Mohammad is a black African devout Muslim and one fine man. When I saw him looking up at me and trembling my thoughts instantly turned to 21-year-old black Mississippian, James Chaney, and the date could have been June 21, 1964. That was when Neshoba County's law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan hunted blacks to kill and did kill James and his white companions Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner
The reason Mohammad was hiding outside the Corinthia hotel is that he feared for his life as so many, if not most, black Africans and black Libyans (roughly one third of Libya's population) do these days. Bands of young rebel "freedom fighters" are still roaming some of Tripoli's streets, itching it seems, to kill some "African mercenaries", meaning, it appears, any black man they can find . Although the apparently politically contrived rumors of African mercenaries raping Libyan women which helped NATO get the UN Security Council to green light its bombing and regime change campaign, have been debunked as fake by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a UN fact finding group, some of the macho young rebels in Libya still insist the smear campaign is true.
Mohammad explained to me that he was never a fighter for anyone in Libya but rather that his employment background, like his father, uncles and brothers, was in Niger's uranium mines which only the past few years have begun to recover from the late 1980's collapse. Mohammad's brother Said was killed in the Tuareg Rebellion of the 1990's and his father sent Mohammad to Libya to work in construction.
I agreed with Mohammad that he could stay secretly with me until we could get him into safe hands. The hotel has never been the wiser to my knowledge although my friend Ismail, who works behind the front desk when he is not doing a dozen other jobs during his frequent 16 hour shifts, probably suspected something was going on because he would give me knowing glances as I disappeared toward the elevator with a table cloth covering a big plate of food and contrary to hotel rules of no hotel kitchen food in the rooms. Luckily Ismail is a black Libyan and, if he knew, he did not rat us out.
With no security at our hotel until the day before yesterday and now packed with journalists, Mohammad took extra precautions and never left room # 1185 except for one night when someone from the Coptic Church came to meet with him in another room and I gave his floor spot to a French activist from Beirut whose boat to Alexandria was delayed again.
Housekeeping, no longer exists at this hotel, and so no one has entered my room for almost two weeks since the staff fled. In any case Mohammad and I had a good cover story ready in case events demanded one. Mohammad, we would explain if caught, was a driver for the Italian Embassy before the Italians temporarily pulled up stakes back in March.
I got pretty good at fixing plates of food for Mohammad from the nightly "Iftar buffet." Because we are both fasting for Ramadan, smuggling Mohammad food only once a day was easy enough, especially as some of the new hotel guests, being journalists from the Rixos Hotel or rushing here to cover the "Fall of Tripoli" from around Libya, are now in the habit of fixing their dinner plates and sitting around the abandoned hotel restaurants. This way they have more space and privacy from the cramped conditions in the rapidly deteriorating "dining room" or their working area.
Personally, this Ramadan, the Iftar feast no longer has appeal for me because we have the very same food every Iftar which now comes almost entirely from cans. At noon today, the Hotel Front Desk posted the most recent Dear Guest Notice. It reads: "Dear Guests: Please be advised that there will be no lunch today due to absence of water supply in the Hotel. We hope for a water delivery this afternoon and hope to serve dinner tonight at 18:30. Thank you. The Corinthia Hotel Management." No water arrived and when I and an American lady who works for the Sunday Times returned from driving thru Tripoli's center, at 7:50 p.m. just in time for Iftar, mine consisted of walking through the dining area picking leftover food bits from plates where diners had eaten and left.
Before Mohammad left, he helped me with my infected leg and told me about a nearby Dr. which made me happy since no others have been available this past week. But as dear reader may come to understand, I soon became reluctant to seek treatment from the Dr. who Mohammad recommended although by very great coincidence I have known her wonderful granddaughter, an Arabic-English language interpreter named Aya, for several weeks.
My most recent best bet for immediate medical assistance was my new friend Dr. XX, "Consultant Urological Surgeon" from the British Medical Center here in Tripoli (formerly the Swiss Medical Center until Hannibal Kaddafi had that unfortunate problem with Swiss authorities last winter and his Dad wanted to abolish Switzerland and all things Swiss), hence the fast name change on the Clinic building. Dr. XX is from New Delhi but studied in England and now normally resides in Sheffield, England. He spent the past year working here in Libya, loves the people and the country and was most willing to help me. The problem was that he had to rush to catch the boat out of here for Malta yesterday. Anyhow, he said I had a couple of days left before I would possibly have major leg problems and he gave me the phone numbers of two of his colleagues, one an Indian dentist. So far the phones still don't work well in Tripoli.
Just a word of background about Dr. Fatima, recommended by Mohammad now that I am resigned to get treatment late today, come what may, following my brief meeting with the good Dr. this morning.
Dr. Fatima is very thin, quite tall, has an unusually large head and a red scarf covers part of her face which is stained blue. Aya explained that while Dr. Fatima is by background Muslim, her Saharan tribe retains some pre-Islamic rites and customs and is genealogically connected with the Delvar Nar. Yet Aya also told me that Fatma's tribe claims that they are linked with the Angels mentioned in Luke 24:4 where Christ's apostle describes the scene at Jesus's tomb when two angels appeared to Mary. Anyhow".
Aya says Dr. Fatima is capable of teleportation, telekinesis and ESP and while I don't need any of that stuff just now, but could later, Dr. Fatima fortunately is also expert in Saharan medicine including leg infections. So the good news is that I am very soon to be in experienced medical hands. I have no doubt about that and I shall always be grateful to my friend Mohammad for the referral.
The down side may be what Aya told me about what her grandmother must do to make me well. This may be the tough part for someone who nearly collapses if some nurse even hints that she wants to stick a needle in me. Aspirin is about the only medicine I have ever taken because my half German sainted Mother did not believe in her large brood getting sick and we all minded her over the years.