Libya is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world.
The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The other large city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.
Libya has been inhabited by Berbers since the late Bronze Age. The Phoenicians established trading posts in western Libya, and Ancient Greek colonists established city-states in eastern Libya. Libya was variously ruled by Carthaginians, Persians, Egyptians and Greeksbefore becoming a part of the Roman Empire. Libya was an early center of Christianity. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area of Libya was mostly occupied by the Vandalsuntil the 7th century, when invasions brought Islam and Arab colonization. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish Empire and the Knights of St John occupied Tripoli, until Ottoman rule began in 1551. Libya was involved in the Barbary Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. Ottoman rule continued until the Italian occupation of Libya resulted in the temporary Italian Libya colony from 1911 to 1943. During the Second World War Libya was an important area of warfare in the North African Campaign. The Italian population then went into decline. Libya became an independent kingdom in 1951.
A military coup in 1969 overthrew King Idris I, beginning a period of sweeping social reform. The most prominent coup figure, Muammar Gaddafi, was ultimately able to fully concentrate power in his own hands during the Libyan Cultural Revolution, remaining in power until the Libyan Civil War of 2011, in which the rebels were supported by NATO. Since then, Libya has experienced a period of instability. The European Union is involved in an operation to disrupt human trafficking networks exploiting refugees fleeing from wars in Africa for Europe.
At least two political bodies claim to be the government of Libya. The Council of Deputies is internationally recognized as the legitimate government, but it does not hold territory in the capital, Tripoli, instead meeting in the Cyrenaicacity of Tobruk. Meanwhile, the 2014 General National Congress purports to be the legal continuation of the General National Congress, elected in the 2012 Libyan General National Congress election and dissolved following the June 2014 elections but then reconvened by a minority of its members. The Supreme Court in the Libya Dawn and General National Congress-controlled Tripoli declared the Tobruk government unconstitutional in November 2014, but the internationally recognized government has rejected the ruling as made under threat of violence.
Parts of Libya are outside of either government's control, with various Islamist, rebel, and tribal militias administering some cities and areas. The United Nations is sponsoring peace talks between the Tobruk and Tripoli-based factions. An agreement to form a unified interim government was signed on 17 December 2015. Under the terms of the agreement, a nine-member Presidency Council and a seventeen-member interim Government of National Accord would be formed, with a view to holding new elections within two years. The leaders of the new government, called the Government of National Accord (GNA), arrived in Tripoli on April 5, 2016. Since then the GNC, one of the two rival governments, has disbanded to support the new GNA.
Within Libya as many as five different climatic zones have been recognised, but the dominant climatic influences are Mediterranean and Saharan. In most of the coastal lowland, the climate is Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall is scanty. The weather is cooler in the highlands, and frosts occur at maximum elevations. In the desert interior the climate has very hot summers and extreme diurnal temperature ranges.
Libya extends over 1,759,540 square kilometres (679,362 sq mi), making it the 17th largest nation in the world by size. Libya is bound to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, the west by Tunisia and Algeria, the southwest by Niger, the south by Chad, Sudan on the southeast, and to the east by Egypt. Libya lies between latitudes 19° and 34°N, and longitudes 9° and 26°E.
At 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi), 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 extremely 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. Libya is one of the sunniest and driest countries in the world due to prevailing presence of desert environment.
The Libyan Desert, which covers much of Libya, is one of the most arid and sun-baked places on earth. In places, decades may pass without seeing any rainfall at all, and even in the highlands rainfall seldom happens, once every 5–10 years. At Uweinat, as of 2006 the last recorded rainfall was in September 1998.
Likewise, the temperature in the Libyan Desert can be extreme; on 13 September 1922 the town of 'Aziziya, which is located southwest of Tripoli, recorded an air temperature of 58 °C (136.4 °F), considered to be a world record. In September 2012, however, the world record figure of 58 °C was overturned by the World Meteorological Organization.
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 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 LIbya. The water in this aquifer pre-dates the last ice ages and the Sahara Desert itself. This area also contains the Arkenu structures, which were once thought to be two impact craters.
The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which accounts for 80% of GDP and 97% of exports. Libya holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and is an important contributor to the global supply of light, sweet crude. Apart from petroleum, the other natural resources are natural gas and gypsum. The International Monetary Fund estimated Libya's real GDP growth at 122% in 2012 and 16.7% in 2013, after a 60% plunge in 2011.
