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Arabeyes: 1001 Tales from Libyan Taxi Rides

Can taking a taxi be an eye-opening experience to the society you live in? Libyan blogger Libyano** takes us on a ride of a lifetime in the following translation, which gives him the chance to contemplate on his society, the behaviour of young men and the antics of some taxi drivers.

It all started when his car decided to take a break from its normal activities.

سيارتي كانت راقدة في الورشة لمدة ثلاث اسابيع وكنت في الفترة هذي نقضي في مشاويري بالتاكسي او بالايفيكو ومشاء الله صارت معاي احداث رهيبة ما تنحكاش غير باليبي , وحبيت اليوم نحكي بعض منها وعلي فكرة اللي صار كله حقيقة واللي مش مصدق يركب تاكسي و تو يشوف العجب .
My car was in the garage for three weeks. In this period I had to use taxis and I came across interesting things which can only be expressed in the Libyan dialect. I would like to narrate some of what has happened to me here. All of it is true and who doesn't believe me can ride a taxi to experience such marvels for themselves.
في يوم كانت الشمس ما شاء الله تحرق وفي عز القايلة مع الساعة واحد , وقفت اول تاكسي وما قعدتش نستني في السيارة اللي تعجبني زي العادة , الحمد لله اول ما ركبت حسيت بظل السيارة لكن اول ما حاولت اني نزل مرش السيارة ما باش ينزل , السواق ابتسم وقاللي معليشي توا كيف فسد اليومين اللي فاتو بس , باهي اني قلت تو السيارة تتحرك و الهوا يخش من روشنه هوا ويخبط وجهي لكن المصيبة الطريق كانت زحمة عل الاخر طبعا لان فيه ثانوية بنات في نهاية الشارع وما نحكيلكش علي الشباب اللي زي الورد اللي ماد وجهه زي مالقي العزي ومتجمهر تقول قدام ملعب كورة, توا نبي نعرف شني فييه جاي ماد وجهه يتفرج علي والله قمة الوقاحة والصرصرة و المشكلة انه فيه وحدين تشوفه تقول نديد بوي , والله ما عرفتش شني الحل لهذي المشكلة كل يوم نفس الشي حتي والله لو بنوصل امي ما نخطمش من غادي باش ما نحطش روحي في موقف ونشبح واحدين يجرو في جرة واحدة يعاكسو فيها , شبابنا قاعد متخلف لدرجة ما يتصورهاش العقل , المشوكةونظارات الدبانة والسروال المشرك وتلقي شعر وجهه قاعد ما نبتش لكن السبسي في فمه داير دخاخين تقول مردومة, وكالعادة اللي يناشب يناشب كلام يوقف الشعر و اللي يسطرب يسطرب واللي فاتح شريط زمزامات واللي فاتح فيفتي سنت ( شباب متعدد الثقافات ماشاء الله) , تي والله لو عندي فيهم حكم كان جريدة خضرا وتمشليط لين يولي مخطط زي حمار الوحش باش وين يشبح ثانوية بنات يحط عيونه علي كندرته ويفوت جري .
One day, when the scorching sun was at its peak at 1pm, I stopped the first taxi which I saw. I didn't wait to choose the one I liked as I usually do. I thanked Allah (God) as soon as I entered the cab and sat under the shade. I tried to open the window but it wouldn't open. The driver smiled and said that is had just broken two days ago. I told myself that it would be fine for as soon as the car moves, there will be some breeze coming from his window. The catastrophe however was that the road was crowded and the traffic was at a standstill because there was a girl's school down the road.

I cannot start to describe all the guys standing in a crowd as if they were in a football stadium. I just don't understand what they see standing there like that. This is just a good example of how these men were raised because I see them standing there with no shame and the sad part of all this is that I sometimes see men the same age as my father, standing in front of a girls’ high school, checking out the girls there. I really don't know what the solution for this problem is but I usually avoid driving by any girls’ high school when I am taking my mother around town to avoid embarrassment as I fear I would see an undesirable scene of sexual harassment.

It really hurts to see such young men and how shallow they can be. Everything is so superficial, all they care about is their hair cut, sun glasses and some are so young that they still don't even have any facial hair. Yet you see them smoking and making clouds of smoke from their mouths. And of course, we can't forget those that just love to show off with their cars, drifting, twirling and doing all these crazy moves – guys cruising around the neighborhoods with music banging out of their cars. Some men even listen to Zemzamat, which are old ladies singing and are usually performed in weddings.

If it was up to me, I would whip them with a green stick and make them look like zebras so next time they pass by any girls’ high school, they would lower their head and carry on their way and none of these shameful acts would happen.

