Desert rally a rare tranquil escape in chaotic Libya

AFP

4 min read
A driver takes part in the Hamada al-Hamra auto rally held in the area of Zintan, southwest of Libya's capital Tripoli, on November 10, 2022.
MAHMUD TURKIA / AFPA driver takes part in the Hamada al-Hamra auto rally held in the area of Zintan, southwest of Libya's capital Tripoli, on November 10, 2022.

The event finishes on Sunday in Ghadames, a UNESCO world heritage site dubbed the 'desert pearl'

Some 30 quad bikes, motorcycles, and four-wheel drives are rallying in Libya's desert – a welcome but rare taste of normality for a nation lashed by the shifting sands of conflict.

At the launch in 2013, organizers of the Hamada al-Hamra rally envisioned an annual event, yet this year's episode is only the third to get beyond the starting line. 

Competitors from the north African countries of Libya and Tunisia have taken to the drivers' seats, one of them a woman for the first time in a Libyan rally. 

The contest sends a message that the country can pull off "a great sporting event, far from the politics and divisions" that perennially buffet it, organizer Khaled Drera said.

Libya "wants to progress towards the stability that it deserves,” said Drera, who is also a tour guide and an expert on the country's desert landscapes.

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The rally's name stems from the vast territory at the heart of Libya's portion of the Sahara, a stretch of tranquility in a nation repeatedly engulfed by chaos since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.  

For months now, two rival governments have been vying for power – one based in the capital Tripoli in the country's west, and the other appointed by the parliament, based in the east. Clashes between the two camps have repeatedly shaken Libya this year, notably the capital. A confrontation in late August left at least 30 people dead.

After departing Thursday from Zintan, a mountainous small town around 105 miles southwest of Tripoli, the competitors have been driving a course that covers almost 250 miles of largely flat and stony ground.

The event finishes on Sunday in Ghadames, a UNESCO world heritage site – dubbed the "desert pearl" – near the border with Algeria and Tunisia.

MAHMUD TURKIA / AFP
MAHMUD TURKIA / AFPAn aerial view of auto enthusiasts taking part in the Hamada al-Hamra rally, held in the area of Zintan, southwest of Libya's capital Tripoli.

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