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The Libyan Art of Honking

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
February 17, 2012

The streets of Benghazi have turned into the world’s most joyous parking lot.

Every single vehicle, moving slower than a toddler walking, is honking its horn in a variety of patterns to celebrate the first anniversary of the revolution.

While Libyans often use certain honking patterns in everyday driving – two honks for “Hey there” and three honks to show your displeasure – the honking Thursday night can only be described as poetic. The most common horn pattern is two sets of five beeps: beep beep beep beep BEEP, beep beep beep beep BEEP. The pattern matches the beats to a common chant used during the revolution: “Hold your head up high; you are free Libyans.”

From my hotel room last night, the honking was so incessant it became a form of white noise, interrupted only by the occasional celebratory gunfire. Usually it’s just a potshot or two skyward, but if you’re lucky – or unlucky, given that minor inconvenience known as gravity – you can make out the gunfire in that now familiar pattern:

Bang bang bang bang BANG, Bang bang bang bang BANG.

And to think that it was just the eve of the Libyan revolution’s anniversary. I have a feeling that any object that can generate a series of beeps, toots, screeches or bangs will be out in full force today.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. You can almost dance to it.

With Twitter and other social media, NPR’s Andy Carvin monitored immediate, on-the-ground developments during the upheavals of the Arab Spring from Washington, D.C., through thousands of tweets and an army of followers that numbers in the tens of thousands. Now, he is in Libya, meeting face-to-face with some of those activists. He’ll be sending us periodic updates on his journey. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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