السواق كان يشبح لساعته واحنا قاعدين في الزحمة و مرة مرة يشبحلي كيف نغلي من الحرارة ومن اللي صاير برة , ممكن قاعد يعدلي قداش دقيقة بنتحمل ولا شني , المهم طلعنا من الزحمة و شبحلي و ورالي سنونه كلهم وقالي معليشي انا عندي مشوار ضروري وخايف نتأخر لو وصلتك , جت منك يا جامع, انا مخنوق اصلا من الحرارة قلتله باهي نزلني وما دفعتش شي طبعا , توا قلت لروحي ما نبيش الحصلة الاولي ومش حنوقف غير التاكسي اللي يعجبني زي العادة , شبحت شيفروليت جديدة تلمع قلت تمام ممية مية , الصراحة انا كنت نبي نجرب الروشن قبل ما نركب بس خفت صاحب التاكسي يفهمني غلط علي العموم السيارة قاعدة جدبيدة وقلت بسم الله وركبت , وزي المرة الاولي والله حطيت صبعي علي البطمة الروشن ما باش ينزل شبحت للسواق وانبقيت بالضحك, قعد يضحك حتي هوا لكن مش فاهم اللي صاير, قاللي خيرك , قلتله عالي صار معاي و حكاية الروشن , قاللي الباب كيف مركبه جديد ومش عارف الروشن شوره مش معدل , عادي لو تبي تنزل ما فيش مشكلة ,لكن انا قلت يلا فيها خيرة خلي نكملو معاه اصلا انا وليت عرق وليت
The driver was looking at his watch while we were waiting in the jam. He would also look at me as we were melting in the heat and from what was happening outside. Perhaps he was counting how long it would be for us to stand what is happening. Finally, we managed to get away from the traffic. He then looked at me and smiled, showing me all his teeth. He asked if it was fine for him to leave me there as he was running late and had a prior appointment. I was glad that it came from him as I was starting to get suffocated. I told him it was OK and left the cab without paying him anything. Just as I was telling myself that I will not take the first taxi which I see and that I will be as selective as I usually am when a brand new sparkling Chevrolet stopped. I told myself that was 100 per cent what I wanted. To be frank, I wanted to check if the windows worked before sitting in the cab but I didn't want the driver to misunderstand me. Besides, the car looked new. I sat in my place and just like the last ride, I placed my finger on the button and tried rolling the window down. When it didn't move, I looked at the driver and burst laughing. He laughed too despite not understanding what had happened. He then asked me what was the matter and I explained to him what happened to me with the window in the last taxi. He said he didn't know what was the matter as the car was new and asked if I wanted to take another cab. I said it was fine and agreed to continue with him as I was already dripping wet from the heat.
مرة ثانية بعد صلاة المغرب طلعت من الجامع و صاحب التاكسي كيف طلع حتي هوا ركبت معاه , حط شريط قران ما شاء الله الشيخ الدوكالي, بعد خمسة دقايق شلوب طلع الشريط و شلوب دخل شريط تاني أطبطب وادلع علي طول رقبته .
لو سمحت معليشي ممكن تصكره
دوشة يا خوي
شني نحطو حاجة هادية
لالا صكره وخلاص
باهي تسمع لجورج
لالا , اسمع ردلنا الشيخ الدوكالي وخلاص
لالا ياسره خلاص
سكتت معاش عرفت شني بنقول لكن لما نزلت ما خلتهاش في خاطري و قلتله ربي يهديك انشاء الله
Once again after the Maghreb (after sunset) prayers, I took a taxi from the mosque, with a driver who had just completed praying with me. He first inserted a tape in the cassette played of Shaikh Doukalli reading verses from the Holy Quran. Five minutes later, he changed the tape with one of dance music and started swaying to the music. I asked him to switch off the music. He asked why and I complained about the noise. He said he will put something slow and I just asked him to shut it. I then kept quiet as I didn't know what to say. As I was leaving the cab I couldn't stop myself from praying to Allah to show him the rightful path.
المرة هذي كانت عبارة عن رحلة تزهق الكبد
تليفون السواق شرين, انا مكسرتش ودني لكن الصوت كان واضح صوت بنت , قاللها اسمع انا مش فاضي توا وتو نكلمك بعدين , لكن هي ما بطلتش دوة وهو اتكي علي المرش و مرة مرة يتميتم ويقول حتي اني , هلبة مش شوية, حتي اني , لالا , توا نجي , حتي اني, حتي انى علي اساس مرزرز باهي قولها فقش انحبك ولا استاحشتك وفكني من تفلفيز الرقبة طول الطريق حتي اني حتي انى قريب قلتله حتي انى , و يسكر ويشرين تليفونه مرة وثنين وثلاثة ونفس القصة لين قعدت نشبح لتليفوني ونستني في اي حد يتصل باش نتكي علي المرش حني اني ونقول حتي اني .
This time the ride was the most annoying. The driver's phone rang and it was clear it was a girl talking because I could hear her. He pretended he was speaking to a man and said: ‘Listen I will call you again. I am quite busy.’ She, however, didn't stop talking so he just laid back and leaned on his window whispering ‘Me too, Me too, yes, so much, me too, me too, no no, me too, me too’ – as if he was trying to hide from me that he was not talking to a girl. Man, I know it's your girlfriend so why you are so ashamed of it. Say it out loud and tell her: I love you or I miss you because by now I am starting to get fed up of this ‘Me too’ business that I too wanted to tell him ‘Me too.’ This didn't end and continued for the whole duration of my trip to my house as his phone was ringing and the same thing was happening over and over again. I was left checking my phone waiting to get a call like his so that I could tell her ‘Me too’ as well.

** Libyano was kind enough to translate the Libyan phrases I couldn't understand.

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