I’ve just returned from a whistle-stop 48 hours in Tripoli, Libya. Not your average tourist destination, granted, and only mad dogs and Englishwomen would venture in late July to a country that’s 90 per cent desert. But, I had a mission: to find out what living in Libya was like for expats. My main aim was to suss out what kind of accommodation is there to greet them when they sign those three-year contracts and head to the Sahara.
Flying in from Malta, a mere hour away, proved hassle free and required little climate adjustment, luckily. But I did pause to wonder how a British or French family might feel arriving with treasured belongings in suitcases, having left home behind. As you drive the highway into central Tripoli, there seems to be little housing in evidence that’s suited to expat living.
There are a lot of international firms moving into North Africa, if the Economist survey ‘Club Med’ (12th -18th July) is anything to go by. In time, expat employment in Libya will veer away from being solely reliant on the extraction industries and edge towards second-tier economic interests in retail, services, tourism and so on. Judging by the busy lobby of Tripoli’s one five-star business hotel, the Corinthia Bab Africa, foreign businessmen are scouting around in Libya in droves.
Soon, it won’t be just the roustabouts, rednecks and drillers who will be seeking accommodation to rent in Tripoli, but executives with suits, briefcases and, the chances are too, families in tow. Which brings us to the question of where these people will live? The business hotels are going up, but much regular housing of international standard for expats on more than a business trip isn’t.
An exception is Palm City, 15 kilometers from central Tripoli, on the coast at Janzour. Palm City, due to be completed by early 2009, offers ‘a total housing solution’. You can just move in with the bare essentials like toothbrush, clothes and towels. Palm City is international, contemporary (even designer-style) living in some 400 or so residential units ranging from superior villas to luxury maisonettes, within a secure, village-like compound. You won’t be spending weekends on DIY in Palm City. From what I could see, you’ll likely be in the health club, enjoying Wi-Fi access on your sea view roof terrace or with the kids in the pool.
This comes as peace of mind to those who are moving to Libya and who don’t have an iota of understanding of the place. You’ll need to persuade your new employer to locate you there as it’s on corporate leaseholds. But, since you’ll be pioneering and it’s an employees’ market when it comes to locating smart people to Libya, you’ll be in a good position to push for a place in Palm City.
The Palm City concept is so good that you wonder why it takes an enterprising firm to think of this in Libya. It should be on offer in other countries. The time-poor, cash-rich of today don’t want to be bogged down by hassles of repairmen, gardening and service outages anywhere. Who would have thought that a place in Libya could have found an answer to the work-life balance?