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Memories of Libya: Woman in Nixa Tells of Life Under Gadaffi

Hala Gheriani's life as a child was turned upside down when Moammar Gadaffi nationalized her father's company in 1978.
The Arch of Marcus Aurelius is the largest remaining Roman relic in Tripoli. Here seen framing a local minaret, the monument dates to the second half of the second century A.D. (Photo credit: CIA World Factbook)

(To hear the complete interview, click on the MP3 player above.)

In this month’s segment of Around the World, Here at Home, we’re taking you to an Arabic-speaking country in North Africa that’s struggling to adapt to a new identity after the Arab Spring.  Libya is dealing with about 74,000 internal refugees who were displaced after a revolution ousted Moammar Gadaffi in 2011.

Hala Gheriani was born to a highly respected – and wealthy – tribal family two months after Gadaffi came to power.  Hala joined us in the KSMU studio to tell her story, and that of Libya.

“I don’t remember much…and that’s probably on purpose,” Gheriani said. The good times, she said, were just ravaged by the following 40 years of Gadaffi.

“Some of my best memories are walking with my dad, hand in hand, through the Greek and Roman remains and ruins in Cyrenaica –and him telling me all about our great civilization,” Gheriani said.

 She describes standing on top of the hill with the ruins, and smelling the sea breeze of the Mediterranean.

While in Paris, he father had a phone call to come home soon.  When they approached the house in Libya, Army trucks were loading up paperwork they were confiscating from her dad’s company.  Moammar Gadaffi had just nationalized many private companies, including her father’s construction company.

She witnessed a public hanging when she was eight years old, and her family eventually sent her to Europe, then the United States to complete her education.

You can see Hala's personal blog here.

Below is the recipe for Hala's traditional "Libyan Shorba," or stew:


1/2 medium onion chopped into small pieces
1 or 2 lb chicken breasts cut up (you can use any type of meat. Also, I try to
always add some big pieces of the meat with bones such as a drumstick or two for
richer flavor)
2- 3 Tbs Olive oil or regular veg oil
1 bunch of parsley cutup real small (will use some at the beginning of the
process and then some later when soup is almost ready)
Spices (Salt, black pepper, paprika, turmeric is the base of what I usually
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 12 oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (I use sauce because kids have an
aversion for tomato pieces)
Water to fill half your pot (usually 8 quart soup pot)
2 hand-fulls Pasta or even rice (orzo, stars, alphabets...)
1 - 2 Tbs Dried crushed Mint leaves
1 or 1/2 juice of a lemon per your liking (I usually use just half to prevent
thickening of sauce and let us add as we wish upon consumption)


Add onions, meat, and oil in pan. Stir everything until meat turns 'opaque' and
onions are tender.
Add parsley and spices, stir.
Add tomato paste and tomato sauce, stir.
Add water gradually and not all at once.  I usually add about 2-3 cups, cook
until meat is done and bones have released their richness.
Add the rest of the water based on the quantity of meat used (too much water and
not enough meat will render the soup tasteless).
Let everything boil.
Add the pasta (you have to experiment with this one until you get the amount and
consistency desired. I usually use 2 handfuls).
Cook per directions.
Remove from heat source.
Add mint and lemon juice.
Enjoy (the soup is even better the next day)!