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Updated 28 Jan 2010

Sarah Micallef lives in Libya and is the author of a new website on her adopted country. This is her experience of life in this fascinating desert country. 

Read more about Libya in the Expat Arrivals guide to Libya or read more expat experiences in Libya.

About Sarah

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Malta

Q: Where are you living now?

A: Tripoli, Libya. I actually live in the town called Janzour which is just out of Tripoli and is where most of the expats live.

Q: How long you have you lived here?

A: 1 year

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A: I moved here because my husband took on a post here in Libya so I decided to move too.

About Libya

Q: What do you enjoy most about Tripoli, how’s the quality of life in Libya?

A: When I first moved here it took a few weeks for me to get used to the different culture and the fact that there are no bars and few good restaurants. My husband and I love good restaurants, great food and all the frills and unfortunately here you cannot go out and socialize in that way. However, we now enjoy socializing with our many expat friends, cooking dinner at our homes, bbqing by the pool on the weekends, and making the most of the gorgeous weather which allows us to enjoy dinner outside in the garden for 8 months of the year. Although it might sound so hard to adapt to such a different culture, in actual fact this new way of life, new friends, new scenery, new schools and shops, new faces and traditions somehow instil a refreshing sense of peace which you just don’t find in the Western world. Life in Malta was always so rushed, so many people to catch up with, so much work to cope with, huge expenses and never enough time to enjoy the little free time we had.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?

A: I miss the wining and dining, the variety and quality of restaurants. There are very few good restaurants in Tripoli as yet. (over the next year or so there will be many more opening it seems.)

Driving in Libya is atrocious and extremely dangerous if youre not careful. I do not drive and have no intention of driving, however I have many friends who drive and many who have a driver. Having a driver is pretty normal here and doesn’t cost much I am very happy with my driver – he picks me up each morning and takes me to work and picks me up after work, takes me shopping etc etc.

Visa requirements are quite tedious too, tourist visas are not easy to get and normally expats are given a Visa through the company employing them.

Q: Is Tripoli safe?

A: Yes, Tripoli is relatively safe, its like any other city – there are areas you should avoid and areas which are safe. However a woman shouldn’t walk around in the streets on her own. I do go shopping at the shopping mall or smaller village vegetable vendors, supermarkets etc, i stop at the shops on my way home from work practically every day and I never felt harassed or unsafe.   

About living in Libya

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the Tripoli as an expat?

A: Janzour, Sirraj area is just outside of Tripoli and is full of large houses with pool and garden occupied by expats. The area is quieter then the city which tends to be very chaotic and traffic can be a nightmare. If you have children I strongly suggest living in one of the expat compound/villages within Janzur area – ‘Palm City’ is the latest project and is really gorgeous, there is also ‘Regata’ which is also close to Janzour. These villages have their own restaurants, entertainment areas, gym, fitness centre, sports facilities, clinic, supermarket and much more.

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Libya?

A: Very high. Most expats live in large villas with pool and garden or else in one of the expat villages like Palm City or Regata.

Q: What’s the cost of living in Libya compared to Malta? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

A: VERY cheap compared to home. Fuel is OF COURSE very cheap, almost cheaper then water, vegetables, fruit, fish and meat are all much cheaper than what you would buy at home. All in all cost of living is extremely low.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?

A: The locals are very nice. I have always been treated respectfully and both men and women are very friendly and obliging. We socialize with expats, however, we work and meet with many locals and they are really very lovely people.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?

A: Yes we found it very easy to build a social life. There is such a large network of expats here and there is always something going on. If you are open and willing to meet new people then before you know it you will have lots of new friends and lots going on. If you have kids it is probably easier since through school events and extra curricular activities for the kids you tend to make friends with other families. The embassies are also very proactive and help with expat integration.

About working in Libya

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?

A: No we did not, the company we work for provided us with a visa.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?

A: Yes there are so many opportunities and not enough people to work which is why so many expats are moving here on a daily basis.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?

A: I would say its different, on some levels it's harder and on other levels it's far easier. All in all I would say that work here is more rewarding, I certainly feel more fulfilled and I look forward to going to work, enjoy the time I spend with my colleagues and clients and although the day flies by the pace is much slower.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?

A: No unfortunately not we had to learn what to do and what not to do through fellow expats who lived there already.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?

A: Not at all, he moved here before me and adjusted very quickly in fact.

Q: Did your children settle in easily?

A: I do not have children as yet however i do have many friends who have children and they are very happy too.

Q: What are the schools in Tripoli like, any particular suggestions?

A: The standard of schooling here is very high, there are excellent expat schools available for children. The 3 largest and most popular expat schools are The British school, the American School and the International GEMS school.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Tripoli?

A: There are a few private hospitals available in town, a couple of them are pretty good and offer a very good level of service as well as expat doctors and specialists covering all areas.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?

A: If you are moving here with young kids I think that you will get to enjoy them more, you will get to spend more time with them and you will have the luxury of bringing them up yourself which in this day and age is so rare!

I would strongly advise living in one of the expat villages like Palm City if you have very young kids since this will make life much easier on mummies who need to take their restless babies out for walks etc as well as for socializing with other mothers and babies of the same age.

There are several flights flying and leaving from Tripoli International Airport so taking weekend breaks is also very easy. Malta is just 40 mins away, Tunisia 1 hour, Rome 1 hour and a half, there are flights to Dubai, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and most of the main hubs

Moving to another country is always a challenge especially if the culture is so different to what you are used to. I was very apprehensive before moving here but I came here with an open mind and I was so pleasantly surprised by what I found.

~ Interviewed January 2010

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