Libya falls into three main geographical regions—Tripolitania in the west, Fazzan in the southwest, and Cyrenaica in the east. Tripolitania in turn can be divided into three zones. In the north is a low-lying coastal plain called the Jifarah, which, although mainly arid, has several irrigated areas. It also includes the city of Tripoli. South of the Jifarah is a mountainous zone (highest altitude: c.2,500 ft/760 m) known as the Jabal; it is mostly arid and barren but has scattered areas of cultivation. South of the Jabal is an upland plateau, largely desert, but crossed by a string of oases in the south. South of Tripolitania is the Fazzan region, which is largely made up of sandy desert but has a number of scattered oases.
Cyrenaica is Libya's largest region. In the N along the Mediterranean is a narrow upland plateau (highest altitude: c.2,000 ft/610 m) called the Jabal al Akhdar, which includes the cities of Benghazi and Darnah. In the west the Jabal al Akhdar drops abruptly to the shore of the Gulf of Sidra, which deeply indents Libya's Mediterranean coastline, and in the east it falls gradually toward the Egyptian border, where there is another upland region. South of the Jabal al Akhdar is a vast region of sandy desert, which in the east includes part of the Libyan Desert. Cyrenaica is fringed in the southwest by the Tibesti Massif (located mostly in Chad), which includes Libya's loftiest point, Bikku Bitti, or Bette Peak (c.7,500 ft/2,290 m).
Berbers once constituted the chief ethnic group in Libya but have been largely assimilated into Arab culture, with those of Arab-Berber descent making up over 95% of the population. There are scattered traditional Berber communities, and in Fazzan many persons are of mixed Berber and black African descent. There are also smaller groups of Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, South Asians, and others. Labor shortages in the agriculture and petroleum industries have attracted many foreign workers, mostly from Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey. Some 5% of the people live as pastoral nomads, mostly in Cyrenaica. Arabic is the official language; Italian and English are also widely understood. The great majority of the population is Sunni Muslim.
Libya was a very poor agricultural country with bleak economic prospects until 1958, when petroleum was discovered 200-300 mi (320-480 km) S and SE of the Gulf of Sidra; crude petroleum was exported on an increasingly significant scale between 1961 and 1981. Oil income increased markedly in 1972-73, when the government nationalized (with compensation) 51% ownership in subsidiaries of foreign petroleum firms operating in the country. The remaining subsidiaries were completely nationalized. At the same time, the price of petroleum rose dramatically, further increasing Libya's receipts. Since then, the economy has been almost inextricably linked to world oil prices.
Much of the income from petroleum was used to improve the cities, to modernize transportation, and to build up the military. The resulting migration of Libyans to urban areas created a growth in unemployment, spurring the government to invest in agricultural development in order to make farming more attractive. Although petroleum production has dropped since the 1970s, oil exports continue to generate about 95% of export earnings and 25% of the country's GDP. Libya is also a major exporter of natural gas and has several large gas liquefication plants. In addition, gypsum, salt, and limestone are produced in significant quantities. Libya has increased industrial production in recent years. The principal manufactures are refined petroleum, liquefied natural gas, petrochemicals, iron and steel, aluminum, textiles, handicrafts, and construction materials. Food processing is also important.
Farming is severely limited by the small amount of fertile soil and the lack of rainfall, and Libya must import about 75% of its food. The chief agricultural products are wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus fruit, vegetables, peanuts, and soybeans. Large numbers of cattle, sheep, and goats are raised. Most of the arable land is located in Tripolitania. To increase the amount of cultivatable land, a massive water development project, called "The Great Manmade River," was begun in 1984. It is designed to carry water from underground aquifers in the Sahara through a 2,400 mi (3,862 km) pipeline system to irrigate 313 sq mi (811 sq km) in the coastal region. The project is expected to take 25 years to complete at a cost of $25 billion. By 1997, the system was connected to the cities of Tripoli, Surt, and Benghazi and also provided thousands of acres of farmland with irrigation water; the final phase of the project was still under construction in 2006.
Libya's annual earnings from exports are usually much higher than the cost of its imports, and in the 1990s it had the highest per capita GDP in Africa. Crude petroleum and natural gas are by far the leading exports; the main imports are machinery, transportation equipment, foodstuffs, and manufactured consumer goods. The principal trading partners are Italy, Germany, Turkey, France, and Spain.
