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Libya ( ; Libyan vernacular: Lībya ; Amazigh: ), officially the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (  ), is a country located in North Africa. Bordering the Mediterranean Seamarker to the north, Libya lies between Egyptmarker to the east, Sudanmarker to the southeast, Chadmarker and Nigermarker to the south, and Algeriamarker and Tunisiamarker to the west.

With an area of almost , 90% of which is desert, Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa by area, and the 17th largest in the world.U.N. Demographic Yearbook, (2003), "Demographic Yearbook (3) Pop., Rate of Pop. Increase, Surface Area & Density", United Nations Statistics Division, Accessed July 15, 2006 The capital, Tripolimarker, is home to 1.7 million of Libya's 5.7 million people. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzanmarker, and Cyrenaica. Libya has the highest HDI in Africa and the second highest GDP (PPP) per capita of Africa, behind Equatorial Guineamarker. These are largely due to its large petroleum reserves and low population.Annual Statistical Bulletin, (2004), "World proven crude oil reserves by country, 1980–2004", O.P.E.C., Accessed July 20, 2006World Economic Outlook Database, (April, 2006), "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects", International Monetary Fund, Accessed July 15, 2006

The flag of Libya consists of a green field with no other characteristics. It is the only national flag in the world with just one color and no design, insignia, or other details.


In Greek, the tribesmen were called Libues, Latinised to Libyes (with Greek u transcribed as y in Latin). Their country became Libuā (or in Classical Attic Libýē with the standard Attic sound change ā > ē), Latinised Libya. But in ancient Greece the term had a broader meaning, encompassing all of North Africa west of Egypt (see Ancient Libya).

Later on, at the time of Ibn Khaldun, the same big tribe was known as Lawata.

The word jamahiriya (Arabic جماهيرية, strict transliteration jamāhīriyya), which appears in the full title of the country, is an Arabic term generally translated as "state of the masses". It is a neologism, coined by Muammar al-Gaddafi, similar to people's republic.


Ancient Libya

Archaeological evidence indicates that from as early as 8,000 BC, the coastal plain of Ancient Libya was inhabited by a Neolithic people, the Berbers, who were skilled in the domestication of cattle and the cultivation of crops.Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1987), "Early History of Libya", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 11, 2006

Later, the area known in modern times as Libya also was occupied by a series of other peoples, with the Phoeniciansmarker, Carthaginiansmarker, Greeks, Persian Empire, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Turks and Byzantines ruling all or part of the area.

Although the Greeks and Romans left ruins at Cyrenemarker, Leptis Magnamarker, and Sabrathamarker, little other evidence remains of these ancient cultures. Some cultural and religious exchanges occurred with the Ancient Egyptians, especially in the northern portion containing the delta of the Nile, that is called Lower Egypt. The prehistoric evidence is fragmentary, but historical records later document continued influences.

Pockets of Berber population remain in modern Libya, but dispersal of Berbers north as far as Irelandmarker and Scandinavia is documented in genetic markers studied by physical anthropologists and dispersal in Africa from the Atlantic coast to the Siwa oasismarker in Egypt, seems to have followed climatic changes causing increasing desertification. Now the greatest number of Berbers in Africa is in Moroccomarker (about 42% of the population) and in Algeriamarker (about 27% of the population), as well as Tunisiamarker and Libya, but exact statistics are not available; see Berber languages.


The Phoeniciansmarker were the first to establish trading posts in Libya, when the merchants of Tyremarker (in present-day Lebanonmarker) developed commercial relations with the Berber tribes and made treaties with them to ensure their cooperation in the exploitation of raw materials.Herodotus, (c.430 BC), "'The Histories', Book IV.42–43" Fordham University, New York, Accessed July 18, 2006Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1987), "Tripolitania and the Phoenicians", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 11, 2006 By the fifth century BC the greatest of the Phoenician colonies, Carthagemarker, had extended its hegemony across much of North Africa, where a distinctive civilization, known as Punic, came into being. Punic settlements on the Libyan coast included Oeamarker (Tripoli), Libdah (Leptis Magnamarker) and Sabrathamarker. All these were in an area that later was called, Tripolis, or "Three Cities". Libya's current-day capital Tripoli takes its name from this.


The Greeks conquered Eastern Libya when, according to tradition, emigrants from the crowded island of Theramarker were commanded by the oracle at Delphimarker to seek a new home in North Africa. In 630 BC, they founded the city of Cyrenemarker.Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1987), "Cyrenaica and the Greeks", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 11, 2006 Within 200 years, four more important Greek cities were established in the area: Barcemarker (Al Marj); Euhesperides (later Berenice, present-day Benghazimarker); Teuchiramarker (later Arsinoe, present-day Tukrah); and Apolloniamarker (Susah), the port of Cyrene. Together with Cyrene, they were known as the Pentapolis (Five Cities).


The Romans unified all three regions of Libya. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica became prosperous Roman provinces and remained so for more than six hundred years.Heuser, Stephen, (July 24, 2005), "When Romans lived in Libya", The Boston Globe Accessed July 18, 2006Roman ruins, such as those of Leptis Magnamarker, attest to the vitality of the region during the Roman occupation.

