(RIEAS Junior Analyst and Coordinator at the World Security Network Foundation in the South-eastern Europe Office)
The second –born son of Libya’s leader Cadaffi is Saif Al Islam, which in English translates as the “Sword of Islam”. Over the past few years his personality and endeavors have shown a new modern outlook for this Northern African country that was in opposite terms with most Western nations for the better past of the past 30 years.
One of his grandest projects that aim to place Libya in the world tourism market spotlight is named the “Green Mountain”. The country has plentiful of unspoiled shores, Greco-Roman antiquities and of course an all-encompassing desert with quite a few of oases that present a new kind of adventure tourism for the average European traveler.
Over the previous years the embargo and the more or less autarchic nature of Cadaffi’s Administration has excluded Libya from the world market and the nexus between Tripoli and international terrorism threw a black shadow over the future prospects of that country.
Saif Al Islam Cadaffi is the driving force behind the development of a large area – 5,500 Sq. Km- in North-Eastern Libya, where an ecological park along with restored monuments, ancient ruins and tourist complexes; will show-off the new face of Libya. The main aim of this project is to construct an exclusive high –class region reserved for affluent foreigners and become the pilot scheme under which the tourism in Libya could lift off over the coming period. The famous architect Norman Foster will oversight the development, and provides some spectacular architectural images in an area right between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara desert.
For the time being, 95% of Libya’s exports depend on oil and 25% of its GDP. Judging by the example of other Arab oil-producing states like the ones in the Gulf; the heir of Gadaffi wants to diversify the economy and provide opportunities to the expanding domestic population. On a second level Libya’s entrance in tourism will open up the country to foreign influences and gradually eases tensions between it and the Westerners.
According to various media reports the whole project could be as high as 5 billion USD, and it will include 3 five star hotels, spa, bungalows, numerous villas, and golf facilities. The energy used will be from renewable sources, and especially solar and biofuel one. Moreover the restoration of some of the ancient ruins located in the region will be in compliance with the 1982 UNESCO agreement for the protection of the human cultural legacy.
Saif Al Islam was born in 1972 and has studied architecture in the Al-Fateh University in Tripoli and has also studied in IMADEC of Vienna and in LSE. He is also the President of the International Foundation of Cadaffi based in Tripoli with a branch in London as well. His profile in the West was recently elevated when he played a crucial role in securing the freedom of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor that were accused of deliberately trying to infect with HIV virus hundreds of children over the past decade. He is considered to be the main driving force in the country relating to the modernization of the structures in the economy, politics and social norms. His nickname “The mechanic” is attributed to him, due to his abilities to construct complex projects and be able to occupy himself with multiple tasks.
The “Green mountain” project has of course the peril of becoming yet another tourism paradise that will create serious environmental damage and might divide the country between wealthy zones and poor ones as is the case with Egypt or even Thailand. The supporters of the plan, point out towards the importance of diversifying the local economy, the proximity of Libya with the European markets that will assist in the acceleration of the tourist traffic and most importantly the thousands of vacancies that will be created.
One important aspect of this development is the emergence of another Arab dynasty that follows the path of other ones in Jordan, Syria, Gulf states; and where the younger generation is apt to integrate in the world-wide Western influenced system, due to their education, mentality and most importantly in order to retain their own administration and not become historically outdated. Perhaps this is going to become one of the main positive links between Islam and the West, despite the collision course that has developed over the past generation or so.