Libya, professes to have a government in which the people rule directly, has no formal constitution. The highest official organ is the General People's Congress, consisting of some 2,700 representatives from local peoples' committees. In practice, Libya is a military regime, with power vested in the revolutionary leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi, who holds no official title but is the de facto head of state. The head of government is the secretary of the General People's Committee (the cabinet). Administratively, the country is divided into 25 municipalities.
Throughout most of its history the territory that constitutes modern Libya has been held by foreign powers. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica had divergent histories for most of the period up to their conquest by the Ottoman Empire in the mid-16th cent. Fazzan was captured by the Ottomans only in 1842. The Ottomans gained control of most of N Africa in the 16th cent., dividing it into three regencies—Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripoli (which also included Cyrenaica). The Janissaries, professional soldiers of slave origins, became a military caste, wielding considerable influence over the Ottoman governor. From the early 1600s the Janissaries chose a leader, called the dey, who at times had as much power as the Ottoman governor sent from Constantinople. Numerous pirates who preyed on the shipping of Christian nations in the Mediterranean were based at Tripoli's ports.
In 1711 Ahmad Karamanli, a Janissary, became dey, killed the Ottoman governor, and prevailed upon the Ottomans to name him governor. The post of governor remained hereditary in the Karamanli family until 1835. In the 18th cent. and during the Napoleonic Wars, the dey took in great revenues from the pirates and also extended the central government's control to much of the interior.
During 1801-5 the United States and Tripoli fought a war precipitated by disagreements over the amount of tribute to be paid to the dey in order to gain immunity from raids by pirates (see Tripolitan War). After 1815, England, France, and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies undertook a successful campaign against the pirates, which undermined the finances of the dey and thus facilitated the reestablishment of direct Ottoman rule in Tripoli in 1835. During the rest of the 19th cent., the Ottomans contributed little toward the political stability or the economic development of Tripoli. Beginning in the 1840s the Sanusi brotherhood gained many adherents, primarily in Cyrenaica but also in S Tripolitania and Fazzan.Italian Rule, Independence, and the Discovery of Oil
During the Turko-Italian War of 1911-12, Italy conquered N Tripoli, but by the Treaty of Ouchy, which ended the war, Turkey granted Tripoli and N Libya autonomy. The Libyans continued to fight the Italians, but by 1914 Italy had occupied much of the country. However, Italy was forced to undertake a long series of wars of pacification against the Sanusi and their allies.
Under Italo Balbo, who was governor-general during the 1930s, the country's infrastucture was developed as roads, civic buildings, schools, and hospitals were constructed. In 1934, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were formally united to form the colony of Libya; Fazzan was administered as part of Tripolitania. About 40,000 colonists were sent from Italy to the plateau regions of Libya at the end of the 1930s. Libya was made an integral part of Italy in 1939, and the Muslim population was granted a limited form of citizenship.
Libya became one of the main battlegrounds of North Africa after Italy entered World War II in June, 1940 (for military details, see North Africa, campaigns in). After the Allied victory over the Axis in N Africa (1943), Libya was placed under an Anglo-French military government. The Big Four (Great Britain, France, the United States, and the USSR) failed to reach agreement on the future of Libya as stipulated in the 1947 peace treaty with Italy. The United Nations was given (1949) jurisdiction and decided that Libya should become independent, which it did on Dec. 24, 1951, as the United Kingdom of Libya. It was ruled by King Idris I, head of the Sanusi brotherhood. Libya joined the Arab League, and in 1955 it was admitted into the United Nations.
The 1950s in Libya were characterized by great poverty; minimal economic development was made possible only by the payments and loans received from various Western nations. In 1958, petroleum was discovered in the country, and by the early 1960s Libya was taking in growing revenues from the exploitation of that resource. A 1953 Anglo-Libyan treaty that had allowed Britain to establish military bases in Libya in return for economic subsidies was terminated by Libya in 1964; most British troops were withdrawn in early 1966.The Qaddafi Regime
In Sept., 1969, a group of army officers led by 27-year-old Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi ousted King Idris in a coup. The 1951 constitution was abrogated, and government was placed in the hands of a 12-member Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) headed by Qaddafi, who became prime minister. In mid-1972, Qaddafi turned the post of prime minister over to Abdul Salam Jallud, but he remained the RCC's president, the country's most important political and military office.
