Diaries of Benghazi — Al Jagbub — Lefke — New York : Mystic Dreams and Solitudes of Confrontation

Sarri Elfaitouri
4 min readDec 26, 2023


In 2018 after finishing my bachelor degree I was trying to heal from the remaining traces of melancholy. I felt an intense urge to pursue what I have always dreamt of… A mystic life, to retreat from the chaotic, noisy, and nasty war-torn world we have arrived at without our will.

I was fascinated by the Sensusi and Naqshabandi Sufi ways, the former was a family heritage I was raised upon, and we would visit its center in Al Jaghbub, Libya every now and then, and the later I discovered in the Mountains of North Cyprus in 2017.

I saw a beautiful blend of love, joy, dedication, discipline, and spirituality in these two ways, and the more I thought about them, the more I desired to seek a spiritual solitude either in the sublime desert of Al Jaghbub or the glorious mountains of Lefke, or elsewhere..

I visited the Naqshbandi Zawia/ monastery in Lefke in 2018 with a hole in my heart, I had just graduated form school, but suddenly I felt this intense spiritual rupture in my soul as if all that I have ever achieved meant nothing… Benghazi, my home city in Libya, had also just got out of the civil war shattered with horrific destruction… I felt an intense urge to withdraw…

In the Naqshabandi Zawia I have met beautiful people coming from all over the world, dervishes, romantics, revolutionaries, doctors, engineers, farmers, homeless, poets, mystics, etc.. Some withdrawing from the previous chaotic lives in search of healing their trauma, and some just attracted by the magnetic echo of this Sufi way from the farthest places on earth. Everyone had their own stories, however, everyone came for a unified noble purpose in this mountainous microcosm, to seek the divine truth…

Lefke and Al Jaghbub are very physically and spiritually isolated towns from the materialistic world we are used to dwell in, a liminal zone, which would allow one to reflect deeply on all the other worlds around. Every time I leave them, a certain thought takes over me saying, I will come back here one day for good!.

It has been now almost 4 years since the last time I have been to these heavenly landscapes… In 2019 I was in confrontation with the chaotic life again by existential necessity, particularly to face the devastating post-war destruction in Libya with architecture and art, and this is when I started the “Tajarrod” project. Although spiritual solitude seemed a far and unrealistic dream given the circumstances, I heard one Sufi once said, that the ultimate solitude is one pursued amidst the very chaos that you want to retreat from to the distant deserts and mountains… This is the ultimate battle..

5 years later I am in New York, also a microcosm of a different sort, where people came from all around the globe, not necessarily for a unified divine purpose, but for a multiplicity of purposes. Just like I felt in Al Jaghbub and Lefke, I said to myself I am definitely coming back soon here one day…

What does belonging mean in the seemingly conflicting tendencies of solitude, retreat, and confrontation, these constant fights and flights? Can I further expand my heart and mind to absorb and reconcile these contradictions? To adopt new spiritual and material territories into my soul, as the deepest inscape I will ever dwell in?

I was amazed at how certain experiences can trigger the sharpest introspections towards oneself, cutting and simultaneously healing deep…

I never used to prefer the noisy, busy, and chaotic space or city life, I have always seeked outer and inner calmness and peace, nevertheless, the last 5 years have radically shifted my grounds. It turned out to me that Benghazi, Al Jaghbub, Lefke, and New York are not so much disconnected as they may spatially appear, but intrinsically linked with a very delicate root under the thick grounds of reality. Physical solitude therefore, I started questioning, may be just an attitude taken on a surface level, but the ultimate solitude is that taken inside the noisiest, roughest, and most challenging and distracting environments as that Sufi once said…

To look at the seductively hedonistic burden of this existence in the eye with self-discipline and grace, understand it, but never fall prey to it, be it people, earthly delights or otherwise.

If this could be practiced wisely, could it paradoxically, seed in our hearts greater capacities for compassion, love, and intelligence? Could solitude become this intrinsic state of mindfulness in your being in whatever chaotic outward state or city you might be?

Could solitude amidst the noisy city mean harnessing disconnection, distance, silence, and stillness as the most embracing, intimate, vocal, and passionate connection?

In “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” Friedrich Nietzsche asked:

“What do you plan to do in the land of the sleepers? You have been floating in a sea of solitude, and the sea has borne you up. At long last, are you ready for dry land? Are you ready to drag yourself ashore?”

To be continued…



Sarri Elfaitouri

Sarri is an architect, conceptual artist, and curator based in Benghazi Libya. He is the founder and CEO of TAJARROD Architecture and Art Foundation