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AFP

on 06/18/2021 at 9:01 a.m.

5 min read

Ten years ago, Libyan families surely never imagined one day having a picnic in one of Muammar Gaddafi’s most famous barracks. And yet, the former military academy of the “Amazons” has just been converted into a successful leisure park, in the heart of Tripoli.

During Gaddafi’s long reign, “Amazons” referred to women in fatigues who provided security for the deposed colonel. This academy has long been seen as a symbol of the dictatorial and whimsical power of the “Guide”, hunted and killed in 2011 in the context of the “Arab Spring”.

A decade of chaos has passed and, since it opened to the public a few weeks ago, the park that succeeded it has never been empty. Located opposite the cornice beaten by the Mediterranean winds, it spans 80,000 m2.

“I like to play sports and here I can go for a walk with my wife while our children play next door,” Muhannad Kashar, 47, who goes there every evening with his family, told AFP.

“We smell the fresh sea air, and with the presence of all these families, we feel that Tripoli is living again” after years of conflict, continues his wife.

The park, which includes a cycle path, merry-go-rounds, mini-football fields and green spaces, effectively opens its doors in the midst of a political upturn, marked by the installation in March of a unified government responsible for leading the transition until ‘in elections in December.

The project has come a long way because, after the revolt of 2011, militias, some from neighboring towns, sought to take advantage of the chaos to take control of the site, whose location is strategic between the port and the city center. , not hesitating to resort to arms to achieve this.

Finally, four years ago, the former Union Government (GNA) – whose authority was exercised only over part of the country – decided to transform the place into a leisure space, the first step aimed at demilitarizing the center of the capital.

“It’s a success,” prides Ibrahim Al-Khlifi, the mayor of the Municipality of Tripoli. The park attracts a few thousand visitors a day.

“Our objective was to limit the proliferation of arms and to eliminate all the military camps located inside the cities,” he told AFP, calling this first conversion a “wise decision” which should open up the way to others.

Former military sites transformed into gardens, parks or seaside resorts should open soon, assures the official.

Unlike other areas of the city where rubbish piles up, here everything stays clean. Dumpsters are placed everywhere and visitors take care not to leave anything behind.

Families happily picnic around a thermos of coffee or tea on the wooden tables and benches provided while their children play nearby.

Some let go of their scooters to rush towards an ice cream truck which sounds its chime announcing its passage.

Young girls and women who usually avoid walking alone in the street for fear of being harassed, and because there are few sidewalks, can practice their sport quietly without needing to be chaperoned.

Mahmoud Al-Tijani came by bicycle from the town of Zawiya, 45 km west of the capital, for this “track which is lacking in public parks”.

With the support of the Municipality of Tripoli, the plastic artist Iskandar Al-Sokni painted on the ground, in the central part of the park, a work aimed at “transmitting a message of peace”.

It took him about three months to draw on 2,500 m2 of yellow, red circles and blue ripples representing waves.

The idea was to “create joy through colors (…) and a message of hope for all Libyans”.

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