Airport was a quick taxi ride, and check-in with Air Malta was very quick as well. Perhaps the most unusual thing about the airport was the giant manger scene set up out front – at least one country still celebrates Christmas instead of all this overly-PC “Happy Holidays” stuff.
Through immigration and security in probably 10 minutes tops, and ended up with nearly two hours to kill in the lounge. The Air Malta lounge was nothing special, but had a decent selection of beverages (serve yourself) along with more of the same red wine. I’m pretty convinced there might only be one vineyard in Malta that supplies the entire country. Plenty of seats in the lounge, plenty of outlets, pretty much ticked all the boxes for “good for meeting your basic needs, but not worth getting to the airport early to experience.”
Air Malta flight 696
Malta (MLA) to Tripoli, Libya (TIP)
Depart 17:00, Arrive 18:00, Flight Time 1:00
Airbus A320, Registration 9H-AEQ, Manufactured 2007, Seat 5A
This flight was complete with lots of confusion, mainly because it appears that this year Libya has decided to either start (or stop) observing daylight savings time, and the arrival time kept switching from 18:00 to 17:00 and back – leading to me in the end telling my driver the wrong time and ending up having to wait for him. Anyways, on to the flight. What is there to say, it was an hour in flight max.
Business class was the typical european format of “move the curtain between the classes” and have economy and business class be the exact same, but just ensure empty middle seats in business class. Today there were 6 rows of business class, but only 11 people so everyone could have their own row. I was hoping for a nice sunset in flight to get some pictures, but unfortunately nothing special.
Now, this isn’t the US of A….even on a flight of barely 45 minutes you get a full meal! I wasn’t really that hungry, but decided I had to take it…at least to get a picture of it. Oh, and what’s that? More of Chateau Malta!
Arrival was early, and we taxied up to the gate and I had no idea what to expect. I had a letter from my travel company in arabic that supposedly authorised a business visa on arrival, but I had no idea what sort of company had generated the invite letter…or what it actually said. I confirmed from two arabic speaking co-workers that it did indeed request a business visa on arrival, so at least I knew it didn’t say “please arrest this crazy foreigner who’s wandered into Libya without a visa.” The instructions from the company were (if my guide wasn’t in the arrivals hall) to head to the small office with the glass window on the right, and hand them my passport and the letter along with approx 100 dinars for the visa. They wouldn’t take dollars, but they’d hold my passport and permit me to go to baggage claim. I was hoping to not have to go through this…but thanks to the time zone confusion my guide wasn’t there, and I had to.
Finding the office was easy, they took my passport and the letter, and motioned for me to go sit in some chairs on the other side of the immigration booths. Ok. Waited nearly 30 minutes, and thankfully the airport had free and open WiFi. After 30 minutes, I emailed the tour company asking if they knew where the guide was, and what I should do. As normally happens when you do something like that, your guide instantly shows up. Took him all of two minutes to get things sorted with the visa bureaucrats, and I had a visa on arrival and was ready to go!
Headed out of the airport, and the first stop on the way to the hotel was to be dinner at a local turkish restaurant. The airport was a solid 30 minute drive out of the city, but first impressions were that there was nothing unusual and it looked like a pretty typical arabic / north african country. Restaurant was a turkish place with plenty of choices on the menu, and after assurance from my guide that “Libya is unlike its neighbours – and hygiene standards are very high” I decided to go with the mixed kabobs. Got a combo of lamb, chicken, beef, and beef LIVER….and it was actually quite tasty!
Final stop was the hotel. They’d given me a choice of three or four star hotels, and I decided to go with the four star since it was very little extra per night. The hotel was the Al Khan hotel – a small boutique hotel. Unfortunately, I just realised that I didn’t take any pics of the hotel, but the ones on their website are definitely very accurate. As far as a review of the hotel, a few things stick out in my mind:
The staff: there seemed to be two staff working the “desk” as it were – one on night shift, and one on day, and both were very friendly and welcoming. The breakfast room was also staffed by two men, who were quite friendly and efficient with getting whatever I needed and setting up the buffet at any hour I wanted. I say I wanted, because for my entire five days there, I was the only guest in the entire hotel! While this gave it a bit of a weird and eerie aura, it was also quite quiet and relaxing, which ended up being really nice.
The room was quite comfy, but I would definitely say it was three star western standards at most. However, it was completely comfortable, clean, although in the cool evenings it was a bit difficult staying warm, especially once I came down with a nasty cold my last two days there. All in all, if you like the feel of a big bustling convention style hotel, this is definitely not the place to stay, but if you want a homey, quaint, local feeling place this is a great choice.
Location-wise, it’s in the middle of the old city, and just steps out the front door you’re in narrow alleys and walking around the old town. There’s a great coffee shop for relaxing and people watching just five minutes or so away, along with Martyr’s Square which was a major focus during the recent revolution. The Marcus Aurelius arch is also just steps out the front door – it really is old traditional Tripoli at its best. I’ll talk more about this in my post on wandering Tripoli, but just a couple teaser pics of the area near the hotel for now.
Marcus Aurelius Arch at sunset: