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As the missiles pound the Libyan capital and Qaddafi retreats further & further into the depths of his compound, I’ve been thinking long and hard about this city. Each time I visited over the last six years I found endless material for features and thought. I’ve always experienced warm often quirky encounters – so throughout this post I’ll drop in pics of Tripolitanians themselves – the people that matter far more than Qaddafi’s henchmen.

I love Libya – despite the ticking-off I got before I left from Georges, an ethically-minded Swiss friend. And Hisham Matar, author of the brilliant In the country of men, would agree with him. Yes, it’s a dodgy, repressive regime in many respects, but then so are many (look at the current ‘scene’ going on in UK politics for example – all is relative) and it does seem that Qaddafi has changed over the years. Now approaching the 40th anniversary of his dictatorship after toppling the short-lived Libyan monarchy and installing a very dubious form of Islamic Socialism, is the country at last finding its direction?

This time last week I was deep in the Sahara, exploring a completely mesmerising oasis town. Ghadames, on the Libyan- Algerian border, made me feel like Alice in Wonderland, drawn deeper and deeper through the twisting lanes of a mysterious rabbit-hole that in this case once housed thousands of people. Beautifully constructed from whitewashed mud-brick walls with palm-wood ceilings and doors, occasionally decorated with intricate geometric patterns, this secret town metaphorically blew me away.

I just had another baby. Fresh from China, it is neither human or android, it’s an advance copy of Medina Kitchen. At the same time, nice words came in an email from my editor: “The book feels like pure sunshine.” I won’t quote any more – it was too nice, but let’s say I’m puffing up fast.