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Libya is located in Northern Africa, along the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Tunisia. The country has an area of approximately 1,759,540 sq km. This equates to an area slightly larger than Alaska. The climate along the coast is mild; however, as you move inland it becomes increasingly hot and dry.Temperatures are extremely hot in the desert.Libya is a flat and barren country with few mountains, plateaus and valleys.
Due to the heat and lack of moisture, only 1% of the land is arable. The natural resources of the area are natural gas, petroleum and the mineral gypsum.Along the coast, there has been some success in growing wheat, dates, olives and citrus fruits.
There is a growing problem of desertification. It is also harder to gain access to clean drinking water. During parts of the year the hot, dry climate can lead to sand and wind storms, some even lasting on and off for days.
Topographic Map – a topographic map of Libya gives the viewer an idea of the nation’s landscape.
Interactive Map - an interactive map of Libya allows the user to select popular tourist destinations and locations.
History and Government:
Libya is the land of the Libu people, an ancient Berber tribe.It is predicted that Libya was once a lush land.The Libu people lived a peaceful and prosperous life, but once the streams started drying up and the land becoming more barren, they dispersed.They went to various parts of Africa and some even went as far North as Europe and even Scandinavia. Some Libu as well as other strands of Berbers remained in the area.
The Phoenicians were the first to establish a trading post.The Greeks came in later and conquered the eastern half of Libya and founded the city of Cyrene. The Greeks remained in Libya for over 200 years during which time; they defended Libya from Egyptians and Carthaginians. Romans established a presence in Libya after the Greeks.They controlled many of the cities that the Greeks had founded.They began using and selling Libyan resources, especially olive oil, gold and slaves.
The Romans lost Libya to Vandals during their decline.The Vandal rule was weak and in the 6th century the Byzantines took over. The Byzantine rule was also weak and there were frequent Berber revolts, so it was easy to establish an Arab Islamic stronghold there. The Berber people quickly converted to Islam, but were less convinced about Arab rule.Despite many challenges, they retained power for several centuries and their impression can still be seen.The Ottoman Turks came to power next. Islam was still the dominant religion; there was just a different government power.Ottomans kept their power until the 1900’s when the European “Scramble for Africa” took place. Italy took over Libya as a colony.They were the first to use the term Libya to describe to the current area, rather than the entire North African coast. Italy relinquished claims to Libya as a part of the 1947 treaty with Allied forces. On December 24, 1951, Libya declared themselves a free and independent nation called United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy.The state operated fairly well until a 1969 military coup, which overthrew the government and led to the Libyan Revolution.The revolutionaries declared the Libyan Arab Republic, the system under which they are still operating today.
People and Language:
According to a July 2010 estimate, the population of Libya is about 6,324,357.The country’s population continues to grow at a study rate.The life expectancy of a Libyan is 77 years.88% of the population is urban, living in Tripoli and Cyrene along the coast of the Mediterranean.The remaining 12% of the population are typically nomadic.
The vast majority (97%) of Libyans are of Berber and Arab descent. The remaining 3% of the population is made up of Tunisians, Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Turks, Pakistanis and Indians.Most people are Sunni Muslims, with an minute minority practicing Judaism, Christianity and other religions. While Arabic is main religion, Italian and English are widely understood in major city and sometimes used in business and governmental affairs.
An average of 82% of the population is literate (age 15 and over can read and write).The percentage is higher in males, than it is in females. Both males and females attend on average 17 years of school.Education is free in Libya, though it is only mandatory up until 15 years old.Despite the growing numbers of students, there are still relatively few teachers, so classroom are often crowded.The government has placed more of an emphasis on education in the past two decades leading to more teachers and better facilities.
There are several major universities in Libya- University of Libya, Al-Fatah University and Gar Yunis University.There are also several technical or trade schools. Most were founded in the 1950’s and 60’s as the government realized that skilled workers were needed and having a well- educated population is important in running a functioning country. Men and women are equally enrolled in higher education, but there are predictions that women will surpass men in enrollment in the coming years.
Sunni Islam is the dominant religion. The CIA World Fact Book, estimates that 97% of the population is Sunni Muslim.The remaining 3% is made up of Coptic Christians, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Jews and Buddhists. There is a peaceful relationship between the Muslims and the other religions.
Islam permeates all aspects of life in Libya. The Qadhafi regime has instituted Shari’a law and has sought to limit the separation between church and state. Before the 1969 revolution that brought the Qadhafi regime to power, Libya was not an Islamic state.
Ancient rock art is one of the most famous forms of art in Libya. The art has been found in Southern Libya and is comprised of paintings and engravings. The images often resemble animals, but images of people and other abstract ideas have also been found. Some of the art even includes color.This is one of the best examples of pre-historic rock art.
Libya has not produced as much noteworthy modern art as many other countries have. It does not have a distinct Libyan style. Much of the art has Greek influences. Libya had not placed an emphasis on creating art or encouraging artists.
Rock Art- This site gives a history of rock, context and examples of it.
The majority of the famous sites of Libya are located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.There has been some move to make the Sahara more of a tourist destination.Libya is known for its ruins, relics of the great empires that once ruled its lands.Major hubs of the Greek and Roman empires are located in Libya.
Leptis Magna – Some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the Mediterranean and a popular tourist attraction of Libya.
Cyrene – Sitting on the eastern side of Libya’s Mediterranean coast, Cyrene is one of the better sites to view the ruins of ancient Greece. Cyrene had a complex history that was influenced by those who were ruling the empire at that time.
Sabratha – Situated on the western part of Libya’s Mediterranean coast, Sabratha offers visitors ruins of ancient Rome.
Sebha – The historical capital of the Fezzan region, the city/oasis of Sebha is growing in popularity for tourists and takes visitors away from the Mediterranean coast and allows them to see the Sahara, the world’s largest desert.
Arab music is the most popular type of music in Libya.Particularly, Libyans enjoy listening to Maluf, Chabi and Arab Classical music. Maulf music originated in Andalusia, Spain and then became popular in Libya. They play these traditional styles of music using the zakra (bagpipe), flute, tambourine, oud and darbuka (drum). The Tuareg and Bedouin people have distinctive styles of folk music that are not found elsewhere in Libya.The Bedouin people use the rhythm of walking feet as the inspiration behind their music.
Popular Libyan Music – this website offers examples of popular Libyan music (including a top ten list) that can be downloaded.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Libya.Children begin playing it at a young age and continue playing it through adulthood.It is a male dominated sports; women rarely, if ever play. People can play on organized teams that are associated with the schools or just general community teams.Libya also has a professional soccer league that includes 15 teams, which compete for the top spot and the privilege of representing Libya at the Africa Cup.
Because of Libya’s location along the coast, water sports are popular. Swimming, water skiing and scuba diving are the post popular.Libya has a diving team, which recently discovered an underwater city of its coast.
Libyan Sports- A link to a website offering information about sports in Libya including a listing of the nation’s various soccer clubs.
Cyrene– A video featuring images of ancient artifacts and ruins of Cyrene.
Leptis Magna– A video featuring images of the ancient ruins of Leptis Magna.
Sabratha- A video featuring images of the ancient ruins of Sabratha.