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October 29, 2007

Desert dessert!

The Monk's students decided to show him some true Libyan hospitality on Saturday and took him into the desert for a "Libyan BBQ." The site proved to be not far from the compound which is Mersa Brega, the whole town belongs to the Oil Company and everyone in it is employed by them. That said, it was along the coast amid what would be, anywhere else, the dune field on a beach. Here it is some distance from the sea, just visible in the distance. A surprise was the trees, not, as one would expect palms or desert scrub, but Australian Gum Trees! Yup, the shaggy bark variety complete with gum nuts and eucalypt leaves. Apparently they were planted some thirty years ago in an attempt to anchor the dunes and stop them engulfing the town, the refinery and the harbour. I'd say they were partially successful, but even Australia's hardy eucalypts struggle in this place!

That said, they did provide some wonderful shade and a screen from the sun, where my students set up their BBQ equipment, rolled out a huge carpet and scattered various rugs and mats. The meat was a variety of meats which included goat and sheep chopped up and grilled and salads which included a variety of fresh herbs, green chili, tomatoes and cucumber. The chili should carry a Hazard Warning label. This stuff has a bite that would make the Cobra's eyes water!

Shortly after arriving the call of the local Muezzin wafted over the dunes from the township about half a mile away - you don't want to be close to the Mosque when he calls the faithful to prayer five times a day .... And the assembled company excused themselves, washed hands, feet and heads and then formed up for prayer. I moved a way a short distance so as to leave them space for this and found myself using the time for my own prayers. I may not share their beliefs, but I do not see that as a barrier to prayer.

Prayer over the cooking commenced and this is serious business. Working with these guys has taught me that you can never have only one view - there are as many views as there are people and they all have their say, loudly, with much waving of hands and laughter. I can't remember ever seeing so many people having so much fun without alcohol of any sort. Then its time to sit and eat together, each using pieces of bread to acquire a chunk of meat and gravy. Great way to share a meal - and the chatter and jokes were by now flowing freely. Let's just say, that the humour can be very earthy ... but they way they tell jokes is almost as good as the joke itself.

The afternoon seemed to speed by, with various courses appearing at intervals - and then it was prayer time again. With prayers over it was announced that we would now have "noddles" - translated - macaroni in a spicey sauce, served on a couple of huge platters and the diners, each armed with a spoon, tuck in to the bit nearest them.

The sun was setting as we headed home again, and I would have to say that it is one of the best BBQ's I have ever attended. And I didn't even get sunburned ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at October 29, 2007 03:57 PM

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