Almost all the people inhabiting Libya are Muslim, reaching 97% of the population. If you wish to experience extreme heat of the sun, with surrounding deserts on your background, then Libya is the perfect place to be. By visiting Ghat, one of the cities of this country, you could see rock paintings inspired by their very rich history. Libya is also known for the very challenging desert trekking. It is important to note that you should be an extra careful if you decided to visit this country as there have been an issue of safety instability because of the civil war rising.
Important and Interesting Facts About Libya
- Libya stretches along the northeast coast of Africa between Tunisia and Algeria on the west and Egypt on the east; to the south are the Sudan, Chad, and Niger.
- It is one-sixth larger than Alaska. Much of the country lies within the Sahara. Along the Mediterranean coast and farther inland is arable plateau land.
- Leptis Magna– Excavated in the 1920’s this World Heritage site is a magnificently preserved Roman city dating back to the 10 Century BC. You can clearly make out public monuments, a harbor, market-place, storehouses, shops and residential districts. The ruins cover a very large area and if you enjoy archaeology you’ll probably want to spend at least half a day here (bring water!).
- Another UNESCO site in the Acaucus Mountains features rock art dating back to 12,000 BC. The paintings and carvings at this site depict giraffes, ostriches, elephants, camels, as well as humans and horses.
- Libya is home to some of the most pristine and impressive Roman ruins on earth. The Sahara desert is also spectacular, with incredible dunes, oases towns, and magical lakes.
- Cyrene– Originally founded by the Greeks in 630 BC, Cyrene later became an important Roman city and now a wonderful archaeological site for visitors to enjoy. Ancient Greek temples and statues are very well preserved and offer a unique glimpse into ancient Greece in Africa.
- Ghadames– a real Saharan jewel of an ancient city. White-washed walls and covered streets keep things nice and cool as you explore the rooftops and alleys in this architecturally, fascinating town. Most of the residents have left the old town, but return during the hot summer months to their original homes. Make sure to get a guide, unless you enjoy getting lost. A festival in September is worth planning a trip around.
- Tripoli – a modern capital city, Tripoli is the gateway to explore Libya and the arrival point for most visitors. It has a very busy port and is the headquarters for most international businesses operating out of Libya. The old medina and the excellent Jamahiriya Museum are highlights for visitors.
- Benghazi– Unfortunately now known for the killing of the US Ambassador in September 2012, but this is Libya’s second city and more “laid back” than Tripoli. Lots of decent shops, bazaars and cafe’s make it a pleasant place to spend a few days and stroll around. The beaches are good nearby and the city is architecturally pleasing as well.
- Gharyanand Nalut – If you are interested in examples of traditional Berber homes (similar to those in Southern Tunisia), then both Nalut and Gharyan are good places to visit. Nalut offers traditional Berber Ksar with lots of Ghurfas (granaries) and interesting nooks and crannies to explore, all built on an escarpment with great views. Gharyan offers a good example of Troglodyte dwellings, basically stone caves, carved out of the mountains, now uninhabited.
Cool, Funny, and Fun Facts About Libya
- Libyans are non-confrontational, and saving face is important. They may avoid disagreeing with you or saying “no” to save you from losing face.
- During the final years of Colonel Qadhafi’s regime, Libya’s full name was ‘Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. ‘Jamahiriya’ has no precise translantion into English.
- Libya has undertaken one of the world’s biggest ever water projects, called ‘Great Manmade River Project. It is designed to carry vast quantities of sub-Saharan water to the coastal regions for irrigation, industry and drinking. On completion it is expected to carry five to six million cubic meters of water every day. A total length of 3,380 kilometers of four-meter diameter pipe will finally be installed, and the entire length will be wrapped in reinforcing wire. If laid out in a line, this reinforcing wire would circle the Earth two hundred and thirty times.
- More than ninety five percent of Libya is desert. This desert is called the Sahara, which not surprisingly is an Arabic word, meaning ‘desert’. Saying “Sahara Desert” is really tautology as it actually means “desert desert.
- The Sahara is the world’s largest desert, and is about the size of the USA. It forms a major part of the landscape of eleven countries. The Sahara is not all sand however. There are large areas of gravel, clay and rock, and several mountain ranges.
- An important Biblical character came from a Libyan city, and his name is Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene occupies a prominent position high on an escarpment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the coastal plain. It is close to the modern city of Derna. Simon of Cyrene was ordered by the Romans to carry the torture stake of Jesus (Matthew 27 verse 32).
- If any Libyan wanted to start a farm, they were given a house, farm land, and livestock and seeds all free of charge.
- A bursary was given to mothers with new born babies. When a Libyan woman gave birth she was given 5000 US dollars for herself and the child.
- Electricity was free in Libya meaning absolutely no electric bills!
- Libya was the only country in the world to have a bank owned by the state meaning they were able to give loans to citizens at zero percent interest by law and they had no external debt.
Historical and Cultural Facts About Libya
- The solid-green color flag was used by Libya from 1969 till the time Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011. It was the only national flag in the world which had one single color.
- Libya had only one King in its entire history. Idris was king of the country from 1951- 1969 as well as the head of the Senussi Muslim order. In 1969, his regime was defeated by Gaddafi.
- The first inhabitants of Libya were Berber tribes. The seafaring Phoenicians established trading relations with the Berbers and other peoples in the area and exported goods such as olive oil, ivory, animals, and wine to the rest of the Mediterranean and Africa.
- During the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, Turkish-based Ottoman rulers promoted and patronized arts and literature, architecture, and scholarship. Trade with European city-states also greatly increased under Ottoman control.
- Horse races are popular in Libya, and they are a part of some traditional celebrations. Car racing is also very popular. At one time, Tripoli was a stop on the Grand Prix tour.
- Libyan folk art and architecture use the traditional Islamic art motifs such as floral or vegetative designs and calligraphy expressed in various media such as leather, metal, stone, and embroidery.
- Libyan cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean, African, and a bit of Italian influences. Common ingredients are olives, dates, milk, lamb, chicken, and grains such as couscous. Tea is often served after meals and sometimes roasted almonds or peanuts are mixed into the tea. Alcohol consumption is illegal.
- Libyans are warm and enthusiastic people. They shake hands upon greeting and maintain the handshake as long as the verbal greetings last. Libyan men will not initiate a handshake with a woman but will wait for the woman to initiate it.
- Purdah, the custom of secluding and veiling women, is a traditional feature of Libyan cultural life. Groups of veiled women are still found in markets in the company of kinsmen but they are infrequent visitors to mosques and absent entirely from café life. Women were traditionally placed in seclusion at puberty and appear in public veiled. They are only freed from this custom at menopause.
- Meals are prepared by the women of the household and served to guests by the young men of the household. Food is served on long low tables, tall enough to allow guests to sit cross legged and to belly up to the edge.