This is not a belated post on the 4th of July. Clearly no American Independence Day picnic would be complete without an ice-cream truck chiming through the park, but the firework ashes have long settled. In Libya, our expression of patriotism takes on a different form. It is more local than national.
Being that Misratah is my hometown (mind you I have never lived there and have only driven through there once), I am proud that it is considered both an industrial and cultural hub in Libya. The best businessmen hail from Misratah, so do some of the best writers. When meeting people for the first time I smile when being told that my clansmen are some of the kindest in Libya, but I am quick to defend when we are described as misers. Some Misratis may be that way, but working hard for your money can make you like that. The love for our hometowns is deeply rooted in each of us, no matter how wonderful or horrible that place may be. This reflects the strength of hometown patriotism in our nation.
Misratah has produced quite a few iconic products in Libya, the most famous being Ratah sports shoes. They even have a (modified) patriotic tune for it (which I find a bit silly given that these shoes weren’t great *) that goes “Misratah is Misratah, the makers of Ratah”. But I suppose the real star of the show is the Al-Naseem Dairy Company.
Founded in 1994 as an ice-cream factory based in Misratah, Al-Naseem’s product line rapidly grew to include other dairy products such as yoghurt and buttermilk. Libya has seen many failed endeavors in the food industry and business in general. What was once your new favorite restaurant has turned into a pharmacy seemingly overnight. Local products are never considered top of the line. On the contrary, they start out well enough only to quickly dwindle into inferiority. This year Al-Naseem was awarded the International Quality Gold Award at the New York Quality Summit, proving that Libyans can get it right. Everything from quality, to price, flavor, branding and marketing are unique for a company in a slowly emerging private sector. At the supermarket people choose Al-Naseem hands down. Even some Italian ex-pat friends, the inventors of Gelato, do not hesitate to state that this is some of the best ice-cream they have ever tasted.
Congratulations to Al-Naseem for setting the standard in Libya’s struggling food industry and showing us yet again that Misratah is great! Now every time we eat our favorite Imlaq (giant) ice-cream, I turn to my husband and sarcastically ask “and what do you guys make in Al Ajaylat?”
* I couldn’t manage to find a picture of a pair of Rata sneakers. Goes to show how not so good they were!
Read more about Al-Naseem: