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الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الإشتراكية
al-Jamāhīrīyah al-‘Arabīya al-Lībīyah ash-Sha‘bīyah al-Ishtirākīyah
Flag of Libya Coat of arms of Libya
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Freedom, socialism, unity
Anthem: Allahu Akbar
Location of Libya
Capital Tripoli
32°54′ N 13°11′ E
Largest city Tripoli
Official language(s) Arabic
• Leader of the
• President
• Prime Minister
People's Congress
• Muammar al-Qaddafi

• Zentani Muhammad az-Zentani
• Shukri Ghanem
• Date
From Italy
December 24, 1951
• Total

• Water (%)

1,759,540 km² ( 16th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2005 est.
• 2004 census

• Density

5,765,563 ( 103rd)
5,882,667 [2]

3/km² ( 186th)
• Total
• Per capita
2004 estimate
61,042 ( 67th)
10,769 ( 61st)
HDI ( 2004) 0.799 ( 58th) – medium
Currency Dinar ( LYD)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
EET ( UTC+2)
not observed ( UTC+2)
Internet TLD .ly
Calling code +218
^ Includes 166,510 non-nationals
Libya, officially the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya ( Arabic: ليبيا, transliterated Lībyā or الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الإشتراكية) is a country in North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, located between Egypt on the east, Sudan on the southeast, Chad and Niger on the south and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. Its capital city is Tripoli. The three traditional sections of the country are Tripolitania, the Fezzan and Cyrenaica.The name "Libya" derives from the ancient Egyptian term "Lebu", referring to Berber peoples living west of the Nile, and adopted into Greek as "Libya". In ancient Greece, the term had a broader meaning, encompassing all of North Africa west of Egypt, and sometimes referring to the entire continent of Africa.

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History - Contents

Ruins of Leptis Magna in Libya
Ruins of Leptis Magna in Libya
The land now known as modern Libya has been, throughout the ages, subjected to varying degrees of foreign control. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines ruled all or parts of Libya. Although the Greeks and Romans left impressive ruins at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha, little else remains today to testify to the presence of these ancient cultures.The Arabs conquered Libya in the seventh century A.D. In the following centuries, most of the indigenous peoples adopted Islam and the Arabic language and culture. The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century. Libya remained part of their empire, although at times virtually autonomous, until Italy invaded in 1911 and, in the face of years of resistance, made Libya a colony.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, which consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan. King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two World Wars. From 1943 to 1951, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were under British administration, while the French controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal in 1947 of some aspects of foreign control. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. King Idris I represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. When Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951, it was the first country to achieve independence through the United Nations and one of the first former European posessions in Africa to gain independence. Libya was proclaimed a constitutional and a hereditary monarchy under King Idris.The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled what had been one of the world's poorest countries to become extremely wealthy, as measured by per capita GDP. Although oil drastically improved Libya’s finances, popular resentment grew as wealth was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the elite. This discontent continued to mount with the rise throughout the Arab world of Nasserism and the idea of Arab unity.On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 28-year-old army officer Mu’ammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi staged a coup d’etat against King Idris, who was exiled to Egypt. The new regime, headed by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. Qadhafi emerged as leader of the RCC and eventually as de facto chief of state, a political role he still plays. The Libyan Government asserts that Qadhafi currently holds no official position, although he is referred to in government statements and the official press as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution".

Politics - Contents

Wall carpet depicting Col. Muammar Gadhafi, in a hotel in Misrata, Libya
Wall carpet depicting Col. Muammar Gadhafi, in a hotel in Misrata, Libya
There is a dual government structure in Libya. The "revolutionary sector" comprises Revolutionary Leader Qadhafi, the Revolutionary Committees, and the remaining members of the 12-person Revolutionary Command Council, which was established in 1969. The historical revolutionary leadership is not elected and cannot be voted out of office, as they are in power by virtue of their involvement in the revolution. The revolutionary sector dictates the decision-making power of the second sector, the "Jamahiriya Sector". Making up 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 by acclamation both their own leadership and 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 and has an imperative mandate. The members of the National General People's Congress elect the members of the National General People’s Committee (the Cabinet) by acclamation at their annual meeting. The most recent meeting, which took place in Sirt from January 8-12, 2005, was the 29th annual.While there is discussion regarding who will run for executive offices, only those approved by the revolutionary leadership are actually elected. The government administration is effective as long as it operates within the directives of the revolutionary leadership. The revolutionary leadership has absolute veto power despite the constitutionally established people's democracy and alleged rule of the people. The government controls both state-run and semi-autonomous media, and any articles critical of current policies have been requested and intentionally placed by the revolutionary leadership itself, for example, as a means of initiating reforms. In cases involving a violation of "these taboos", the private press, like The Tripoli Post, has been censored. This means that the government is a dictatorship. Political parties were banned by the Prohibition of Party Politics Act Number 71 of 1972. According to the Association Act of 1971, the establishment of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is allowed. As they are required to conform to the goals of the revolution, however, the number of NGOs in Libya is small in comparison with neighboring countries. Unions do not exist as such. However, the numerous professional associations are integrated into the state structure as a third pillar, along with the People’s Congresses and Committees, though they do not have the right to strike. Professional associations send delegates to the General People's Congress, where they have a representative mandate.

The Libyan Desert
The Libyan Desert is one of the most arid places on earth. In places decades may pass without rain, and even in the highlands rainfall happens erratically, once every 5-10 years. At Uweinat, the last recorded rainfall was in September 1998. With such dryness, the desert would be expected to be totally lifeless yet there is a surprising abundance of life. There is a large depression, the Qattara Depression, 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. There are other inhabited oases, Baharya, Farafra, Dakhla & Kharga west of the Nile in Egypt.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, Rebiana and Kufra. Aside 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.The Gilf Kebir plateau rises about 300 metres above the general plain, and lies entirely in Egypt. It roughly equals Switzerland in size, and is similar in structure to the other sandstone plateaus of the central Sahara. Its south-eastern part is well defined on all sides, with sheer cliffs and deep, narrow wadis. The north-east part, separated from the other half by a broad valley called the "Gap" is more broken, and supports three large wadis with vegetation.Slightly further to the south are the massifs of Arkenu, Uweinat and Kissu. These granite mountains are very ancient, having formed much before the sandstones surrounding them. Arkenu and Western Uweinat are ring complexes very similar to those in the Air mountains. 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 doted with eroded volcanic features.In 1996 the movie " The English Patient" raised public interest in the Libyan desert.

Economy - Contents

The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which contribute practically all export earnings and about one-quarter of GDP. These oil revenues and a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society. Libyan officials in the past three years have made progress on economic reforms as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the international fold. This effort picked up after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003 and as Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction.Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps - including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization - are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy. 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 aluminum. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food.The Libyan economy is viewed as ripe for modernisation and foreign investment. Under the current Prime Minister, Shukri Ghanem, it is undergoing a business boom. Many socialist-era government-run industries are being privatized. As well as the lifting of UN sanctions, US sanctions have also, for the most part, been lifted. For example, Continental Airlines now offers code-share travel to Libya. Many international oil complanies have now returned to Libya, including the recent return of oil giant Shell. Tourism is also on the rise which has brought demand for the building of more hotels and increasing capacity in airports such as Tripoli International.

Demographics - Contents

Main article: Demographics of Libya
Libya has a small population within its large territory, with a population density of about 50 persons per km² (80/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and 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. More than half the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the two largest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi. 50% of the population is estimated to be under age 15. Native Libyans are primarily a mixture of Arabs and Berbers.Small Tuareg 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 Egyptians and Tunisians), West Africans and Sub-Saharan Africans. Libyan Berbers and Arabs constitute 97% of the population, the other 3% being Africans (outside of North Africa), Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians and Tunisians.The main language spoken in Libya, as well as being the official language, is Arabic. Tamazight is a language spoken by Libyan Berbers. Italian and English are also spoken in the big cities, although Italian is usually spoken by the older generation.

Culture - Contents

Libyan culture is, to a certain extent, similar to that of its other Arab neighbour states and the Libyan people very much consider themselves as part of a wider Arab community. The primary language is a colloquial form of Arabic that is unique to the area around Libya. There seems to be two distinct dialects and a couple of village and tribal dialects. Libyan Arabs have a heritage in the traditions of the nomadic Bedouin and associate themselves with a particular Bedouin tribe.Family life is strong for Libyan families. Most Libyans live in apartment blocks and various kinds of independant housing units depending on their income status. Most of the Arabs who have lived a nomadic lifestyle, traditionally in tents, have been settled into various towns and cities in Libya, their old way of life fading out. It is believed that there are still some who do live as they have for centuries in the desert, though no one knows their exact numbers. Most of the population are engaged in occupations in industry and services and a small percentage in agriculture.Similar to some other countries in the Arab world, Libya can boast few theatres or art galleries. Public entertainment is almost non-existent even in the big cities. Most Libyans, instead however, enjoy regular trips to the many beaches of the country. They also visit the country's many beautifully preserved archeological sites especially that of Leptis Magna in the east. The nation's capital Tripoli also boasts many good museums and archives including the National Archives, the Government Library, the Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Epigraphy Museum and the Islamic Museum.There has recently been something of a revival of the arts in Libya, especially in the field of painting and private galleries are springing up to provide a showcase for new talent. Conversely, 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. Traditional Tuareg music and dance are popular in Ghadhames and the south.

  • Libya Connected | Latest Online News - Libya independent news agency
  • afrol News - Libya independent news agency
  • - Libya news headline links
  • Libya: News & Views news headline links
  • Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation (LJBC)
  • Yahoo! News Full Coverage - Libya news
  • Libyen-News news and history (in German)

  • BBC News Country Profile - Libya
  • CIA World Factbook - Libya
  • US State Department - Libya includes Background Notes, Country Study and major reports

  • al-Bab - Libya directory category
  • Columbia University Libraries - Libya directory category of the WWW-VL
  • Open Directory Project - Libya directory category
  • Yahoo! - Libya directory category
  • Libya Connected- Libya directory of Libyan websites

  • Travel guide to Libya from Wikitravel
  • Libtra Tours Company
  • Libyan Arab Airlines

  • Libya Connected
  • Photos of Libya
  • The Libyan Desert
  • Flickr Libya Group
  • Libyan Bereber website

Countries of Africa
Northern Africa
Algeria · Egypt · Libya · Morocco · Sudan · Tunisia · Western Sahara Western Africa
Benin · Burkina Faso · Cape Verde · Côte d'Ivoire · Gambia · Ghana · Guinea · Guinea-Bissau · Liberia · Mali · Mauritania · Niger · Nigeria · Senegal · Sierra Leone · Togo
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Burundi · Comoros · Djibouti · Eritrea · Ethiopia · Kenya · Madagascar · Malawi · Mauritius · Mozambique · Rwanda · Seychelles · Somalia · Tanzania · Uganda · Zambia · Zimbabwe
Southern Africa
Botswana · Lesotho · Namibia · South Africa · Swaziland Dependencies and other territories: Spain: Canary Islands · Plazas de soberanía | Portugal: Madeiras | UK: Indian Ocean Territory · St. Helena

Countries in the Mediterranean
Albania | Algeria | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Croatia | Cyprus | Egypt | France | Greece | Israel | Italy | Lebanon | Libya | Malta | Monaco | Morocco | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovenia | Spain | Syria | Tunisia | Turkey
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