At the time, populous cities and even small towns enjoyed the amenities of urban life consistent with those in Rome. Merchants and artisans from many parts of the Roman world established themselves in North Africa, but the character of the cities of Tripolitania remained decidedly Punic and, in Cyrenaica, Greek.

Under Islam

Libya was conquered by Uqba ibn Nafi in 644 and fully conquered in 655, forming part of the Ummayad Caliphate. This was superseded by the Abbasid in 750, but in practice Libya enjoyed considerable local autonomy under the Aghlabid dynasty.Arab soldiers, spreading their new religion of Islam, entered Cyrenaica in 642 and occupied Tripoli in 643. A succession of Arab and Berber dynasties then controlled what is now Libya. The culture of northwestern Libya developed along with the political units just west of it, while development in the east was strongly influenced by neighboring Egypt.

Ottoman Turks

The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century, and the three States or "Wilayat" of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzanmarker (which make up Libya) remained part of their empire with the exception of the virtual autonomy of the Karamanlis. The Karamanlis ruled from 1711 until 1835 mainly in Tripolitania, but had influence in Cyrenaica and Fezzan as well by the mid 18th century. This constituted a first glimpse in recent history of the united and independent Libya that was to re-emerge two centuries later. Reunification came about through the unlikely route of an invasion (Italo-Turkish War, 1911–1912) and occupation starting from 1911 when Italymarker simultaneously turned the three regions into colonies.Country Profiles, (May 16, 2006), "Timeline: Libya, a chronology of key events" BBC News, Accessed July 18, 2006

Italian colony

From 1912 to 1927, the territory of Libya was known as Italian North Africa. From 1927 to 1934, the territory was split into two colonies run by Italian governors, Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania. During the Italian colonial period, between 20% and 50% of the Libyan population died in the struggle for independence, and mainly in prison camps. Some 150,000 Italians settled in Libya, constituting roughly one-fifth of the total population.

In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony (made up of the three provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzanmarker). King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world wars.Between 1928 and 1932 the Italian military "killed half the Bedouin population (directly or through starvation in camps)."From 1943 to 1951, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were under British administration, while the French controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairomarker but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal of some aspects of foreign control in 1947. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.Hagos, Tecola W., (November 20, 2004), "Treaty Of Peace With Italy (1947), Evaluation And Conclusion", Ethiopia Tecola Hagos, Accessed July 18, 2006

United Kingdom of Libya

On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. Idris represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. On December 24, 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris.

The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled one of the world's poorest nations to establish an extremely wealthy state. Although oil drastically improved the Libyan government's finances, popular resentment began to build over the increased concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of King Idris and the national elite. This discontent continued to mount with the rise of Nasserism and Arab nationalism throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

Modern Libya

Revolution of Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi

On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 27-year-old army officer Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi staged a coup d’état against King Idris. At the time, Idris was in Turkey for medical treatment. His nephew, Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi, became King. It was clear that the revolutionary officers who had announced the deposition of King Idris did not want to appoint him over the instruments of state as King. Sayyid quickly found that he had substantially less power as the new King than he had earlier had as a mere Prince. Before the end of September 1, Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida had been formally deposed by the revolutionary army officers and put under house arrest. Meanwhile, revolutionary officers abolished the monarchy, and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. Gaddafi was, and is to this day, referred to as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution" in government statements and the official press.US Department of State's Background Notes, (November 2005) "Libya - History", U.S. Dept. of State, Accessed July 14, 2006


Libya is a dictatorship run by Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi. [2509]In theory, there are two branches of government in Libya. The "revolutionary sector" comprises Revolutionary Leader Gaddafi, the Revolutionary Committees and the remaining members of the 12-person Revolutionary Command Council, which was established in 1969.Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1987), "Government and Politics of Libya", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 14, 2006 The historical revolutionary leadership is not elected and cannot be voted out of office; they are in power by virtue of their involvement in the revolution.

Constituting the legislative branch of government, this sector comprises Local People's Congresses in each of the 1,500 urban wards, 32 Sha'biyat People's Congresses for the regions, and the National General People's Congress. These legislative bodies are represented by corresponding executive bodies (Local People's Committees, Sha'biyat People's Committees and the National General People's Committee/Cabinet).

Every four years, the membership of the Local People's Congresses elects their own leaders and the secretaries for the People's Committees, sometimes after many debates and a critical vote. The leadership of the Local People's Congress represents the local congress at the People's Congress of the next level. The members of the National General People's Congress elect the members of the National General People's Committee (the Cabinet) at their annual meeting.

The government controls both state-run and semi-autonomous media. In cases involving a violation of "certain taboos", the private press, like The Tripoli Post, has been censored,Special Report 2006, (May 2, 2006), "North Korea Tops CPJ list of '10 Most Censored Countries'", Committee to Protect Journalists, Accessed July 19, 2006 although articles that are critical of policies have been requested and intentionally published by the revolutionary leadership itself as a means of initiating reforms.

Political parties were banned by the 1972 Prohibition of Party Politics Act Number 71.Case Study: Libya, (2001), "Political Culture", Educational Module on Chemical & Biological Weapons Nonproliferation, Accessed July 14, 2006 According to the Association Act of 1971, the establishment of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is allowed. However, because they are required to conform to the goals of the revolution, their numbers are small in comparison with those in neighbouring countries. Trade unions do not exist,Hodder, Kathryn, (2000), "Violations of Trade Union Rights", Social Watch Africa, Accessed July 14, 2006 but numerous professional associations are integrated into the state structure as a third pillar, along with the People's Congresses and Committees. These associations do not have the right to strike. Professional associations send delegates to the General People's Congress, where they have a representative mandate.

Foreign relations

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Libyan National Security Adviser Mutassim Qadhafi.
Libya is keen to shake off its pariah status and rejoin the international community.
Libya's foreign policies have undergone much fluctuation and change since the state was proclaimed on December 24, 1951. As a Kingdom, Libya maintained a definitively pro-Western stance, yet was recognized as belonging to the conservative traditionalist bloc in the League of Arab States (the present-day Arab League), of which it became a member in 1953.Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1987), "Independent Libya", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 14, 2006 The government was in close alliance with Britainmarker and the United Statesmarker; both countries maintained military base rights in Libya. Libya also forged close ties with Francemarker, Italymarker, Greecemarker, and established full diplomatic relations with the Soviet Unionmarker in 1955.

Although the government supported Arab causes, including the Moroccan and Algerian independence movements, it took little active part in the Arab-Israeli dispute or the tumultuous inter-Arab politics of the 1950s and early 1960s. The Kingdom was noted for its close association with the West, while it steered an essentially conservative course at home.Abadi, Jacob (2000), "Pragmatism and Rhetoric in Libya's Policy Toward Israel", The Journal of Conflict Studies: Volume XX Number 1 Fall 2000, University of New Brunswick, Accessed July 19, 2006

After the 1969 coup, Gaddafi closed American and British bases and partially nationalized foreign oil and commercial interests in Libya. He also played a key role in promoting oil embargoes as a political weapon for challenging the West, hoping that an oil price rise and embargo in 1973 would persuade the West, especially the United States, to end support for Israel. Gaddafi rejected both Eastern (Soviet) communism and Western (United States) capitalism and claimed he was charting a middle course for his government.The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, (2001–2005), "Qaddafi, Muammar al-", Bartleby Books, Accessed July 19, 2006

In the 1980s, Libya increasingly distanced itself from the United States, based on the principle of non-alignment and the adoption of a middle path between capitalism and communism referred to as "the Third Theory". The animosity was deepened due to Gaddafi’s support for groups like the Palestine Liberation Organization, which were considered terrorist by the USA, and his flirtation with the Soviet Union, which at the time represented the sole challenger to the US. Secretary of State Alexander Haig considered Libya as “a Soviet satellite” and a “Soviet-run terrorist training network". When Libya intervened in Chad in 1980 it was perceived by the American authorities as the Soviet Union’s attempt to spread control in Africa. In addition to this, Gaddafi’s opposition to Israel, a United States ally and considered by them to be the only democratic state in the region, were enough reasons to have Libya considered an American enemy. Consequently, Reagan administration began its campaign of assisting Libya’s neighbors militarily to be able to respond to any Libyan attempt to invade them. Tunisia was given some fifty-four M60 tanks plus $15 million in military credits, while other countries like Egypt and Sudan were given an increase in military credits and training with a full-fledged promise of support in face of Libyan threats. These strategies aimed at isolating Libya and pressure it to reconsider its policies towards the US.

The first confrontation with the United States was when Gaddafi had declared two hundred miles of the Gulf of Sidramarker to be restricted of any international usage; having defied such declaration Libyan air force fired a missile at a US Boeing EC-135 flight. The attack did not cause any damages to the aircraft, and Jimmy Carter, the U.S. President at the time, did not respond militarily. Allegedly, Gaddafi had secretly ordered the burning down of the US embassy in Tripoli as his fight against the United States. In response U.S. President Ronald Reagan had the "Libyan People's Bureau" closed, and oil imports banned from North African States. Reagan also contested the restricted area defined by Gaddafi based on a 1958 convention that stated that countries were allowed to claim twenty four miles of width from their coasts. On August 19, 1981 the navy was sent close to Libya's coast which resulted in a confrontation where two of the SU-22 fighters supplied to Libya by the Soviet Union were shot down. Following this, Libya was implicated in committing mass acts of state-sponsored terrorism. When CIA allegedly intercepted two messages implying Libyan complicity in the Berlin discothèque terrorist bombingmarker that killed two American servicemen, the United States found this a good enough reason to launch an aerial bombing attack against targets near Tripoli and Benghazimarker in April 1986.Boyne, Walter J., (March, 1999), "El Dorado Canyon", Air Force Association Journal, Vol. 82, No. 3, Accessed July 19, 2006 The Attack, Operation El Dorado Canyon, was not sanctioned by France and Spain, who refused to allow US F-111 bombers to fly over their territories, and resulted in death of several civilians, including Gaddafi's two-year old adopted daughter.

In 1991, two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted by federal prosecutors in the United States and the United Kingdom for their involvement in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. Six other Libyans were put on trial in absentia for the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772marker. The UN Security Council demanded that Libya surrender the suspects, cooperate with the Pan Am 103 and UTA 772 investigations, pay compensation to the victims' families, and cease all support for terrorism. Libya's refusal to comply led to the approval of UNSC Resolution 748 on March 31, 1992, imposing sanctions on the state designed to bring about Libyan compliance. Continued Libyan defiance led to further sanctions by the UN against Libya in November 1993.(2003), "Libya", Global Policy Forum, Accessed July 19, 2006

In 1999, less than a decade after the sanctions were put in place, Libya began to make dramatic policy changes in regard to the Western world, including turning over the Lockerbie suspects for trial. This diplomatic breakthrough followed years of negotiation, including a visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Libya in December 1998, and personal appeals by Nelson Mandela. Eventually UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook persuaded the Americans to accept a trial of the suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law, with the UN Security Council agreeing to suspend sanctions as soon as the suspects arrived in the Netherlands for trial.

In response to 9/11 attacks Gaddafi condemned the attacks as an act of terrorism and urged Libyans to donate blood for the US victims. However, the United States were still not willing to remove the sanctions of Libya yet. After the invasion of Iraq based on allegations that it had WMD programs violating non-proliferation treaty, and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Libyan government announced its decision to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programmes and pay almost 3 billion US dollars in compensation to the families of Pan Am flight 103 as well as UTA Flight 772.Marcus, Jonathan, (May 15, 2006), "Washington's Libyan fairy tale", BBC News, Accessed July 15, 2006 According to some sources Gaddafi had privately phoned Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi expressing his fear that his regime will meet the same fate if he did not take such steps. The decision was welcomed by many western nations and was seen as an important step for Libya toward rejoining the international community.U.K. Politics, (March 25, 2004), "Blair hails new Libyan relations", BBC news, Accessed July 15, 2006 Since 2003 the country has made efforts to normalize its ties with the European Union and the United States and has even coined the catchphrase, 'The Libya Model', an example intended to show the world what can be achieved through negotiation rather than force when there is goodwill on both sides. By 2004 Bush had lifted the economic sanctions on Libya and official relations resumed between Libya and the United States. Libya then opened a Liaison office in Washington, DC and the United States opened an office in Tripoli. In January 2004, Congressman Tom Lantos led the first official Congressional delegation visit to Libya.

An event considered pivotal by many in Libyan-Western relations is the HIV trials (1999–2007) of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor. Their release is seen as marking a new stage in Libyan-Western relations.

On May 15, 2006 the United States State Department announced it would fully restore diplomatic relations with Libya if it dismantled its weapons programmes. The State Department also removed Libya from their state sponsored terrorism list which it had been on for 27 years. This move has also been attributed to the pressures of oil companies lobbying the Congress. In addition to that the fall of the Soviet power, the prominent role that Libya plays in the African Continent, and the assistance it could provide to the US in its war on terror are among the other considerations that were factored in. In August 2008 a motion was introduced in the 110th Congress known as S 3370 or the “Libyan Claims Resolution Act” to exempt Libya from the infamous section 1083 clause of the National Defense Authorization Act. The motion passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate by unanimous consent, and is signed into law by President George W. Bush on 4 August. After Libya paid a final portion of $1.8 billion global settlement fund for American victims it became formally exempted from section 1083. Following that Libyan families received $300 million for casualties suffered due to the 1986 airstrikes led by the United States. In November the same year, the United States Senate confirmed Gene A. Cretz as the first US Ambassador to Libya in over 35 years. The final step in the process of rebuilding the relations between the two countries came in January 2009 when Ali Suleiman Aujali presented his letters of credentials to President George W. Bush as Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of Libya to the United States of America, and Gene A. Cretz presents his letter of credentials before the General People’s Congress; currently both are serving as Ambassadors to their respective countries.

On October 16, 2007, Libya was voted to serve on the United Nations Security Council for two years starting January 2008.

In February 2009, Gaddafi was selected to be chairman of the African Union for one year.

As of October 25, 2009, Canadian visa requests are being denied and Canadian travellers have been told they're not welcome in Libya, in an apparent reprisal for Canada's near tongue-lashing of Moammar Gadhafi. Meanwhile, Libya is still detaining two Swiss businessmen. Libyan-Swiss relations strongly suffered after the arrest of Hannibal Gadhafi in Geneva in 2008.

Cooperation with Italy

On 30 August 2008, Gaddafi and Italianmarker Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed an historic cooperation treaty in Benghazimarker. Under its terms, Italy will pay $5 billion to Libya as compensation for its former military occupation. In exchange, Libya will take measures to combat illegal immigration coming from its shores and boost investments in Italian companies. The treaty was ratified by Italy on 6 February 2009, and by Libya on 2 March, during a visit to Tripolimarker by Berlusconi. In June Gaddafi made his first visit to Romemarker, where he met Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Giorgio Napolitano, Senate President Renato Schifani, and Chamber President Gianfranco Fini, among others. The Democratic Party and Italy of Values opposed the visit, and many protests were staged throughout Italy by human rights organizations and the Radical Party. Gaddafi also took part in the G8 summit in L'Aquilamarker in July 2009 as Chairman of the African Union.

Human rights

According to the U.S. Department of State’s annual human rights report for 2007, Libya’s authoritarian regime continued to have a poor record in the area of human rights. Some of the numerous and serious abuses on the part of the government include poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and prisoners held incommunicado, and political prisoners held for many years without charge or trial. The judiciary is controlled by the government, and there is no right to a fair public trial. Libyans do not have the right to change their government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion are restricted. Independent human rights organizations are prohibited. Ethnic and tribal minorities suffer discrimination, and the state continues to restrict the labor rights of foreign jobs.

In 2005 Freedom House rated political rights in Libya as "7" (1 representing the most free and 7 the least free rating), civil liberties as "7" and gave it the freedom rating of "Not Free".

See also Freedom in the World 2006, List of indices of freedom

Administrative divisions

Historically the area of Libya was considered three provinces (or states), Tripolitania in the northwest, Barka in the east, and Fezzanmarker in the southwest. It was the conquest by Italy in the Italo-Turkish War that unitied them in a single political unit. Under the Italians Libya, in 1934, was divided into four provinces and one territory (in the south): Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, Derna, and the Territory of the Libyan Sahara.

After independence, Libya was divided into three governorates (muhafazat) and then in 1963 into ten governorates.Nyrop, Richard F. (1973) "Table 10: Governorates and Districts of Libya 1972" "Area Handbook for Libya" (2nd ed.) United States Department of the Army, Washington, DC, p. 159 OCLC 713653 The governorates were legally abolished in February 1975, and nine "control bureaus" were set up to deal directly with the nine areas, respectively: education, health, housing, social services, labor, agricultural services, communications, financial services, and economy, each under their own ministry. However, the courts and some other agencies continued to operate as if the governorate structure were still in place. In 1983 Libya was split into forty-six districts (baladiyat), then in 1987 into twenty-five. In 1995, Libya was divided into thirteen districts (shabiyah), in 1998 into twenty-six districts, and in 2001 into thirty-two districts.Jamahiriya News Agency, (July 19, 2004), "Masses of the Basic People's Congresses select their Secretariats and People's Committees" Mathaba News, accessed July 19, 2006 These were then further rearranged into twenty two districts in 2007:
Arabic Latin transliteration
البطنان Al Butnanmarker
درنة Darnahmarker
الجبل الاخضر Al Jabal al Akhdar
المرج Al Marjmarker
بنغازي Benghazi
الواحات Al Wahatmarker
الكفرة Al Kufrahmarker
سرت Surtmarker
مرزق Murzuqmarker
سبها Sabhamarker
وادي الحياة Wadi Al Hayaamarker
مصراتة Misratahmarker
المرقب Al Murgubmarker
طرابلس Tarabulus
الجفارة Al Jfaramarker
الزاوية Az Zawiyahmarker
النقاط الخمس An Nuqat al Khamsmarker
الجبل الغربي Al Jabal al Gharbimarker
نالوت Nalutmarker
غات Ghat
الجفرة Al Jufrahmarker
وادي الشاطئ Wadi Al Shatiimarker

Libyan districts are further subdivided into Basic People's Congresses which act as townships or boroughs.


Map of Libya
Libya extends over , making it the 17th largest nation in the world by size. Libya is somewhat smaller than Indonesiamarker, and roughly the size of the US state of Alaskamarker. It is bound to the north by the Mediterranean Seamarker, the west by Tunisiamarker and Algeriamarker, the southwest by Nigermarker, the south by Chadmarker and Sudanmarker and to the east by Egyptmarker. At , Libya's coastline is the longest of any African country bordering the Mediterranean.(2005), "Demographics of Libya", Education Libya, Accessed June 29, 2006(July 20, 2006), "Field Listings - Coastlines", CIA World Factbook, Accessed July 23, 2006 The portion of the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya is often called the Libyan Seamarker. The climate is mostly dry and desertlike in nature. However, the northern regions enjoy a milder Mediterranean climate.

Natural hazards come in the form of hot, dry, dust-laden sirocco (known in Libya as the gibli). This is a southern wind blowing from one to four days in spring and autumn. There are also dust storms and sandstorms. Oases can also be found scattered throughout Libya, the most important of which are Ghadamesmarker and Kuframarker.

Libyan Desert

The Libyan Desertmarker, which covers much of Libya, is one of the most arid places on earth. In places, decades may pass without rain, and even in the highlands rainfall happens seldomly, once every 5–10 years. At Uweinat, as of 2006 the last recorded rainfall was in September 1998.Zboray, András, "Flora and Fauna of the Libyan Desert", Fliegel Jezerniczky Expeditions, Accessed July 14, 2006 There is a large depression, the Qattara Depressionmarker, just to the south of the northernmost scarp, with Siwa oasis at its western extremity. The depression continues in a shallower form west, to the oases of Jaghbub and Jalo.

Likewise, the temperature in the Libyan desert can be extreme; in 1922, the town of Al 'Aziziyahmarker, which is located Southwest of Tripolimarker, recorded an air temperature of , generally accepted as the highest recorded naturally occurring air temperature reached on Earth.Hottest Place, "El Azizia Libya, 'How Hot is Hot?'", Extreme Science, Accessed July 14, 2006

There are a few scattered uninhabited small oases, usually linked to the major depressions, where water can be found by digging to a few feet in depth. In the west there is a widely dispersed group of oases in unconnected shallow depressions, the Kufra group, consisting of Tazerbo, Rebianae and Kufra. Aside from the scarps, the general flatness is only interrupted by a series of plateaus and massifs near the centre of the Libyan Desert, around the convergence of the Egyptian-Sudanese-Libyan borders.

Slightly further to the south are the massifs of Arkenu, Uweinat and Kissu. These granite mountains are ancient, having formed long before the sandstones surrounding them. Arkenu and Western Uweinat are ring complexes very similar to those in the Aïr Mountainsmarker. Eastern Uweinat (the highest point in the Libyan Desert) is a raised sandstone plateau adjacent to the granite part further west. The plain to the north of Uweinat is dotted with eroded volcanic features.

With the discovery of oil in the 1950s also came the discovery of a massive aquifer underneath much of the country. The water in this aquifer pre-dates the last ice ages andthe Sahara desert itself. ""Fossil Water" in Libya", NASA, Accessed March 24, 2007 The country is also home to the Arkenu cratersmarker, double impact craters found in the desert.


The infrastructure of Libya's capital Tripoli has benefited from the country's oil wealth.
Tripoli's Old City (El-Madina El-Kadima), situated in the city centre, is one of the classical sites of the Mediterranean and an important tourist attraction.
The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which constitute practically all export earnings and about one-quarter of gross domestic product (GDP). The World Bank defines Libya as an 'Upper Middle Income Economy', along with only seven other African countries. In the early 1980s, Libya was one of the wealthiest countries in the world; its GNP per capita was higher than that of countries such as Italy, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and New Zealand.

Today, high oil revenues and a small population give Libya one of the highest GDPs per person in Africa and have allowed the Libyan state to provide an extensive level of social security, particularly in the fields of housing and education. Many problems still beset Libya's economy however; unemployment is the highest in the region at 21% according to the latest census figures.

Compared to its neighbours, Libya enjoys a low level of both absolute and relative poverty. Libyan officials in the past six years have carried out economic reforms as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the global capitalist economy. This effort picked up steam after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003, and as Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programmes to build weapons of mass destruction.

Libya has begun some market-oriented reforms. Initial steps have included applying for membership of the World Trade Organization, reducing subsidies, and announcing plans for privatisation. Authorities have privatised more than 100 government owned companies since 2003 in industries including oil refining, tourism and real estate, of which 29 are 100% foreign owned.(July 24, 2009) Libya expects nearly $2 bln in new FDI Reuters Africa, Accessed July 27, 2009 The non-oil manufacturing and construction sectors, which account for about 20% of GDP, have expanded from processing mostly agricultural products to include the production of petrochemicals, iron, steel and aluminium.

Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food. Water is also a problem, with some 28% of the population not having access to safe drinking water in 2000. The Great Manmade Rivermarker project is tapping into vast underground aquifers of fresh water discovered during the quest for oil, and is intended to improve the country's agricultural output.

Under the previous Prime Minister, Shukri Ghanem, and current prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi, Libya is undergoing a business boom. Many government-run industries are being privatised. Many international oil companies have returned to the country, including oil giants Shell and ExxonMobil.

Tourism is on the rise, bringing increased demand for hotel accommodation and for capacity at airports such as Tripoli Internationalmarker. A multi-million dollar renovation of Libyan airports has recently been approved by the government to help meet such demands. At present 130,000 people visit the country annually; the Libyan government hopes to increase this figure to 10,000,000 tourists. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the oldest son of Muammar al-Gaddafi, is involved in a green development project called the Green Mountain Sustainable Development Area, which seeks to bring tourism to Cyrene and to preserve Greek ruins in the area.


A map indicating the ethnic composition of Libya.

Libya has a small population residing in a large land area. Population density is about 50 persons per km² (80/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per km² (1.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere. Ninety percent of the people live in less than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast. About 88% of the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the two largest cities, Tripolimarker and Benghazimarker. 50% of the population is estimated to be under age 15.

Native Libyans are primarily Arabs (mainly tribal desert Arabs "Bedouins"), Berbers and arabized Berbers, Tuareg. Small Hausa, and Tebu tribal groups in southern Libya are nomadic or seminomadic. Among foreign residents, the largest groups are citizens of other African nations, including North Africans (primarily Egyptiansmarker), and Sub-Saharan Africans. Libya is home to a large illegal population which numbers more than one million. Libya has a small Italian minority. Previously, there was a visible presence of Italian settlers, but many left after independence in 1947 and many more left after the rule of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1970.

The main language spoken in Libya is Arabic by 80% of the Libyans, and which is also the official language; the Tamazight spoken by 20% (i.e. Berber and Tuareg languages), which do not have official status, are spoken by Libyan Berbers and Tuaregs in the south beside Arabic language.Anderson, Lisa, (2006), "'Libya', III. People, B. Religion & Language", MSN Encarta, Accessed July 17, 2006. Archived 2009-10-31. Berber speakers live above all in the Jebel Nafusamarker region (Tripolitania), the town of Zuwarahmarker on the coast, and the city-oases of Ghadamesmarker, Ghatmarker and Awjilamarker. In addition, Tuaregs speak Tamahaq, the only known Northern Tamasheq language, also Toubou language is spoken by Toubou in some pockets in Qatroun village and Koffra city. Italian and English are sometimes spoken in the big cities, although Italian speakers are mainly among the older generation.

Family life is important for Libyan families, the majority of which live in apartment blocks and other independent housing units, with precise modes of housing depending on their income and wealth. Although the Libyan Arabs traditionally lived nomadic lifestyles in tents, they have now settled in various towns and cities.Al-Hawaat, Dr. Ali, (1994), "The Family and the work of women, A study in the Libyan Society" National Center for Research and Scientific Studies of Libya, Accessed July 19, 2006 Because of this, their old ways of life are gradually fading out. An unknown small number of Libyans still live in the desert as their families have done for centuries. Most of the population has occupations in industry and services, and a small percentage is in agriculture.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Libya hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 16,000 in 2007. Of this group, approximately 9,000 persons were from the Former Palestine, 3,200 from Sudanmarker, 2,500 from Somaliamarker and 1,100 from Iraqmarker. Libya reportedly deported thousands of illegal entrants in 2007 without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum. Refugees faced discrimination from Libyan officials when moving in the country and seeking employment.


The Benghazi campus of the former University of Libya (Al-Jami'a al-Libiya), Libya's first university.
Libya's population includes 1.7 million students, over 270,000 of whom study at the tertiary level.Clark, Nick, (July 2004), "Education in Libya", World Education News and Reviews, Volume 17, Issue 4, Accessed July 22, 2006 Education in Libya is free for all citizens,Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1987), "Education of Libya", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 22, 2006 and compulsory up until secondary level. The literacy rate is the highest in North Africa; over 82% of the population can read and write.

After Libya's independence in 1951, its first university, the University of Libya, was established in Benghazi.El-Hawat, Ali, (2000), "Country Higher Education Profiles - Libya", International Network for Higher Education in Africa", Accessed July 22, 2006 In academic year 1975/76 the number of university students was estimated to be 13,418. As of 2004, this number has increased to more than 200,000, with an extra 70,000 enrolled in the higher technical and vocational sector. The rapid increase in the number of students in the higher education sector has been mirrored by an increase in the number of institutions of higher education.

Since 1975 the number of universities has grown from two to nine and after their introduction in 1980, the number of higher technical and vocational institutes currently stands at 84 (with 12 public universities). Libya's higher education is financed by the public budget. In 1998 the budget allocated for education represented 38.2% of the national budget.

The main universities in Libya are:


By far the predominant religion in Libya is Islam with 97% of the population associating with the faith.Religious adherents by location, "'42,000 religious geography and religion statistics', Libya", Accessed July 15, 2006 The vast majority of Libyan Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam, which provides both a spiritual guide for individuals and a keystone for government policy, but a minority (between 5 and 10%) adhere to Ibadism (a branch of Kharijism), above all in the Jebel Nefusa and the town of Zuwarah, west of Tripoli.
Before the 1930s, the Senussi Movement was the primary Islamic movement in Libya. This was a religious revival adapted to desert life. Its zawaaya (lodges) were found in Tripolitania and Fezzanmarker, but Senussi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica. Rescuing the region from unrest and anarchy, the Senussi movement gave the Cyrenaican tribal people a religious attachment and feelings of unity and purpose.Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1989), "The Sanusis", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 22, 2006

This Islamic movement, which was eventually destroyed by both Italian invasion and later the Gaddafi government,Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1989), "The Sanusis", U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed July 22, 2006 was very conservative and somewhat different from the Islam that exists in Libya today. Gaddafi asserts that he is a devout Muslim, and his government is taking a role in supporting Islamic institutions and in worldwide proselytizing on behalf of Islam.Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, (1989), "Islam in Revolutionary Libya", US Library of Congress, Accessed July 19, 2006 A Libyan form of Sufism is also common in parts of the country.Libya - Religion, (July 8, 2006), "Sufi Movement to be involved in Libya" Arabic News, Accessed July 19, 2006

Other than the overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslims, there are also small foreign communities of Christians. Coptic Orthodox Christianity, which is the Christian Church of Egypt, is the largest and most historical Christian denomination in Libya. There are over 60,000 Egyptian Copts in Libya, as they comprise over 1% of the population. "International Religious Freedom Report: Libya" Jewish Virtual Library, Accessed July 19, 2006 There are an estimated 40,000 Roman Catholics in Libya who are served by two Bishops, one in Tripoli (serving the Italian community) and one in Benghazimarker (serving the Maltese community). There is also a small Anglican community, made up mostly of African immigrant workers in Tripoli; it is part of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt.