The World Bank defines Libya as an 'Upper Middle Income Economy', along with only seven other African countries. Substantial revenues from the energy sector, coupled with a small population, give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa. This allowed the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya state to provide an extensive level of social security, particularly in the fields of housing and education.
Libya faces many structural problems including a lack of institutions, weak governance, and chronic structural unemployment. The economy displays a lack of economic diversification and significant reliance on immigrant labour. Libya has traditionally relied on unsustainably high levels of public sector hiring to create employment. In the mid-2000s, the government employed about 70% of all national employees.
Unemployment has risen from 8% in 2008 to 21%, according to the latest census figures. According to an Arab League report, based on data from 2010, unemployment for women stands at 18% while for the figure for men is 21%, making Libya the only Arab country where there are more unemployed men than women. Libya has high levels of social inequality, high rates of youth unemployment and regional economic disparities.Water supply is also a problem, with some 28% of the population not having access to safe drinking water in 2000.
Libya imports up to 90% of its cereal consumption requirements, and imports of wheat in 2012/13 was estimated at about 1 million tonnes. The 2012 wheat production was estimated at about 200,000 tonnes. The government hopes to increase food production to 800,000 tonnes of cereals by 2020. However, natural and environmental conditions limit Libya’s agricultural production potential. Before 1958, agriculture was the country’s main source of revenue, making up about 30% of GDP. With the discovery of oil in 1958, the size of the agriculture sector declined rapidly, comprising less than 5% GDP by 2005.
The country joined OPEC in 1962. Libya is not a WTO member, but negotiations for its accession started in 2004.
In the early 1980s, Libya was one of the wealthiest countries in the world; its GDP per capita was higher than some developed countries.
In the early 2000s officials of the Jamahiriya era carried out economic reforms to reintegrate Libya into the global economy. UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003, and Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction. Other steps have included applying for membership of the World Trade Organization, reducing subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization.
Authorities privatized more than 100 government owned companies after 2003 in industries including oil refining, tourism and real estate, of which 29 were 100% foreign owned. Many international oil companies returned to the country, including oil giants Shell and ExxonMobil. After sanctions were lifted there was a gradual increase of air traffic, and by 2005 there were 1.5 million yearly air travellers. Libya had long been a notoriously difficult country for Western tourists to visit due to stringent visa requirements.
In 2007 Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second-eldest son of Muammar Gaddafi, was involved in a green development project called the Green Mountain Sustainable Development Area, which sought to bring tourism to Cyrene and to preserve Greek ruins in the area.
In August 2011 it was estimated that it would take at least 10 years to rebuild Libya's infrastructure. Even before the 2011 war, Libya's infrastructure was in a poor state due to "utter neglect" by Gaddafi's administration, according to the NTC. By October 2012, the economy had recovered from the 2011 conflict, with oil production returning to near normal levels. Oil production was more than 1.6 million barrels per day before the war. By October 2012, the average oil production has surpassed 1.4 million bpd. The resumption of production was made possible due to the quick return of major Western companies, like Total, Eni, Repsol, Wintershall and Occidental.
Libya is a large country with a relatively small population, with the population is concentrated very narrowly along the coast. Population density is about 50 persons per km² (130/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per km² (2.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere. Ninety percent of the people live in less than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast. About 88% of the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the three largest cities, Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata. Libya has a population of about 6.5 million, 27.7% of whom are under the age of 15. In 1984 the population was 3.6 million, an increase from the 1.54 million reported in 1964.
There are about 140 tribes and clans in Libya. 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 UNHCR, there were around 8,000 registered refugees, 5,500 unregistered refugees, and 7,000 asylum seekers of various origins in Libya in January 2013. Additionally, 47,000 Libyan nationals were internally displaced and 46,570 were internally displaced returnees.
As of 2013, the UN estimates that around 12% of Libya's population (upwards of 740,000 people) was made up of foreign migrants. Prior to the 2011 revolution official and unofficial figures of migrant labour range from 25% to 40% of the population (between 1.5 and 2.4 million people).
It is difficult to estimate the total number of immigrants in Libya as there are often differences between census figures, official counts and usually more accurate unofficial estimates. In the 2006 census, around 359,540 foreign nationals were resident in Libya out of a population of over 5.5 million (6.35% of the population). Almost half of these were Egyptians, followed by Sudanese and Palestinian immigrants. During the 2011 revolution, 768,362 immigrants fled Libya as calculated by the IOM, around 13% of the population at the time, although many more stayed on in the country.
