Sunday, 28 August 2011

Tripoli Witness

libya rana jawad

A few months ago, the BBC stated that their overseas correspondent Rana Jawad was on ‘Indefinite Leave’ – as a newlywed, living with her Libyan husband from Benghazi, that was not altogether surprising.

But Rana did not stop working – in that time, she has been sending her reports under the name ‘Tripoli Witness’ – and they have been voiced by a man, in order to help preserve her anonymity, and keep her safe.

This brave young woman is as far from the sleazy scumbags hacking into Milly Dowler’s mobile as you can get. She is a real journalist. She has put herself at risk, reporting the situation in her adopted country. And now the BBC can admit who was behind those reports. Listening to her speaking on Radio 4’s “BH” this morning before I went to church, I was moved by her honesty as she spoke about her decision to go on reporting in secret…

"They have a death brigade that specialise in people like you, I can't help you, no one can!" [my husband] warned [me]. "They will knock on our door and drag you out in front of me and execute you! You have no idea what they are capable of. What will I do?! Tell me!"

But she has kept on – sending her well written, honest reports of life in Libya through this time of turmoil – with resolute cheerfulness.

libya map

You can read her final report here and that page also has links to her previous ‘Tripoli Witness’ reports. When Paddy O’Connell interviewed her on BH, he asked how she coped when the stress became too much. She laughed and said that she went off to the kitchen, got out the weights and the flour and the sugar, and baked cakes. She made up recipes to use the ingredients she had “So if I lose my job with the BBC, perhaps I can make cakes for a living” BH has printed some of her recipes on its webpage [here]

This is one of them

For a 23cm round pan, sides and base buttered, and base lined with greaseproof paper.

3 eggs
280g sugar
50ml of strong coffee [made up of 1 tbsp. of instant and hot water]
1 shot of milk
225 ml corn oil

With hand-held electric mixer: cream the wet ingredients starting with the eggs and sugar until nice and thick, then adding the rest.

225g flour
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. of chilli powder [or cayenne]

Then sift all and add to wet in three batches until just mixed in.

DO NOT overmix: bake at 180 Celsius for about 50 minutes or less, insert toothpick to check if it's done only after the cake has risen [30 minutes onwards].

I suspect Rana will be keeping her BBC job – they would be daft to let go a journalist of such calibre. But I look forward to her cookbook being published. This afternoon, as Bob watches the Grand Prix, I have decided that I am going to the kitchen to bake this cake.

I have all the ingredients, and clean running water, and a reliable power supply. I shall be safe – nobody will come to my door with a gun, there will be no sounds of fighting in my street. And as I bake, I shall think of Rana, and pray for her, and all the people of Libya – may God bring peace, freedom and safety to them soon.

I salute you, Rana – you are a courageous young woman – thank you for telling the world about the events unfolding around you - may God keep you and your family safe.

[I will perhaps edit this post later and a add photo of my cake]

15.20 – cake now cooked [it took the full 50 minutes, even in my fan oven – I checked at 35minutes and it was nowhere near done!] I decided a dusting of icing sugar would disguise the two cracks in the top. Fortunately I am not planning to enter the Great British Bake Off, and show Mary Berry.

Displaying it here on one of my favourite charity shop cake stands



  1. Mmm, I'll just pop the kettle on!

    Sandie xx

  2. Will give this a try - baking day tomorrow. Radio 4 is excellent!!!!

  3. Dear Angela,

    I've just come across your post here. I'm blushing as I admit I googled my piece to see the reaction it got, -not out of vanity I assure you, but sheer curiosity - I wanted to take the time to say thank you for your kind words and your ears in the early months of the conflict. Our listners made the risk all the more worth it;)
    I'm now seriously considering publishing a baking book for the 'distraught' as i refer to my creations...but for now I'll remain the correspondent here. How could I not?
    Warm regards,
    Rana Jawad


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