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Revolt gives rise to new ventures.

Despite the volatile security situation across the city some businesses have flourished

By Abbas Al Lawati,

Staff Reporter

There is a two hour line up at the Al Jazeera cyber cafe by the corniche in Benghazi. With satellite internet access, it is one of the few internet cafes functioning in the city.

The area around eastern Libya's interim government headquarters has become the centre of activity in the city.

With the volatile security situation across the city, most businesses either choose to remain closed or operate fewer hours, except those by the government headquarters, a brightly-lit safety zone for businesses that remains packed with protesters, security officials and families until late at night.

This has led to a boom for some businesses and has given rise to new ventures.

Al Jazeera, like many other venues close to the government headquarters, stays open until late.

Business boom

Ebrahim, one of the cafe's owners, is in his early twenties. He shyly smiles as he talks about the boom in business since the Libyan rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi's rule began. He is not comfortable talking about his own profits that have come at the expense of others' losses.

"Let's just say business is very good," says the owner. Asked how good, he responds: "At least ten times as good".

An hour at his cafe costs 1.50 Libyan dinars (Dh4.48) and most of his customers are either journalists or Libyans wishing to catch up with news.

With a nationwide internet blackout imposed by the Gaddafi regime, few other options to use the internet are left.

Journalists are given free access to satellite internet at the interim government's media office, but have to suffer slow speeds. Libyans have even fewer options.

Across from the courthouse that houses the government headquarters, a group of youth stand by their parked cars with flags of the Libyan monarchy hanging out of their windows.

The flags, a symbol of the regime Muammar Gaddafi overthrew in 1969, were in short supply during his rule but have made a visible comeback since the rebellion began.

Hand sewn

The flags are neatly stitched with the central crescent and star sewn in by hand. Each flag goes for 5 dinars.

The cost of producing each flag, says the seller, is 0.15 Libyan dinars.

"We have sold six hundred in the past three days alone, and thousands more since the revolution started," he said.

With many businesses closed, Benghazi residents have had to find alternative ways to generate an income. As a result, many small businesses have surfaced to meet the needs of journalists in the city.

The interim government has registered approximately 700 journalists. A number of others remain unregistered. Some engage in money exchange and illegal money transfers while others have become fixers and taxi drivers.

Less than 100 metres from Al Jazeera cyber cafe is Tansalokh restaurant. Journalists wait until 2pm for it to open. Its burgers, shawarmas and shish tawook sandwiches range from 1 to 3 dinars and feed swaths of hungry reporters.

"Our profits have multiplied threefold," says one of the chefs, an Egyptian He knows however that the trend will not last long.

The conflict in Libya has lasted longer than most had expected. It seems world interest in the conflict may be drying up as the story goes from one of a triumphant revolution to that of an ugly civil war.

The deep pocketed journalists will eventually leave and monarchy flags will eventually saturate the market.

Libyans will then need to look for new and innovative ways to make money as the conflict drags on.

Los Angeles Times

Age is no barrier

A man lifts a toddler during a rally at the Benghazi courthouse on Wednesday.

We have sold six hundred [flags of the Libyan monarchy] in the past three days alone, and thousands more since the revolution started,"

A youth

Part of the group who is selling flags

gulfnews.com

On the web

> For videos on the Libyan situation, eyewitness reports and blogs in Libya visit ?www.gulfnews.com

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Article Details
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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:6LIBY
Date:Mar 11, 2011
Words:692
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