Friday. 15/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Something brewing

Libya might be known for having Africa’s largest oil reserves but it’s coffee that really fuels daily life here. Some scholars suggest that coffee grown in east Africa and Yemen was brought to Venice via Tripoli – so it could be argued that Libyan merchants introduced coffee to Italy. Either way it’s clear that Libyans take their morning cup very seriously: some drink the silty traditional version found elsewhere in the region but most prefer the brew as it was prepared by the former colonial powers across the Mediterranean.

Today, Tripoli’s cafés boast sleek Italian espresso machines and customers can be a discerning bunch. The most popular choice is a nus-nus: a shot of espresso splashed with lightly foamed milk. It helps everyone – from politicians to militiamen and mothers – get through their day and beyond.

It’s also not unusual to see Libyans sipping coffee well into the night. In a country where alcohol has been banned since the late 1960s, socialising is centred around the café. After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, many young entrepreneurs opened their own. When I lived in downtown Tripoli’s old Italian quarter in 2014, I could have my morning nus-nus to take away from a street kiosk or savour it while sitting under the elegant arches of Algeria Square.

Later that year the country tipped into a civil conflict that continued in various iterations until a ceasefire was agreed last October. A fragile peace prevails for now; elections are planned for December and there are some renewed signs of optimism. Foreign companies are once again taking notice too. Earlier this month the inaugural Libya Coffee Expo took place, drawing 43 exhibitors and 10,000 visitors. Whatever happens, Libyans will always have their nus-nus.

Mary Fitzgerald is a Monocle correspondent based in Marseille and a regular visitor to and expert on Libya.

Image: Francesca Jones

Media / Global

This just in

There’s something peculiar about being a journalist, whether a news anchor or an international correspondent: the thrill you get from being part of the biggest stories happening in the world. BBC presenter Mishal Husain remembers covering a Pakistan school-shooting massacre, and receiving congratulations from colleagues for the “scoop” of entering the school first. “It made me feel sick,” she recounted during a particularly poignant moment at The Monocle Media Summit in London yesterday. Her point: there’s a line that correspondents and media organisations sometimes forget. Journalists might be in competition with each other and relish covering the big moments – but that doesn’t mean that they should ever become bigger than the story itself.

“The days that are quiet, when everything goes smoothly, they are dull,” Matti Rönkä (pictured, on left, with Husain, centre), presenter for Finland’s YLE, added during a panel on what makes a good news anchor. So what is the appropriate line and tone when covering a big story? “Remember that you are watching the news with the audience,” said Rönkä. “You’re the middleman. So you have to have feelings.” The simple trick, it seems, is to be human.

Tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ and more of Monocle 24’s programming for excerpts of The Monocle Media Summit panels throughout the day.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / EU & China

United front

European Council president Charles Michel (pictured) is holding a call with China’s Xi Jinping today to discuss the growing rift between the two major economic powers. Relations between the EU and China have most notably worsened over the EU’s sanctioning of China for its treatment of the country’s Uyghur minority, which prompted a tit-for-tat Chinese response. Another hurdle is the spat between China and Lithuania over the latter’s decision to open a diplomatic office with Taiwan. All of this has led EU member states to demand a stronger and more unified approach to dealing with China, which is perhaps why Michel is the one taking the lead for the first time on such an important call. “There’s this concern among member states that they will look weak by failing to craft a unanimous position,” Stuart Lau, Politico Europe’s EU-China correspondent, tells The Monocle Minute. “They don't want to be confronting China on human rights on a bilateral level.”

Hear more from Stuart Lau on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Aviation / Italy

Final call

The last flight from Italian national carrier Alitalia has touched down. Yesterday’s 22.05 from Cagliari to Rome represented the 74-year-old airline’s final route before it was officially grounded. It has long been saddled with financial problems and has been under administration since 2017, and the disappearance of the iconic red, green and white logo has stirred up mixed emotions among Italians. For workers at Alitalia – several thousand of whom will lose their jobs as the smaller, entirely public carrier Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) takes over from today – that has meant protests in Rome. For others, the nickname “Alitarda”, a pun about the airline’s reputation for running late, rang all too true. But, for many, there has been nostalgia about everything from the uniforms to the postwar progress that the airline represented. La Repubblica’s headline summed it up: “Thanks to Alitalia, a country with its feet on the ground discovered that it could fly.”

Economy / Global

Shipping forecast

In words designed to reassure but that ended up sounding rather ominous, the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak (pictured) insisted that the international supply-chain crisis would not result in a dearth of Christmas presents this December. Sunak was speaking after a meeting of G7 finance officials in Washington, convened in part to discuss said crisis. This week, a number of large retailers, including a number of toy shops, have issued warnings about Christmas shortages. Meanwhile in Felixstowe, the UK’s largest commercial port, hundreds of shipping containers have piled up due to a logjam. This scenario is not unique: in the US, the port of Los Angeles will begin operating around the clock to mitigate similar issues. After 2020’s last-minute lockdown announcement, the subject of Christmas is even more touchy than usual. If governments were writing a wish list, an easing of worldwide supply chains would surely be near the top.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Explainer 287: Sustainable food choices

Many of us want to make more sustainable choices when we shop for food but Nordic governments are going a step further and integrating climate issues into their official dietary suggestions. As the region awaits the new, updated Nordic Nutrition Recommendations next year, drawn up by the Nordic Council of Ministers, we hear from those involved in creating them and about the issues involved in trying to nudge the Nordics to eat more sustainably.

Monocle Films / Global

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In our ‘Secret to...’ series we look at the best way to wear a fragrance with Frances Shoemack, founder of Abel perfumes.

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