The regime pursued a policy of Arab nationalism and strict adherence to Islamic law; though Qaddafi espoused socialist principles, he was strongly anti-Communist. He was particularly concerned with reducing Western influences; as part of that effort, the British were forced (1970) to evacuate their remaining bases in Libya, and the United States was required to abandon Wheelus Field, a U.S. air force base located near Tripoli. Libya's foreign policy was generally reoriented away from N Africa and toward the heart of the Middle East. Close ties were established with Egypt, and in 1971 Libya joined with Egypt and Syria to form a loose alliance called the Federation of Arab Republics. A "cultural revolution" launched in 1973 sought to make life in the country more closely approximate Qaddafi's socialist and Muslim principles.
An implacable foe of Israel, Libya contributed some men and matériel (especially aircraft) to the Arab side in the Arab-Israeli war of Oct., 1973. After the war, Libya was a strong advocate of reducing sales of petroleum to nations that had supported Israel and was also a leading force in increasing the price of crude petroleum. Qaddafi was severely critical of Egypt for negotiating a cease-fire with Israel, and relations between the two countries declined steadily after 1973 when Qaddafi failed to push through a merger with Egypt.
By the mid-1970s, Qaddafi had survived numerous coup attempts, and in 1980 he began ordering the assassination of Libyan dissidents who were living in exile in Europe. In 1981, two Libyan fighter planes attacked U.S. forces on maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra (which Libya claims as national waters) and were shot down. Libya's relations with the United States became even more hostile when it began to support international terrorist organizations. The United States placed a ban on Libyan oil imports in 1982. In 1986, in an apparent attempt to kill Qaddafi, U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes against Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for the Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack in West Berlin that had killed two American servicemen. Libya's attempts in the mid-1980s to form a union with Algeria and Tunisia, while not successful, resulted (1989) in the Arab Maghreb Union (see Maghreb).
In 1988, a bomb blew up on a Pan Am commercial airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. International warrants were issued for the arrest and extradition to Great Britain of two Libyan suspects in the case, but the government refused to surrender them. Libya was also implicated in the similar 1989 bombing of a French UTA DC-10 over Niger in which 170 people died. In 1989, it was discovered that a West German company was selling Libya equipment for the construction of a chemical weapons plant at Rabta. These actions, as well as the widespread belief in the United States and Europe that Qaddafi's regime was responsible for terrorist activities, led to American and UN sanctions against Libya in 1992. In 1994, Libya pulled its troops out of the Aozou Strip, a mineral-rich region of N Chad, after the World Court rejected its claim to that territory. In 1995 there were clashes between Libyan security forces and members of Islamic groups in E Libya. The United States charged (1996) that Libya was constructing a chemical weapons plant southeast of Tripoli and said Libya would be prevented from putting it into operation.
Beginning in the late 1990s Libya embarked on a series of moves designed to end its estrangement from Western nations. In Apr., 1999, Libya handed over the suspects in the Lockerbie crash to the United Nations; they were to be tried in the Netherlands under Scottish law. The UN sanctions were suspended, but those imposed by the United States remained in place. In Dec., 1999, Qaddafi pledged not to aid or protect terrorists. Libya agreed in 2003 to a $2.7 billion settlement with the families of the victims. and that and a revised settlement for viction of the UTA bombing led the UN Security Council to lift the sanctions imposed more than a decade earlier. In December, after negotiations with the United States and Great Britain, the government renounced the production and use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and agreed to submit to unannounced international inspections. Subsequently (Mar., 2004), Libya acknowledged that it had produced and had stockpiles of chemical weapons. As a result of these events, the United States lifted most sanctions and resumed diplomatic relations with Libya, although it continued to list Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism until mid-2006. The last of three payments due under the 2003 agreement, however, was not made until late 2008. In Sept., 2008, Italy and Libya signed a memorandum under which Italy agreed to pay $5 billion over 20 years as compensation for its three decades of colonial rule in Libya.
