With the Mediterranean Ocean to the north and the Sahara desert to the southwest, Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa. As such, it is two and a half times as big as the U. S. state of Texas. With these 35 interesting facts about Libya, discover more about its history, culture, people, geography, Colonel Gaddafi, economy, food and more.

Facts about the Libyan history

Fact 1. Tripoli, the capital of Libya, was in a position to help protect American ships from attack by Barbary pirates in the 19th century (since, after all, some of them were based there!) By paying protection to the Sultan, the U.S. ships sailed the Mediterranean unmolested. When the price went up, the two countries went to war, twice, in what came to be known as the Barbary Wars.

Fact 2. In Libya’s entire history, it only had one King. King Idris reigned from 1951 until he was overthrown by Colonel Gaddafi (also spelled Qadhafi) in 1969.

Fact 3. During the latter years of Gaddafi’s regime, the country’s full official name was the “Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”.

Fact 4. Although an Islamic nation today, Libya was an early Christian center historically.

Fact 5. Currently at least two political groups have set up governments for Libya, but only one of them is recognized as legitimate by the rest of the world. The fighting and instability in the country/region was responsible for the deaths of almost 1,800 migrants fleeing several countries in North Africa. They died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in the summer of 2015.

Related: facts about Chad (bordering country)

Libya’s geography and resources

Libya on map with neighboring countries
Libya on map with neighboring countries

Fact 6. Libya’s 1,770 kilometers (1099 miles) of Mediterranean Sea coast is the longest of any North African country.

Fact 7. The area of the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya is frequently called the Libyan Sea.

Fact 8. Much of the central and eastern area of the country is covered by the Libyan Desert. The Libyan Desert is one of the most sun-baked and arid places on earth. There is no average rainfall — the land may go for decades with no rain and the highlands for five to ten years without it.

Fact 9. North of the mountains of Jebel Uweinat the Libyan plain is dotted with eroded volcanic features. This area also contains the Arkenu structures, thought at one time to be two meteorite impact craters.

Fact 10. When oil was discovered in the 1950s, an enormous aquifer underneath much of Libya was also found. This aquifer’s water pre-dates the last ice ages.

Related: facts about Niger (bordering country)

Facts about the Libyan economy

Fact 11. Besides revues from oil exports; petrochemicals, iron, aluminum and steel manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of Libya’s GDP.

Fact 12. Libya’s poor soils and climatic conditions severely limit how much food can be grown within the country, so it imports about 75 percent of its population’s food.

Fact 13. The Libyan dinar is the national currency.

Fact 14. Libya is home to the largest proven oil reserves on the African continent. It makes a major contribution to the world’s supply of sweet, light crude.

Fact 15. Although the World Bank names the country as an “Upper Middle Income Economy”, after years of political unrest Libya’s unemployment rate is 21 percent and the money from their oil is not benefiting the majority of its people.

Tripoli – the national capital

Fact 16. Tripoli is the capital and largest city of Libya, as well as the Port of Tripoli.

Fact 17. Tripoli is also the capital for most international businesses in the country as well.

Fact 18. Tripoli is a Greek word that means “three cities”. The Arabic name for it is Tarabulus. It is located on the edge of the desert on a point of rocky land that projects out into the Mediterranean, forming a small bay.

Fact 19. Tripoli is also known as the Mermaid of the Mediterranean for its turquoise waters and whitewashed buildings.

Fact 20. Tripoli’s old town, the Medina, still has much of its old world look. Tourists will find the Red Castle Museum here, with its vast palace complex and numerous courtyards, on the outskirts of the Medina. Here also is the Traveler’s Library.

Related: facts about Sudan (bordering country)

People

Fact 21. The majority of the Libyan population lives in its coastal area cities. Traditional tribal society life is the norm in the Berber villages of western Libya. In the south you will find the Bedouins, including the Tuaregs.

