By Ahmed Elumami, Ulf Laessing
Fashionable cafes springing up in Libya’s capital are shutting out single men and catering for women looking for a break from the tensions – political and personal – crowding in around them.
The cafes with European names and bright decor seem a world away from the city’s traffic-clogged and still violent streets. In a socially conservative society, they also offer privacy and protection from unwanted advances.
“If I go with my friends, we chat about our problems and change our mood,” said 27-year-old Haneen, eating a late breakfast in the busy La Rambla cafe. “A family place is more comfortable … there’s no harassment or flirting.”
For owners and managers of the businesses marketing themselves as “families-only” cafes, it’s also a welcome change from the traditional clientele – hundreds of other rowdier eateries across Tripoli are packed out with young men, tables spilling out onto the streets and giant screens broadcasting soccer matches.
“Family cafes are great,” said Abdulhameed Ghreetly, manager of At Home cafe, which looks out onto the Mediterranean. “They are less of a headache than the cafes for young guys. You know the problems with the young guys and their quarrelling.”
Most of Tripoli’s economy has been in freefall since major battles between rival factions in 2014 left the country divided with competing governments.
The female clients are offering some respite – managers say they spend more on fancy coffees and juices than the espresso-sipping men.