See W. C. Askew, Europe and Italy's Acquisition of Libya, 1911-1912 (1942); M. Khadduri, Modern Libya (1963); J. L. Wright, Libya (1969); A. Pelt, Libyan Independence and the United Nations: A Case of Planned Decolonization (1970); M. O. Ansell and I. M. al-Arif, The Libyan Revolution (1972); L. Hahn, Historical Dictionary of Libya (1981); L. C. Harris, Libya (1986); J. Davis, Libyan Politics (1988); J. M. Burr, Africa's Thirty Years' War: Chad, Libya, and the Sudan, 1963-1993 (1999).
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Libya ( ليبيا Lībiyā ; Libyan vernacular: Lībya ; Amazigh: ), officially the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, GSPLAJ ( Al-Jamāhīriyyah al-ʿArabiyyah al-Lībiyyah aš-Šaʿbiyyah al-Ištirākiyyah al-ʿUẓmā ), is a country located in North Africa. Bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Libya lies between Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), 90% of which is desert, Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa by area, and the 17th largest in the world. The capital, Tripoli, is home to 1.7 million of Libya's 5.7 million people. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, the Fezzan and Cyrenaica.
The name "Libya" is an indigenous (i.e. Berber) one, which is attested in ancient Egyptian texts as , R'bw (= Libu), which refers to one of the tribes of Berber peoples living west of the Nile. In Greek the tribesmen were called Libyes and their country became "Libya", although in ancient Greece the term had a broader meaning, encompassing all of North Africa west of Egypt. Later on, at the time of Ibn Khaldun, the same big tribe was known as Lawata.
The Libyan flag is the only national flag in the world with just one color - green - and no design, insignia, or other details.
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 Fezzan). 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 Cairo 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.
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.
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. 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, 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. 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, 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.
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. The government was in close alliance with Britain and the United States; both countries maintained military base rights in Libya. Libya also forged close ties with France, Italy, Greece, and established full diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union 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.
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.
In the 1980s, Libya increasingly distanced itself from the West, and was accused of committing mass acts of state-sponsored terrorism. When evidence of Libyan complicity was discovered in the Berlin discotheque terrorist bombing that killed two American servicemen, the United States responded by launching an aerial bombing attack against targets near Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986.
In 1991, two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted by federal prosecutors in the U.S. and Scotland 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 772. 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.
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.
Later, in 2003, the Libyan government announced its decision to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs and pay almost 3 billion US dollars in compensation to the families of Pan Am flight 103 as well as UTA Flight 772. The decision was welcomed by many western nations and was seen as an important step for Libya toward rejoining the international community. 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.
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 programs. The State Department also removed Libya from their state sponsored terrorism list which it had been on for 27 years.
On October 16, 2007, Libya was voted to serve on the United Nations Security Council for two years starting January 2008.
Libya was divided into several governorates (muhafazat) before being split into 25 municipalities (baladiyat), see map of 25 baladiyat in Municipalities of Libya. Recently, Libya was divided into thirty two sha'biyah. These were then further rearranged into twenty two. The following list and map show the previous arrangement which is slightly different than the current one.
|The 32 municipalities are:|
|1 Ajdabiya||17 Ghat|
|2 Al Butnan||18 Ghadamis|
|3 Al Hizam Al Akhdar||19 Gharyan|
|4 Al Jabal al Akhdar||20 Murzuq|
|5 Al Jfara||21 Mizdah|
|6 Al Jufrah||22 Misratah|
|7 Al Kufrah||23 Nalut|
|8 Al Marj||24 Tajura Wa Al Nawahi AlArba'|
|9 Al Murgub||25 Tarhuna Wa Msalata|
|10 An Nuqat al Khams||26 Tarabulus (Tripoli)|
|11 Al Qubah||27 Sabha|
|12 Al Wahat||28 Surt|
|13 Az Zawiyah||29 Sabratha Wa Surman|
|14 Benghazi||30 Wadi Al Hayaa|
|15 Bani Walid||31 Wadi Al Shatii|
|16 Darnah||32 Yafran|
Libya extends over 1,759,540 square kilometres (679,182 sq. mi), making it the 17th largest nation in the world by size. Libya is somewhat smaller than Indonesia, and roughly the size of the US state of Alaska. It is bound to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, the west by Tunisia and Algeria, the southwest by Niger, the south by Chad and Sudan and to the east by Egypt. At 1770 kilometres (1100 miles), Libya's coastline is the longest of any African country bordering the Mediterranean. The portion of the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya is often called the Libyan Sea. 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 Ghadames and Kufra.
The Libyan Desert, which covers much of eastern Libya, 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. 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.
Likewise, the temperature in the Libyan desert can be extreme; in 1922, the town of Al 'Aziziyah, which is located Southwest of Tripoli, recorded an air temperature of 57.8 °C (136.0 °F), generally accepted as the highest recorded naturally occurring air temperature reached on Earth.
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 very ancient, having formed long before the sandstones surrounding them. Arkenu and Western Uweinat are ring complexes very similar to those in the Aïr 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 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 and the Sahara desert itself. The country is also home to the Arkenu craters, double impact craters found in the desert.
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). These 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 and impressive level of social security, particularly in the fields of housing and education.
Compared to its neighbours, Libya enjoys an extremely low level of both absolute and relative poverty. Libyan officials in the past three 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 programs to build weapons of mass destruction.
Libya has begun some market-oriented reforms. Initial steps have included applying for membership of the World Trade Organisation, reducing subsidies, and announcing plans for privatisation. 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 River 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 International. 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.
Libya has a small population within its large territory, with a population density of about 3 people per square kilometre (8.5/mi²) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and less than one person per square kilometre (1.6/mi²) elsewhere. Libya is thus one of the least densely populated nations by area in the world. 90% of the people live in less than 10% of the area, mostly along the coast. More than half the population is urban, concentrated to a greater extent, in the two largest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi. Native Libyans are a mixture of indigenous Berber peoples and the later arriving Arabs.
There are small Tuareg (a Berber population) and Tebu tribal groups concentrated in the south, living nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles. Among foreign residents, the largest groups are citizens of other African nations, including North Africans (primarily Egyptians and Tunisians), and Sub-Saharan Africans. According to the CIA Factbook, Libyan Berbers and Arabs constitute 97% of the population; the other 3% are Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Afghanis, Turks, Indians, and Sub-Saharan Africans. However, this only counts legal residents, as Libya is also home to a large illegal Sub-Saharan African population which according to some estimates numbers as much as a million.
The main language spoken in Libya is Arabic, which is also the official language. Tamazight (i.e. Berber languages), which do not have official status, are spoken by Libyan Berbers. Berber speakers live above all in the Jebel Nafusa region (Tripolitania), the town of Zuwarah on the coast, and the city-oases of Ghadames, Ghat and Awjila. In addition, Tuaregs speak Tamahaq, the only known Northern Tamasheq language. 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. 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 Sudan, 2,500 from Somalia and 1,100 from Iraq. 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.
Libya's population includes 1.7 million students, over 270,000 of whom study at the tertiary level. Education in Libya is free for all citizens, 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. 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:
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. 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. There is also an estimated 40,000 Roman Catholics in Libya who are served by two Bishops, one in Tripoli (serving the Italian community) and one in Benghazi (serving the Maltese community).
Libya was until recent times the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to at least 300 BC. A series of pogroms beginning in November 1945 lasted for almost three years, drastically reducing Libya's Jewish population. In 1948, about 38,000 Jews remained in the country. Upon Libya's independence in 1951, most of the Jewish community emigrated. After the Suez Crisis in 1956, all but about 100 Jews were forced to flee. (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. 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. Tuareg music and dance are popular in Ghadames 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.
Many Libyans frequent the country's beaches. They also visit Libya's beautifully-preserved archaeological sites—especially Leptis Magna, which is widely considered to be one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in the world.
The nation's capital, Tripoli, 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 UNESCO, may be the country's most famous. It houses one of the finest collections of classical art in the Mediterranean.
|Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal||2007 Index of Economic Freedom||154 out of 157|
|The Economist||The World in 2005 - Worldwide quality-of-life index, 2005||70 out of 111|
|Energy Information Administration||Greatest Oil Reserves by Country, 2006||9 out of 20|
|Reporters Without Borders||Press Freedom Index (2005)||162 out of 167|
|Transparency International||Corruption Perceptions Index 2007||131 out of 180|
|United Nations Development Programme||Human Development Index 2005||56 out of 177|