Farms around Misrata turned into tactical terrain where troops loyal to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi fought pitched battles against ragged volunteers from the rebellious city. Rolling dunes on the city outskirts became sand bunkers. Scenic highways along the Mediterranean served as strategic corridors. The city itself looked like a Hollywood set when I visited in August, with so many burned cars and walls scarred by explosions that it seemed a figment of an overzealous imagination, some dark and twisted vision of a post-apocalyptic landscape.
An equally bizarre collection of vehicles roared along the ruined streets, like products of a science fiction universe with their homemade paint jobs and jury-rigged armor. These were the rebels' battle wagons, usually pickup trucks some kind of artillery welded to the back.