Fact 22. Libyan people traditionally lived in extended families. Today many young couples get their own place instead of living with the husband’s family. The couples even choose their own mates, particularly those who live in the cities. In rural areas traditional arranged marriages still occur.

Fact 23. The Berbers identify themselves with their village or tribe before their country.

Fact 24. All the desert tribes collectively are known as the Bedouins. They lead nomadic lives, moving with their livestock or settling in farming villages in oases. The Tuaregs were the original desert traders who transported goods by camels across the desert. With robes dyed with indigo, they are sometimes called the Blue People.

Fact 25. Libya’s national language is Arabic but the people also speak Italian and English.

Related: facts about Algeria (bordering country)

Libyan cultural facts

Fact 26. Libyans are warm and welcoming people. When greeting another, they shake hands and maintain the handshake as long as the verbal greeting is on-going. Men shake with men, but wait for women to initiate a handshake from woman to man.

Fact 27. Libyans greet one another with “Salaam aleikum: (Peace be with you.) or “Sabbahakum Allah bi’l-khair” (May Allah give you a good morning.). They also ask a set of formal ritual questions about their families and health.

Fact 28. Libya is an Islamic country so women still wear the Hijab to cover their head according to Islamic law. Many women, though, especially in the cities, no longer wear public veils and dress in western style dresses and clothing. So do men. Traditional men and women still wear their traditional robes.

Fact 29. Popular sports are soccer, chariot races, and camel racing.

Fact 30. Saving face is important to Libyans, who are non-confrontational. They avoid disagreeing or saying no.

Related: Interesting facts about Egypt (bordering country)

Cuisine and Dining

Fact 31. The biggest meal of the day for Libyan families is lunch and it is of great symbolic importance. Businesses, shops and schools close for several hours so families may gather together to eat.

Fact 32. The people drink green tea after they eat to aid digestion. Tea and coffee are favorite beverages. Libyan tea is thick and like black syrup.

Fact 33. The cuisine of Libya is a mixture of Mediterranean, African and Italian influences. Common ingredients include dates, olives, fruits, lamb, chicken, milk, and grains, particularly couscous. Stuffed sweet peppers appear in many meals. The proper use of spices is important to achieve the right mix of popular flavors.

Fact 34. All meats eaten by Libyans must be halal. This means the animal was killed humanely and prayed over ritually according to Muslim customs.

Fact 35. Food is eaten with three fingers on the right hand. The left is considered unclean. Good manners dictate you leave a little food on your plate to indicate that your host is a gracious and generous provider.

From camel rides in the desert to shopping in the market places, Libya awaits your discovery. Share your thoughts about Libya in the comments section below.

Libya facts – country at a glance

Capital CityTripoli
(32°52′N 13°11′E)
Largest CityTripoli
(32°52′N 13°11′E)
Total area1,759,540 sq km
Population6,411,776 (July 2015 est.)
Official LanguageArabic
Government typein transition
Land bordersAlgeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia
CurrencyLibyan dinar (LYD)
ReligionIslam
Life expectancy76.26 years (2015)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
ClimateMediterranean along coast; dry, extreme desert interior
Terrainmostly barren, flat to undulating plains, plateaus, depressions
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, gypsum
Agricultural land8.8%
Industriespetroleum, petrochemicals, aluminum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement
Exports$10.51 billion (2015 est.)
crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals
Imports$11.24 billion (2015 est.)
machinery, semi-finished goods, food, transport equipment, consumer products
GDP - per capita (PPP)$14,600 (2015 est.)
Independence24 December 1951 (from UN trusteeship)
National anthem"Libya, Libya, Libya"
National symbolstar and crescent, hawk; national colors: red, black, green
Birth rate18.03 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate3.58 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio1.08 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Internet country code.ly
Internet users1.219 million
percent of population: 19% (July 2015 est.)
Time ZoneEET (UTC+2)
Calling Code+218
Drives on theRight

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