwise oil-rich country.|
|I've previously seen the brutal scars left behind from wars and conflict in Africa, Asia and elsewhere... But here in Sirte the devastation from guns was probably more real and recent than ever. Buildings were in ruins. A ghost town with very few people around, but the whole time I felt as if someone was observing me, from somewhere.|
War is hell.
|Just 18 days after the rebels pulled Muammar Gaddafi out of his hiding place in this drainage pipe in the outskirts of his hometown Sirte, I visited the scene which became symbolic to victory for the rebels in Libya, and marked one of the key moments of the entire Arab Spring. No journalists or western tourists around, however. As mentioned, parts of the town of Surt were at this time almost levelled to the ground. Stray rebel soldiers with machine guns or pickup-truck mounted artillery were never far out of sight, and the very few journalists I saw in Libya, in Tripoli, didn't step outside their hotel without local security minders and bullet-proof vests. In my roadtrip project we don't have the luxury of bullet-proof vests. We go wherever we want to go anyway.|
|The final leg of the roadtrip had to be by bus this time, as the Egyptian authorities confiscated my car when entering the country, claiming I lacked the proper documentation for the vehicle, my great reliable Opel Corsa friend that didn't let me down at any time.|
Well, whatever. Let them have it. The show must go on.
Cairo celebrated the end of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, with dozens of illuminated boats and loud music on the Nile.
The symbolic end, or perhaps the symbolic beginning?
RT11 will go down as probably the riskiest exploration to date. It also marks the halfway point of the project. The coming ten years 2012-2021 will revisit other types of pyramids, other deserts, other jungles, other plains, other mountains, other empty spaces and other crammed world cities. Societies on the rise, societies in decline, and echoes from times gone by. Just to try in the end to understand how everything fits together, how everything works.
Until then... I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.