Libya

Culture

Culture

Libyans consider themselves very much a part of a wider Arab community. This is strengthened by Arabic being the only official language of the state. Under dictatorship the teaching of foreign languages previously taught in academic institutions was forbidden, along with even the use of the Berber language, leaving entire generations of Libyans with limitations in their comprehension of the English language. While the dialect and language is Arabic, there are words that retain the Italian colonial period and are still used widely today.

Libyan Arabs have a heritage in the traditions of the previously nomadic Bedouin and Amazighi tribes and most Libyans will associate themselves with a particular family name originating from tribal or conquest based, typically from Ottoman forefathers, heritage.

Reflecting the " nature of giving " (Arabic: الاحسان‎‎ Ihsan), amongst the Libyan people as well as the sense of hospitality, recently the state of Libya made it to the top 20 on the world giving index in 2013.  According to CAF; In a typical month, almost three quarters (72%) of all Libyans helped somebody they did not know – the third highest level across all 135 countries surveyed.

There are few theaters or art galleries due to the decades of cultural repression under the Qaddafi regime and lack of infrastructure development under the regime of dictatorship. For many years there have been no public theaters, and only very 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.

A large number of Libyan television stations are devoted to political review, Islamic topics and cultural phenomena. A number of TV stations air various styles of traditional Libyan music. Tuareg music and dance are popular in Ghadames and the south. Libyan television broadcasts air programs mostly in Arabic though usually have time slots for English and French programs. A 1996 analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists found Libya’s media was the most tightly controlled in the Arab world during the country's dictatorship. As of 2012 hundreds of TV stations have begun to air due to the collapse of censorship from the old regime and the initiation of "free media".

Many Libyans frequent the country's beach and they also visit Libya's archaeological sites—especially Leptis Magna, which is widely considered to be one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in the world. The most common form of public transport between cities is the bus, though many people travel by automobile. There are no railway services in Libya, but these are planned for construction in the near future .

Libya's capital, Tripoli, has many 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 Red Castle Museum located in the capital near the coast and right in the city center, built in consultation with UNESCO, may be the country's most famous.


Cuisine

Libyan cuisine is a vibrant fusion between the different Italian, Bedouin and traditional Arab culinary influences. Pasta is the staple food in the Western side of Libya, whereas rice is generally the staple food in the east.

Common Libyan foods include several variations of red (tomato) sauce based pasta dishes (similar to the Italian Sugo all'arrabbiata dish); rice, usually served with lamb or chicken (typically stewed, fried, grilled, or boiled in-sauce); and couscous, which is steam cooked whilst held over boiling red (tomato) sauce and meat (sometimes also containing courgettes/zucchini and chickpeas), which is typically served along with cucumber slices, lettuce and olives.

Bazeen, a dish made from barley flour and served with red tomato sauce, is customarily eaten communally, with several people sharing the same dish, usually by hand. This dish is commonly served at traditional weddings or festivities. Asida is a sweet version of Bazeen, made from white flour and served with a mix of honey, ghee or butter. Another favorite way to serve Asida is with rub (fresh date syrup) and olive oil. Usban is animal tripe stitched and stuffed with rice and vegetables cooked in tomato based soup or steamed. Shurba is a red tomato sauce-based soup, usually served with small grains of pasta.

A very common snack eaten by Libyans is known as khubs bi' tun, literally meaning "bread with tuna fish", usually served as a baked baguette or pita bread stuffed with tuna fish that has been mixed with harissa (chili sauce) and olive oil. Many snack vendors prepare these sandwiches and they can be found all over Libya. Libyan restaurants may serve international cuisine, or may serve simpler fare such as lamb, chicken, vegetable stew, potatoes and macaroni. Due to severe lack of infrastructure, many under-developed areas and small towns do not have restaurants and instead food stores may be the only source to obtain food products. Alcohol consumption is illegal in the entire country.

There are four main ingredients of traditional Libyan food: olives (and olive oil), dates, grainsand milk. Grains are roasted, ground, sieved and used for making bread, cakes, soups and bazeen. Dates are harvested, dried and can be eaten as they are, made into syrup or slightly fried and eaten with bsisa and milk. After eating, Libyans often drink black tea. This is normally repeated a second time (for the second glass of tea), and in the third round of tea, it is served with roasted peanuts or roasted almonds known as shay bi'l-luz (mixed with the tea in the same glass).

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Libya - Travel guide

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