If consular records prior to the revolution are used to estimate the immigrant population, as many as 2 million Egyptian migrants were recorded by the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli in 2009, followed by 87,200 Tunisians, and 68,200 Moroccans by their respective embassies. The number of Asian migrants before the revolution were roughly 100,000 (60,000 Bangladeshis, 18,000 Indians, 10,000 Pakistanis, 8000 Filipinos as well as Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and other workers). This would put the immigrant population at almost 40% before the revolution and is a figure more consistent with government estimates in 2004 which put the regular and irregular migrant numbers at 1.35 to 1.8 million (25–33% of the population at the time).
Libya's native population of Arabs and Berbers as well as Arab migrants of various nationalities collectively make up 97% of the population as of 2014. The remaining 3% of residents include mostly Bangladeshies, Greeks, Indians, Italians, Maltese, Turks, and Ukrainians as well as other nationalities.
Local demographics and ethnic groups
The original inhabitants of Libya belonged predominantly to various Berber ethnic groups; however, the long series of foreign invasions – particularly by Arabs and Turks – have had a profound and lasting influence on Libya's demographics. Today, the majority of Libyans are Arab mainly from Banu Sulaym tribe, beside Turkish and Berber ethnicities. The Turkish minority are often called "Kouloughlis" and are concentrated in and around villages and towns. Additionally, there are some Libyan ethnic minorities, such as the Berber-speaking Tuareg and the Tebou.
Most Italian settlers left after Italian Libya's independence in 1947. More repatriated in 1970 after the accession of Muammar Gaddafi.
About 97% of the population in Libya are Muslims, most of whom belong to the Sunni branch. Small numbers of Ibadi Muslims, Sufis and Ahmadis also live in the country.
Before the 1930s, the Senussi Movement was the primary Islamic movement in Libya. This was a religious revival adapted to desert life. Its zawaaya (lodges) were found in Tripolitania and Fezzan, but Senussi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica. Rescuing the region from unrest and anarchy, the Senussi movement gave the Cyrenaican tribal people a religious attachment and feelings of unity and purpose. This Islamic movement, which was eventually destroyed by both Italian invasion and later the Gaddafi government, was very conservative and somewhat different from the Islam that exists in Libya today. Gaddafi asserted that he was a devout Muslim, and his government was taking a role in supporting Islamic institutions and in worldwide proselytising on behalf of Islam.
Since the fall of Gaddafi, ultra-conservative strains of Islam have reasserted themselves in places. Derna in eastern Libya, historically a hotbed of jihadist thought, came under the control of militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2014. Jihadist elements have also spread to Sirte and Benghazi, among other areas, as a result of the Second Libyan Civil War.
There are 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 about 60,000 Egyptian Copts in Libya. Copts in Libya are Egyptian. There are three Coptic Churches in Libya, one in Tripoli, one in Benghazi, and one in Misurata.
The Coptic Church has grown in recent years in Libya, due to the growing immigration of Egyptian Copts to Libya. As all followers of Christianity in Libya are foreigners who came to the country under work permits. There are an estimated 40,000 Roman Catholics in Libya who are served by two Bishops, one in Tripoli (serving the Italiancommunity) and one in Benghazi (serving the Maltese community). 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. People have been arrested on suspicion of being Christian missionaries, as proselytising is illegal. Christians have also faced the threat of violence from radical Islamists in some parts of the country, with a well-publicised video released by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in February 2015 depicting the mass beheading of Christian Copts.
Libya was once the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to at least 300 BC. In 1942, the Italian Fascist authorities set up forced labor camps south of Tripoli for the Jews, including Giado (about 3,000 Jews) and Gharyan, Jeren, and Tigrinna. In Giado some 500 Jews died of weakness, hunger, and disease. In 1942, Jews who were not in the concentration camps were heavily restricted in their economic activity and all men between 18 and 45 years were drafted for forced labor. In August 1942, Jews from Tripolitania were interned in a concentration camp at Sidi Azaz. In the three years after November 1945, more than 140 Jews were murdered, and hundreds more wounded, in a series of pogroms. By 1948, about 38,000 Jews remained in the country. Upon Libya's independence in 1951, most of the Jewish community emigrated.