In Libya, beware the un-'miya, miya' moments

Story highlights

  • "Miya, miya" means things are cool
  • "Not completely miya, miya" means just the opposite
It punctuates almost every Libyan's conversation: "Miya miya." Literally it mean "100%, 100%" In other words, "Things are OK. Fine. Great. Cool."
How's the weather? Miya miya. How's life? Miya miya.
Even in this revolution, when things are not OK, or great, or cool Libyans use the phrase.
This week, as we stood at a rebel checkpoint some nine or ten miles from the besieged town of Bani Walid, private cars with civilians fleeing the fighting slowed as the guards, in a motley collection of military gear, sneakers, hipster sunglasses and head bands waved them through. We stuck our heads in windows and asked the families what conditions were like in the city center.
"Miya miya," they said. But their eyes told a different tale. With no electricity, little water, food running low and shells raining down on their houses how could it possibly be "miya miya," we thought.
In August, our CNN producer, Raja Razek, had a "miya miya" moment right after the rebels entered Tripoli. On her way with correspondent Sarah Sidner and crew to what then was known as Green Square, now Martyrs' Square, they drove down Ghirgharsh Street. Anti-Gadhafi forces were pulling back to the suburb of Janzour to regroup.
The crew asked a rebel how things were looking at the Square.
"It's not completely miya miya," he said.
The crew blanched. It was the first time they'd heard that expression.
They turned around and headed back. "Miya miya- NOT." In Libya, that's bad.