Libya 1979

When you leave Freedom Square, the open space in the centre of Ghadames which used to be the slave market, you go ‘underground’. The houses are built over the streetswith occasional gaps,  to keep them in the shade, keep them cool. In certain places there are recesses built back into the wall, with seats of brick, where old people like me sit and gossip with our friends. This day, the bearded stranger greeted me as he walked past and I invited him to sit with me. We talked and watched the life passing in front of us.

 

The streets were busy because it was a holiday. We could hear the noise of knives being sharpened in courtyards. The smell of roasted lamb was already in the air.  Live sheep were being pulled or carried along the streets, bleating.  Men were moving through the covered streets with little axes and wheelbarrows. On some barrows were carcasses or skins. A group of girls ran past giggling, holding a decapitated head, while the boys were laughing at each other as they made farting noises with the sperm sacs or bladders.

This reminded me I needed to go home, and I invited the stranger to join me. We entered the house. I could see him looking around with interest: the sleeping spaces are by the front door, the main rooms on the next floor have alcoves –covered with curtains or wooden doors - cut into the decorated whitewashed mud walls for storage, the kitchen is on the roof.  All my family were there, on the roof, waiting. The sheep too. My grandson was impatient, eyeing the stranger as if he was responsible for me being so slow. He told me he had sharpened my knife. Its our tradition that, on this religious holiday, the oldest man in the family sacrifices his sheep first. I asked my great-grandchildren to help me.

 Inside a house in Ghadames

Inside a house in Ghadames