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But in the months that followed rebel forces took control of key cities... then saw that control shift back into the hands of pro-government elements. There were Nato air strikes... and counter-attacks... and despite a no fly zone and other protective measures authorized by the UN Security Council... thousands of citizens were killed. The Arab Spring turned into a sanguinary summer in Libya.
During the past week however, the the anti-government forces appear to have taken back many of those key cities and we're now hearing they've advanced on Tripoli... and that Qaddafi, may have fled. Though fierce fighting clearly continues in and around the Libyan capitol, it does now seem that a tipping point has been reached, and the Qaddafi regime really is on the brink of collapse. That thought inspired me to revisit the post I wrote six months ago in the early days of the Arab Spring.
A Changing World & the Golf Courses of Libya - February 22, 2011
True: I write about golf. But I've got to admit I'm finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the momentous events taking place in North Africa and the Middle East. Popular uprisings that started in Tunisia, and spread quickly to Egypt, are now inspiring the populations of neighboring lands to reject leaders who had once seemed invulnerable. An historic geopolitical change... one that'll shape the future for everyone on earth... is clearly underway.
And it sometimes makes writing about Tiger and tournaments and the latest golf fashion trends feel... I don't know...
Yes, but I love writing about golf... it's what I do in this space... and presumably, it's what readers come by for. So while I'm finding myself intently watching what's happening in the world, I've always got golf on my radar... and I've discovered that the game is present just about everywhere, in some form or fashion.
Right now all eyes are on Libya, where protests are ongoing, violence is escalating and Muammar Gaddafi is clinging to the power he's held for over four decades.
The stakes here are particularly high, as this vast North African nation is one of the world's top oil producers and its beleaguered is ruler one the planet's most unpredictable.
Despite its rich historical past and extraordinary archaeological sites, tourism is not highly developed in Libya largely due to the capriciousness of its leader. International hotels are scarce... to non-existent. In fact Marriot, the first global brand to have property in the country, opened the JW Marriott Hotel Tripoli in the Libyan capitol a mere two weeks ago. As a result, the country's four golf courses can't exactly count on tourists to fill in those open tee times.
The golfers in Libya are mainly expats. You'll also find Libyans who learned to play while caddying for the oil company executives who introduced golf to the country in the 60s. ~ In Tripoli they play at the Tripoli Golf Club or the Tajura Golf Club, both 18 holes courses. There's also a course in the eastern city of Benghazi and one in the oil refinery town of Brega. The courses are all sand and the ex-patriot website expatarrivals.com qualifies them collectively with ... "as a high level golfer you won't find them very challenging, but not bad for a good day of distraction."
I was hard pressed to find pictures of any of them. The photo at the top of the page is from The Wrigs in Libya, a blog that chronicles the adventures of a Canadian family living the expat life in Benghazi. It's part of a post written in August of 2008 and the caption reads:
"This is the 18 hole golf course across from the Al Fadeel hotel. It's a Par 68 course. We have yet to play but are planning on it. They have recently added another ATCO trailer and repainted the clubhouse as well as done some upgrades to the tee boxes."From the looks of it the Wrigs never did get to play that desert course... and their most recent post... from a couple of days ago... tells of their reluctant departure from Bengazhi. They're returning to Canada for the time being, in the face of Libya's increasing violence.
The prospect of a new government in Libya... one open to international tourism... has to be extremely tantalizing to golf course developers. With some of the best preserved archaeological sites in the world, an expansive Mediterranean coastline and an ideal climate, the country would be a perfect place for golf resorts...lots of them... and ambitious architects are no doubt already thinking that if the right kind of government came in, oil-producing Libya could become the next Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Unfortunately however, the contumelious Colonel Gaddafi seems prepared to resort to extreme violence in his attempts to say in power, and the road to Libya's future as an international golf tourism destination could be long and perilous. We'll be watching what happens in the coming days and weeks, and hoping for the best.
Updates: The JW Marriott Hotel Tripoli is reportedly been taken over by snipers. There are also reports that it's on fire. Earlier this evening the hotel's website posted the following: "Due to the political unrest in Libya, the JW Marriott Hotel Tripoli is not accepting incoming reservations until further notice. The safety and security of our guests and employees is our top priority and we will continue to evaluate the situation."
The Wrigs haven't gotten back to Lybia and don't seem to be planning a return trip any time soon. Their blog, The Wrigs of Libya is now simply called The Wrigs and chronicles their current life in Western Canada.
A Twitter account @MuamarsGolfCart has been created for "Ghaddafis Golf Cart" dispensing sophomoric tweets such as: