Shut down in October 2014 due to clashes and militant presence, the famous Arab Market of the city of Benghazi has reopened. Traders here hope that the reopening will help provide jobs and rebuild lives across eastern Libya.
Slowly but steadily, the Libyan city of Benghazi is emerging from the conflict that has gripped it over the course of 2017, when Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) moved in to clear ISIS-affiliated militants that had taken control of much of the city. The militant presence and the subsequent clashes had paralysed life in Benghazi, forcing the closure of public areas due to security concerns.
The Arab Market at the heart of Benghazi is one of these places. The market was not only home to the city’s main shops, but it was also home to numerous wholesalers that supplied much of eastern Libya with their products. Thus, when it shut down in October 2014 when the first clashes in the Sabri District began, it had an impact not only on the Libyans here but around much of the countryside.
Although the conflict in the city ended in 2017, a shaky security situation and the continued presence of mines – in addition to widespread destruction across the city – has slowed reconstruction down. Still, since the initial return of the residents to the city, local authorities have been working to ensure that so can economic activity. Rehabilitating the Arab Market thus lies at the heart of these endeavors.
Working with local authorities, security officials and the LNA itself, the Arab Market Committee has been rebuilding the market, providing utilities and security to lay the ground for the return of the traders. Traders have also been invited to join the Benghazi Commercial Complex to help network and discuss issues so that they can be fixed.
So far, these efforts have borne fruit. January has seen eight shops and wholesalers open, with another 13 expected for February. Local authorities are now calling for all the traders displaced during the fighting to return, hoping that the return of the Arab Market as an economic hub will help provide jobs and rebuild lives not only in Benghazi itself, but across much of eastern Libya.