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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Solar eclipse diary from Libya
Egyptian-born Wael Deredy is a university professor in the UK. He travelled to the desert in southern Libya to witness the point of greatest eclipse.

Wael has been writing a diary about his experiences for BBCArabic.com and sending photographs. Read his extracts below and return to the page for updates.

Wednesday 29 March 2006, 1220 local time (1057 GMT)

Totality (photo: courtesy of Wael Deredy)
Amateur and professional astronomers have flooded into Libya to view the event


At 1011 GMT (1111 BST) the Sun was completely blocked out for its longest duration: a total of four minutes and seven seconds.

The eclipse began at sunset in Brazil and is sweeping northwest across Africa, Turkey and Central Asia before ending at sunset in Mongolia.

Tuesday 28 March 2006, 2132 local time (1932 GMT)

I am sending my text and pictures from my own laptop on a wireless network, sitting in the middle of the Libyan desert some 400km south of Benghazi (Libya's second city) and 90km south of the oasis of Jalu.

This camp has taken some preparation, there must be room for a few thousand people.

Map of Libya
It took six hours for Wael to travel to the desert from Benghazi

We are sleeping in modern two-person tents. There are tents for showers and toilets and a large tent acting as the mess. Entertainment in the form of local folklore is also provided, in addition to this wi-fi network.

It took us over six hours to get here from Benghazi.

We were late to start as a member of our group was suffering from food poisoning, but one visit to the pharmacy and few visits to the toilet sorted him out.

There is a festive atmosphere. The place feels like a carnival site, lots of lights, which is a bit unfortunate because we can't fully enjoy a wonderful starry night.

Monday 27 March 2006, 1440 local time (1240 GMT)

We are in Tripoli.

The majority of passengers were only travelling through Tripoli to Lagos. We were among only a handful of tourists, although because of the eclipse there are 20,000 tourists expected this week, which is as many that would normally visit in a year.

Fish market (photo: courtesy of Wael Deredy)
A security minder patiently tagged along as Wael's group bought fish

Our hosts were waiting for us inside the transit area and we were out of the airport in less than 15 minutes. We're staying in a state-run hotel west of the old town.

Our security minder patiently tagged along as we searched for a fish restaurant recommended by the guide book, at no avail. Two locals, running a shoe shop, suggested that if we're really keen on fish we ought to head to El-Hofra, west of the city centre along the coast.

And boy, were they right! We had a most delicious meal, you order the fish, tell them how you want it cooked, sit down and start on the salads.

Libya is shedding its old cloths and is embracing a new age.

Shop in Tripoli, Libya (photo: courtesy of Wael Deredy)
The bold, colourful and young are slowly overtaking an old and faded Libyan image

Images of change are everywhere - bold, colourful and young - slowly overtaking the tattered and faded old slogans.

A game of words, al-Fatih tower - it means "open" in Arabic. It is a sign of openness and liberalisation in Libya? Apparently it is state-owned, but the state rents or sells the space for business use. Some embassies have got their offices there.

The power of branding - global brands are making their way to the top shelves. How long will the local ones last?

The people are as warm as the weather.

In Tripoli market traders are asking us about the eclipse, what will happen, how long will it get dark for. People are very easy about having their pictures taken. Sometimes they ask for their pictures to be taken.

This country is taking its first steps to become a tourism destination. There is still a lot to learn, but it has so much to offer.

Saturday 25 March 2006, 1142 GMT

The gear that Wael and his friends took with them (photo: courtesy of Wael Deredy)
Technical gear is crucial for their kind of trip

My travelling companions and I have converged at a house in North London.

I travelled down from Manchester. It's an early start tomorrow morning.

We all packed, almost.

We're supposed to be travelling light, except for gear!

Rewind: 23 June 2001

I had just retuned the hired Jeep after making the gruelling seven hour drive on non-existing road from Luangwa back to Lusaka.

2001 eclipse in southern Africa (photo: courtesy of Wael Deredy)
Seeing the 2001 eclipse inspired Wael and his group to travel to Libya in 2006

We had spent the previous three days on the borders between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique at the point where the great Zambezi and Luangwa rivers meet.

We had gone to witness the first total solar eclipse of the 21st century, with nearly three minutes of totality.

We recounted our impressions and experiences whilst the warmth of our Zambian hosts, their kindness and hospitality, in spite of the adverse poverty, was still touching our hearts.

Total solar eclipse over Bucharest on 11 August 1999   Image: AP/Vadim Ghirda
E-mail your pictures and video to: yourpics@bbc.co.uk or to send via MMS then please dial +44 (0)7725 100 100

As we met people along the way to the eclipse spot, they wondered what the fuss was all about. The great majority, certainly none of the children who chased us for eclipse glasses, had never experienced or even knew what an eclipse was.

Yet, the minute the sun came back from its glorious meeting with the moon, they spontaneously irrupted with sheer joy into a party, celebrating, singing and dancing as the light spread cross the valley.

And while the negatives were still warm in our cameras, we wondered what it will be like in Libya in 2006.

From the southern African bush to the North African Sahara, we promised ourselves to make every effort to go and share it with the people of Libya.

That minute, the planning for 2006 started.

How a total eclipse happens (BBC)

If you have any good pictures send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk. Do not shoot directly into the Sun, it is vital when photographing the Sun not to stare at it for too long through the lens as you can damage your eyes.

Your pictures: Solar eclipse
29 Mar 06 |  In Pictures
Antarctic witnesses total eclipse
24 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature
White Continent to go black
21 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature
Millions wonder at southern eclipse
04 Dec 02 |  Science/Nature


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