Libya is a nation in Africa’s Maghreb (North African Countries) area and is perhaps best known for its notorious tyrant leader Gaddafi. This country with ancient history also has the largest oil reserve in Africa. Aside from its oil and heritage, there are other interesting facts about Libya that show different sides of the country.
Common Facts About Libya
Libya, officially known as the “State of Libya,” is a famous African nation home to roughly 6.8 million people. This African treasure is known for having some historically fascinating ancient ruins as well as the world’s biggest desert.
Despite being a challenging destination to visit, there are many Libya facts worth knowing about with its mix of history and culture.
Several countries in Africa are prone to armed conflicts and civil/social unrest. Always double check the latest situations from both your government and the local government advisories.
Historical Facts On Libya
Libya Is Over 1000 Years
It has been suggested that the first people to inhabit present-day Libya are the Berber (they are also known as the Amazigh) around 2000 BC.
The Berber people are famous for being one of the inhibitors and ancestors of many North African countries as they migrated throughout the continent of Africa.
After the Berbers, there were many empires there until the Romans took control of the region in 74 BC. With the existence of Tadrart Acacus rock art in Libya, there is proof that the land has been inhabited as far back as 12000 BC.
Libya Tie With The Bible
The Maghreb is a famous area where Islam spread rapidly, and to date, the region is Muslim dominated. However, did you know this fascinating fact about Libya? It actually has a long biblical history.
Simon of Cyrene (biblical figure) was famous for helping Jesus carry his cross, and St Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark (from the Bible) had good ties with Libya. St Mark was the founder of the Church of Alexandria in Egypt.
You may be wondering what their ties with Libya were. Well, present-day Libya used to be known as Cyrene. While St. Mark was the apostle and evangelist who traveled around North Africa spreading the Gospel.
Before 700 AD, Libya was ruled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, and then Romans in that sequence. In some regions of the country, you can still find some of the ruins from those ancient civilizations.
Arabs invaded Libya after 700 AD, and that is when Islam started spreading throughout the nation.
Between 1711 to 1835, Libya was a semi-independent province under the Ottoman Empire. It subsequently became an Italian colony from 1912 until 1947. After which, it continued under the Franco-British occupation.
The United Nations (UN) granted Libya independence in 1949; but due to the formalities, it only officially became independent on the 1st of January 1951. Its first and only king was Mohammed Idris (King Idris I).
First King In Libya
Here is a simple interesting fact about Libya. It was one of the first African countries to gain independence.
After independence in 1951, the country was overseen by a monarch in a monarchy system as opposed to a democratic rule. The constitution under the federal monarch of Libya made king Idris the ruler over Libya as its chief of state.
Kind Idris I was the first and only king of the monarchy. He was a conservative; hence he wasn’t loved by the people of Libya. Ultimately, he was overthrown in 1961 via coupe.
That brings us to the next historical fact about Libya “Muammar Gaddafi.” Muammar Gaddafi was one of the most famous leaders on the African continent for many reasons. He led a bloodless coup that overthrow King Idris I.
From 1969 until 2011, Muammar Gaddafi controlled Libya for 42 years. He was seen as a revolutionary, yet many saw him as an authoritarian ruler. He was embroiled in a slew of scandals and propaganda.
Some of his major scandals included the prohibition of alcohol, the replacement of the Gregorian calendar with the Islamic calendar, the closure of Libyan American and British military bases, and the forcing of oil companies operating within the country to share the majority of their revenue with the country.
Geographical Facts About Libya
Waw A Namus
Did you know, there is an ancient volcano in the African country? This is one of the many interesting facts about Libya.
The volcano sits in the Libyan Sahara Desert however, there has been a debate as to how old the volcano is. But one thing is for sure it is either from the Pleistocene or Holocene age.
The volcano is quite unique as it carries black ash over 12 miles of the desert. Oddly, the caldera surrounding the volcano has small lakes and beautiful vegetation. That’s quite impressive for a desert that hardly experiences any kind of rainfall.
Ghadames is an ancient Oasis Berber town. It is in the northwest town of Libya about 463 km from the country’s capital city Tripoli. Named by the Berber Ghadames means “the pearl of the desert.”
At the time when it was built, only the Berber inhabited the region. It is considered one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities. The city also served as a refuge for the people. When the scorching desert sun becomes unbearable, travelers run to Ghadames to escape the sun.
Bīkkū Bīttī Peak (Picco Bette)
Bikku Bitti Peak also known as Picco Bette is the highest point in Libya. It is part of the mountain range sitting in the southern part of the country. The mountain extends into Chad as it resides on the border between both countries.
Picco Bette stands at an elevation of 2,267 meters above sea level. The first person to get to the peak of Bikku Bitti was Ginge Fullen in 2005. He was accompanied by his Chadian guides. Climbing the mountain was no easy feat because its location is difficult to access.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Here is a fun fact for kids about Libya. Due to its unique history, and different civilizations, there are many outstanding structures and monuments in Libya. Libya has 5 beautiful UNESCO world heritage sites within its boundaries. Leptis Magna, Cyrene, Tadrart Akakus, Sabratha, and Ghadames.
Cultural Fun Facts Of Libya
Here is an important fact about Libyan culture. Libyans love tea, tea is more than a beverage to Libyans it is also a tradition. Did you know Libyan tea is as thick as syrup? Cool right, I know.
In 2020, the total import of tea alone in Libya was over $40 million. The preparation of Libyan tea is like a cultural ritual, there are specific stainless utensils involved. The tea is served in small thick glass cups.
It is often made when family members gather. In some families, it has become a traditional Friday tea. The tea is thick due to the mixing of many tea leaves and a high concentration of sugar.
