Libya: The new land of opportunity
My friend Dina and I met in Washington, DC two years ago. I was working for Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Dina was pursuing her masters at Georgetown. We both are Libyan American, and had previously talked about visiting Libya together. Two years later were sharing a table with documentary filmmakers and Vice Magazine co-founders Shane Smith and Eddie Moretti. We watch them inhale their flavored tobacco and listen to their impression of Libya and ideas for possible film ventures. Dina, we're in Libya, I say without having to explain further. Dina just smiles and leans her blonde head against the bamboo chair (bamboo and grass are part of the decor of the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli). I look around, at Shane, and Eddie, at Dina, at Luke Stets from Layalina Productions, at Natalie, whose presence as a journalist reporting on Libyan women is also groundbreaking, and think about how much Libya has changed. For example, The Rixos Hotel,‚ a splendid Turkish investment that boasts of a snow room along with a steam room and sauna, opened in March 2010. Five years ago this scene would have never taken place. Not only because the hotel didn't exist, but because travel was restricted, and Libya was not seen as a global partner. Over the past few years, international investors have flocked to Tripoli, many oversee construction projects or work in the oil and gas industry. International business was undoubtedly encouraged by the full restoration of diplomatic ties with the U.S. in 2006, paving the way for Americans to do business here. As Libya's economy continues to grow, it leaves behind a trail of influence, evidence of a more dynamic social atmosphere is scattered around town. While people-watching at a cafe last night, I saw young Libyan men in hipster skinny jeans listening to techno on their ipods. I saw European girls with sleek haircuts sipping coffee next to Libyan women in headscarves. Last week I saw Libyan women jogging alongside men and families at a newly built race track. Its hard to define the magnitude of something that seems so ordinary in so many places around the world. I don't want to give the impression that Libya is Dubai (See Natalies post for clarification on that) but considering Libyas past, these changes are a very big deal. How will they benefit me, you, and the average Libyan? Only time will tell, but as far as I can tell, the benefits are in the opportunities that more accessibility inevitably creates. How will Libya accommodate the expectations of progressive thinkers, businessmen and engineers? Hopefully by continuing to improve and rebuild its infrastructure. As more hotel towers brighten up the sky in Tripoli (JW Marriot looks fabulous with its multicolored design), its noteworthy to think about who will be checking in, where theyll be working or who they are connected to. As I witnessed this past weekend, you never know who youll meet in Tripoli, and in that sense it is very similar to DC.