Libya was until recent times the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to at least 300 BC.The World Jewish Congress, "History of the Jewish Community in Libya", University of California at Berkeley, Accessed July 16, 2006 In the 1st century, the Jewish historian for the Roman empire, Joseph Flavius, noted that 500,000 Jews lived in Libya.

In 1942, under Fascist Italian orders, the Libyan Muslims instituted several forced labour camps south of Tripoli for the Jews, including Giado (about 3,000 Jews) and Gharyan, Jeren, and Tigrinna. In Giado some 500 Jews died of weakness, hunger, and disease. Summer-Fall of 1942, Jews who were not in the concentration camps were heavily restricted in their economic activity. All Jewish males, 18 to 45 years, were drafted for forced labour. In August 1942, the concentration camp Sidi Azaz interned Jews from the Tripolitania region. In October 350 Jews were deported to the Tobruk area.

Libya was liberated from the Italians on January 23, 1943. The Muslims of Libya responded with a three-day pogrom (Nov 5–7, 1945) against the Jews. More than 140 Jews were murdered, hundreds more were wounded. This series of pogroms beginning in November 1945 lasted for almost three years, drastically reducing Libya's Jewish population.Harris, David A. (2001), "In the Trenches: Selected Speeches and Writings of an American Jewish Activist", 1979–1999, pp. 149–150 In 1948, about 38,000 Jews remained in the country. Upon Libya's independence in 1951, most of the Jewish community emigrated.(See History of the Jews in Libya.)


Libya is culturally similar to its neighboring Maghrebian states. Libyans consider themselves very much a part of a wider Arab community. The Libyan state tends to strengthen this feeling by considering Arabic as the only official language, and forbidding the teaching and even the use of the Berber language. Libyan Arabs have a heritage in the traditions of the nomadic Bedouin and associate themselves with a particular Bedouin tribe.

As with some other countries in the Arab world, Libya boasts few theatres or art galleries.News and Trends: Africa, (September 17, 1999), "Libya looking at economic diversification" Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, Accessed July 19, 2006.About Libya, "Libya Today", Discover Libya Travel, Accessed July 14, 2006. For many years there have been no public theatres, and only a few cinemas showing foreign films. The tradition of folk culture is still alive and well, with troupes performing music and dance at frequent festivals, both in Libya and abroad.

The main output of Libyan television is devoted to showing various styles of traditional Libyan music. Tuareg music and dance are popular in Ghadamesmarker and the south. Libyan television programmes are mostly in Arabic with a 30-minute news broadcast each evening in English and French. The government maintains strict control over all media outlets. A new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found Libya’s media the most tightly controlled in the Arab world. To combat this, the government plans to introduce private media, an initiative intended to bring the country's media in from the cold.(January 30, 2006), "Libya to allow independent media", Middle East Times, Accessed July 21, 2006

Many Libyans frequent the country's beaches. They also visit Libya's beautifully-preserved archaeological sites—especially Leptis Magnamarker, which is widely considered to be one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in the world.Donkin, Mike, (July 23, 2005), "Libya's tourist treasures", BBC News, Accessed July 19, 2006

The nation's capital, Tripolimarker, boasts many good museums and archives; these include the Government Library, the Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the National Archives, the Epigraphy Museum and the Islamic Museum. The Jamahiriya Museum, built in consultation with UNESCOmarker, may be the country's most famous. It houses one of the finest collections of classical art in the Mediterranean.Bouchenaki, Mounir, (1989), "The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Museum: a first in the Arab world", UNESCO, Museum Architecture: beyond the <<TEMPLE>> and ... beyond, Accessed July 19, 2006

Contemporary travel

The most common form of public transport between cities is the bus, but many people do travel by automobile. There are no railway services in Libya.

Libyan cuisine

Libyan cuisine is generally simple, and is very similar to Sahara cuisine. In many undeveloped areas and small towns, restaurants may be nonexistent, and food stores may be the only source to obtain food products. Some common Libyan foods include couscous, bazeen, which is a type of unsweetened cake, and shurba, which is soup. Libyan restaurants may serve international cuisine, or may serve simpler fare such as lamb, chicken, vegetable stew, potatoes and macaroni. Alcohol consumption is illegal in the entire country, and this law is enforced in Libya.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 154 out of 157
The Economist Quality-of-Life Index 70 out of 111
Energy Information Administration Greatest Oil Reserves by Country, 2006 9 out of 20
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 160 out of 173
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 131 out of 179
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 52 out of 179

See also


  • Libya, Anthony Ham, Lonely Planet Publications, 2002, ISBN 0-86442-699-2
  • Libya Handbook, Jamez Azema, Footprint Handbooks, 2001, ISBN 1-900949-77-6
  • Harris, David A. (2001). In the Trenches: Selected Speeches and Writings of an American Jewish Activist, 1979–1999. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. ISBN 0-88125-693-5
  • Wright, Muhannad B. Nations of the Modern World: Libya, Ernest Benn Ltd, 1969

External links

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