CAPTURING TRIPOLI POSES–Libya Now & Then

Mohamed Posing

Mohamed Copying My Pose from the 1950s

 

My friend posing on the old restored DeSoto in Tripoli’s Garden City area  is Mohamed Ben-Masaud, a Tripoli, Libya, native now living in Denver, Colorado. Since he does business in Libya, he visits his family and friends back home several times a year. Thanks to Kathie deRussy (a Wheelus High School friend), he has gotten to know, both personally and through Facebook, many former American military “brats” who went to school in the 1950s-60s at Wheelus Air Force Base just outside Tripoli. Mohamed has read some of my stories of life in Tripoli and seen some of the photos I’ve posted on this blog and on Facebook. He was gracious enough to explore Garden City to find our old family home nearly 60 years later! Street names are no longer in Italian and much has changed. He persisted while I tried to remember directions since the main marker for me had been the Egyptian Ambassador’s compound that was right across the street from our home. He located the right spot, but the house had been completely changed and the walled property across the street had become the Tunisian Embassy. The higher walls of today make the neighborhood seem more closed in.

The biggest surprise was how he copied my flirtatious pose from the 1950s–his shoes are on the sidewalk, he’s wearing jeans and socks, the car is pointed the wrong way, like my car, and there’s a car further up the street. What made him sure he found the right spot was the manhole on the sidewalk near his right foot. You can see the square manhole cover above my shoes below. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that he would go to all that trouble!

Teenage "Viki" on the family Ford in Tripoli

Teenage “Viki” on the family Ford in Tripoli

 

Here’s a little background on my Tripoli adventure: Just before Christmas in 1955, my US Army Corps of Engineers father settled  the five members of the Williams family into a home in Garden City, an upscale location for Europeans, Americans and wealthier Libyans. Consisting of streets like spokes that branched off Garden City Circle, the area was a neighborhood of one and two-story, flat-roofed, square and rectangular-shaped villas surrounded by stucco walls as high as ten feet. The walls were as much for privacy as protection, and many of them had decorative, fret-worked sections. Flowering vines such as bougainvillea, lantana hedges, and palm trees were ubiquitous; Garden City was an appropriate name. It was some time before I discovered that the vibrantly-colored pink and purple bougainvillea vines that seemed to cascade from countless rooftops were in actuality growing up from the ground to the roof and not vice-versa.

Our spacious home was on the second floor of a two-family villa on a street that maintained its Italian name, Via de Gaspari; a Libyan family lived downstairs. A balcony, on both stories, ran the full length of the villa’s frontage. We were renting a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment. There was no central heating, but since doors closed off the entrance hall, separate dining room and separate living room, we could keep the back bedrooms and kitchen warm in winter with portable Aladdin propane gas heaters. To add to the coziness and keep out pesky sand from ghiblis, the desert sandstorms that would blow into town on occasion, there were green wooden shutters that could be rolled down over the outside of all the windows.

Garden City was multi-cultural. Our side of a very short block boasted a British general and his wife on the corner next to us; another British family occupied the home on the other side of us. Across the street lived a French family and an Italian family, and a large corner compound surrounded by a decorative wall contained the home of the Egyptian ambassador to Libya. The popular Gamel Abdul Nasser was in power in Egypt, and while we were there the ambassador held a party for Libyan dignitaries and politicians (only male, of course). I spied on the interesting event from our balcony and watched as his male visitors mingled. Robed Arab sheiks, with their distinctive square cloth headdress bound with gold rope, seemed to be the dominant guests. Seated at outside tables set up in the sizeable yard, they smoked as they watched films of Nasser on a giant movie screen.

 

4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Mohamed for your compliments and, most especially, for that wonderful photo! Who knows–someday I’ll go back and take another photo there. Victoria

  2. Mohamed Ben-Masaud says:

    Victoria… You are a God gifted and talented witter, what an amazing short story. I really enjoyed reading it. Maybe someday you will have your first reunion back here in Tripoli and take another photo in the same spot but different time, that will be an amazing moment. Keep up the good work and have a pleasant day… Mohamed

  3. Kathleen E. de Russy says:

    Viki you have to admit that your picture did almost invite some response. But what was it going to be? It has taken all these years and being in the right location to match your “throw down”. Mohamed has a very clever sense of humor, as do you. Thank you both for the entertainment. What’s the next photo shoot?

  4. Kathleen E. de Russy says:

    Viki you have to admit that your picture did almost invite some response. But what was it going to be? It has taken all these years and being in the right location to match your “throw down”. Mohamed has a very clever sense of humor, as do you. Thank you both for the entertainment.

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