December 1, 2004

Weirder Than Libya

When you visit another country you meet other people who are also visiting the country. Inevitably you’ll discuss other places you’ve been. If you go to Costa Rica you’ll meet people who’ve been to Guatemala and Bolivia. Go to Cancun and you’ll meet people who like the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. Go to France and you’ll run into lots of people who talk about London, Prague, and Vienna.

So what happens when you bump into others in Libya? I met a photographer who spends every summer in Darfur. And I met a British guy named Felix who told me the next place he wants to go is North Korea. Shelly said she wants to go to North Korea, too. Felix grinned ear to ear. “It’s great to meet people who are open-minded about nuttiness,” he said.

My nutty “tourism” package is only a few days old. (I say “tourism” because although I went as a journalist, no one in Libya knew that.) I figured North Korea might be the only place left for me to go after Ghaddafi-stan. Well, no, not exactly. There is at least one more “tourism” package weirder than Libya but less freaky than North Korea. But I can’t go on this one because I am not fat.
ZIMBABWE has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. It wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers.

The so-called Obesity Tourism Strategy was reported last week in The Herald, a government organ whose contents are approved by President Robert Mugabe’s powerful information minister, Jonathan Moyo.

Pointing out that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide are officially deemed to be overweight, the article exhorted Zimbabweans to “tap this potential”.

“Tourists can provide labour for farms in the hope of shedding weight while enjoying the tourism experience,” it said, adding that Americans spent $6 billion a year on “useless” dieting aids.

“Tour organisers may promote this programme internationally and bring in tourists, while agriculturalists can employ the tourists as free farm labour.

“The tourists can then top it all by flaunting their slim bodies on a sun-downer cruise on the Zambezi or surveying the majestic Great Zimbabwe ruins.”

The notion that oversized, overpaid Americans could be enticed into paying to spend their holidays working free for those who seized the country’s commercial farms illustrates how far the Mugabe regime has descended into a fantasy world.
In the age of globalization, all the normal countries of the world increasingly resemble each other. But the whacked countries are all whacked in their own way. I’d think this was funny, but after wandering around the jagged-edged landscape of Tripoli I just think it’s sad.

(Hat tip: Sheila O'Malley.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 1, 2004 7:36 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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