After mixing both ingredients, the tea is allowed to boil for at least 20 minutes. When itr is is ready, the tea is poured into small cups and allowed to foam; this foam is a distinctive characteristic of Libyan tea.
A tea session is usually accompanied by sweet Libyan desserts such as sfinz and basbousa.
Tribes And Ethnicity In Libya
Officially there are two major ethnic groups in Libya, Arabs (87%) and Berbers (10%), the remaining 3% are from other ethnic groups.
However, there are over 139 tribes in Libya. It may be farfetched to say it is a multicultural country but it sure has a diverse culture. The high number of tribes in the country serves as evidence of that.
Similar to India and some other countries, Libyans traditionally prefer to live in a communal style. They love to stay with their extended families; however, it is gradually evolving as younger couples prefer to live with their nuclear family.
Traditionally, Libyans have arranged marriages where the bride doesn’t know her husband and they only meet on their wedding day. In recent times, most couples in urban areas choose their spouse themselves although there are still arranged marriages in rural areas.
Libyans are known to be hospitable people. When they greet, they shake hands and maintain the handshake until they end the verbal greeting. It is important to note that when greeting across genders; men have to wait for the woman to initiate the handshake.
When they greet it is common to hear “Salaam aleikum” which means (peace be unto you), or you could hear “Sabbahakum Allah bi’l-khair” meaning (May Allah give you a good morning).
Afterward, they proceed to ask about families and personal health.
You can imagine that these may seem overly passionate for some from more reserved cultures, but this is the Libyans’ way of showing care.
Languages In Libya
The official language in Libya is Arabic, which is not a surprise considering the country is part of the Maghreb nations and a member of the Arab world. However, Arabic is not the only language spoken in Libya.
Because of the Italian and British influence on the country, Italian and English are some of the most spoken languages in Libya after Arabic.
Fascinating Libya Facts For Kids
Tripoli is the capital city of Libya located in the northeast of Libya; it is the largest city in the country, housing over 1.2 million of the population. It has a total land area of 1501 square km and an elevation of 81 meters.
Food In Libya
Because of the harsh climate, the agriculture sector of the country is not as productive. The lack of rainfall makes it impossible for crops to thrive, leading to poor food production.
As such, one insightful fact about food in Libya is that imports are necessary to feed more than 70% of the local food consumption.
Libya is not a self-sufficient country when it comes to food; they depend on goods from other countries to survive. We can say it is not a coincidence the country has a large reserve of oil.
Animals In Libya
However, not having enough green or durable agriculture in the country doesn’t mean a lack of interesting wildlife or animals in Libya. Did you know there are rare species of animals in Libya? The climate of the coastline in Libya actually makes it conducive for certain animals to live.
Some of the popular animals in Libya include dolphins, Marbled polecats, and Egyptian tortoises.
Mermaid Of Mediterranean
Did you know the Capital of Libya Tripoli, is known as the mermaid of the Mediterranean? That is because Tripoli has some amazing, whitewashed buildings and breathtaking turquoise waters. Sounds a tad bit like Santorini in Greece, doesn’t it?
Libya is one of many African countries with beautiful shores, but did you know that Libya actually has the longest coastline of any Maghreb nation? The coastal area stretches 1770 km along the Mediterranean Sea.
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Other Interesting Facts About Libya
The Sahara Desert In Libya
Here is a fact about Libya’s climate. The weather condition of the country is heavily influenced by the presence of the Sahara Desert within its boundaries.
Like most Maghreb regions, the Saharan desert takes up a significant portion of the Southern part of Libya. The region hosts a very dry and hot climate making it an uninhabitable area. In Ghat (southwest) region there’s an average rainfall of 0 (zero) per month all year round. If Ghat ever gets any rainfall, it comes as a downpour.
Largest Oil Reserve In Africa
Many see Nigeria as the country with the largest oil reserve on the African continent due to its prominence and popularity.
However, the country with the largest oil reserve in Africa is actually Libya. It is also the 9th largest oil reserve in the world. In 2019, the estimated reserve in Libya was approximately 48 billion barrels, that’s huge. This may come as a surprising fact about Libya for many, considering its economy.
The oil in Libya is quite good as it has low sulfur content. Also because of its Mediterranean coastline, it has good proximity to the European market. Interestingly oil is cheap in Libya as it cost a little over $1 per barrel.
Libya Ancient Greek Empire
Libya has experienced a great deal of civilization from different eras, most notably the Roman, Ottoman, and Greek civilizations. It is not a cliché to say that Libya is a crossroad of ancient civilizations.
The ancient Greek empire of Libya was based in Cyrene. Although an earthquake struck in 365 AD and destroyed the city, its ruins are still a beauty to behold. The site is one of the UNESCO-listed archaeological sites of Cyrene.
The empire was founded in 631 BC, it later became a Roman empire when the Romans took over the territory.
There is a rather interesting history and fact about Libya’s flag.
In 1977, after Muammar Gaddafi took reign of the country, he changed the country’s flag to just a plain green color as a way of asserting his authority and dominance.
When Gaddafi fell in 2011, the country’s original flag was restored. The original flag was a tricolor flag with red, black, and green representing the three regions of the country Tripolitania, Cyrenacia, and Fezza. The middle of the flag carries an image of a star and a Crescent representing Islam.
One of the unfortunate facts about Libya is that more than 60% of the country’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. The Libyan desert can go on a decade streak without witnessing any rainfall.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Libya
Libya usually comes up in the media for the wrong reasons, but there are many fascinating aspects of this country that are unknown to most. From Tripoli’s captivating turquoise waters to the Sahara Desert, the African country has its fair share of captivating landscapes. Featuring deep ancient history and traditional culture, there are plenty more interesting facts about Libya that are worth discovering and knowing about.