Libya is often quoted in international news outlets. The reason why Libya is so oft-quoted is its civil war. The situation is Libya deteriorated pretty quickly after the assassination of Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. Learning facts about Libya requires some knowledge of its history, politics and economy. The current civil war has roots in the history of Libya. Let’s learn 10 facts about Libya which might help you understand the country better than ever.
1. Geographic and Cartographic facts about Libya
You can’t understand a country unless you don’t know about its neighbours. Furthermore, it’s important to know its position on World Map. Libya is located in Northern Africa which has a capital city named Tripoli. Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan surround Libya. It has a coastline of length 1770 kilometres.
Almost 90% of Libya is desert, and it’s safe to assume that Libya lies in the Sahara Desert.
2. Historical Facts about Libya – Colonisation and Freedom
In the 6th century, muslims had conquered Libya. After Rashidun Caliphate (632-661), Umayyads (661-750) and Abbasids (750-1258) ruled over this land. Later due to the weakening of the control of Abbasids, anarchy prevailed in the region. In 1551, Ottoman Empire took control of the Libya. Military coups were pretty common during the reign of the Ottoman in Libya.
In 1912, Italy seized control of Libya. From 1912 to 1927 they called the territory as Italian North Africa. Italy split the country in two parts, each ran by one governor appointed as authority. Italian Colonisation faced a serious opposition from a freedom fighter and activist named Omar Mukhtar.
Italy lost Word War II (1938-1945), as a result Libya came under the rule of Allied forces. On 24th December 1951 Libya declared its independence. King Idris assumed the role of a constitutional monarch.
3. Economy of Libya – A major oil country with potential for billion of dollars
Libya’s economy is based on crude oil. Almost 80-90% of its exports are oil based. Oil was first discovered in 1950s under the constitutional monarchy. During the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, Libya due to its closed proximity to the Mediterranean sea served as a good source of oil production. Later, a military coup in 1969 changed the dynamics of foreign oil companies in the country.
Currently due to Civil War and anarchy in Libya, oil production faces disruptions. Recently, the port traffic faces troubles with threats from warring parties to choke it further.
The currency used in Libya is Dinar. It appears that at moment 1 USD equals 72 Libyan Dinar.
4. Facts about Libya under Gaddafi government – The coup of 1969
Gaddafi ended the constitutional monarchy through a military coup in the year 1969. The code name of the operation was Operation Jerusalem. The policies used by Gaddafi were based on Islam and socialism. It’s worth considering, during the 1960s, the world was divided into capitalism, communism and non-aligned bloc.
The progressive assertions of Gaddafi and his intent to buy foreign influence using oil diplomacy lead to the UN sanctions in 1992. UN lifted those sanctions, in the year 2003, when Libya accepted the responsibility of her subversive activities i-e downing of two aircrafts in 1970s. However, Gaddafi maintained that he had never given the order to attack those airliners. He was all about helping the cause of Palestine which currently suffers the occupation of Israel. Later in 1990s, Gaddafi attempted to smooth out relations with the West.
The 2010 Arab Spring which had started in Tunisia also made roots to Libya. Due to the civil unrest, protestors started to take law and order in their hands. UN decided to intervene after Gaddafi brutal crackdown on protestors in the start of 2011. Gaddafi regime ended in mid-2011.
5. Libya and Civil War – Modern day history
After the fall of Gaddafi and his subsequent assassination, Libya entered into Civi War. Since 2011, the internal rifts of Libya has resulted into a loss of both life and economy. The Government of National Accord is the internationally accepted government of Libya. General Haftar challenges the authority of GNA through Libyan National Army.
It’s worthy to note that LNA has swathes of land under its control. LNA is attempting to take control of GNA lead Tripoli. Sporadic clashes has increased the number of attempted escapes of Libyans towards Europe. Libya has become a test ground of ideologies. Several proxies are using their influence to win over Libya. One such theory is that while GNA is supported by the UN and US, LNA is backed by Egypt, Emirates and Russia. Turkey on the other hands has attempted to end the Haftar’s offensive by sending in troops. Turkey supports the internationally recognised government.
Russia has recently tried to end the Libyan crisis by providing good offices to LNA and GNA. Haftar didn’t sign a permanent truce; however, it seems that he backs the temporary truce.
6. Cultural Facts about Libya – Its people and their way of life
Libya is mostly desert; therefore, people prefer to live in the coastal cities of Tripoli and Benghazi. Back on 2018, the population of Libya was 6.679 million. The people living in the country are commonly referred as Libyans.
Those living inside Libya enjoy a mediterranean climate, closer to the Europe. While going deep south means, facing hard desert climate. People speak Arabic as their official language. Just like Tunisia, Phoenicians also found their way to Libya, because of their rich trading patterns. Berber population is the ethnically dominated race of Libya.
According to the data of 2016, the average life of a Libyan is 71.93 years old. People love to eat couscous, a dish as much popular in Tunisia as in this country. One can’t consume Alcohol being a Muslim in Libya.
Interesting Facts about Libya
7. Famous URL Shortener bit.ly has Libyan TLD
It’s worth noting that bit.ly is one of the most famous URL shorteners. It uses a Libyan TLD, the .ly part in the domain name, shows Libya. Washington Post had covered this story of bit.ly using the Libyan TLD.
The craze for the .ly url shorteners started in the year 2008. The company bought this domain for $75. Later, the upcoming url shorteners just jumped on the bandwagon. It’s interesting to note that a few US lawmakers had to change their shortened URL in order to remove .ly in the domain name.
A famous question started to circulate the internet; Would bit.ly URLs end because of a Libyan ban? The answer to this question is no. Because, as the DNS servers are located in Libya, there are DNS servers located in the US as well for this domain name.
8. NATO was deployed against Libya years after Cold War ended
NATO (4 April 1949), an alliance of Cold War times, whose purpose was to contain USSR, was used against Libya in year 2011. The intervention took place to enforce the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The attack was primarily US lead. The resolution called for an instant ceasefire in order to end the civil war in Libya.
Obama administration was under a tremendous pressure to use US forces in the mission. Partly because of the Gulf states and partly because of the status of US as the world power. So the commonly asked question is; Why did US attack Libya? Definitely, the worry of European allies about Gaddafi threats to disrupt the oil production, played some role. Further, the unrest in Libya would have caused troubles to its European neighbours. The other two reasons being explained prior to the question were also in consideration. Therefore, Obama decided for the free world and supported the globalisation of information.
9. Gaddafi believed in African Dream of Unity and Prosperity
It’s interesting to note, that on one side Gaddafi was demonised for his actions while on the other side, he was often praised for his thoughts about African people. Based on the islamic principles, Gaddafi had mentioned in his Green Book that one day African countries would unite for a common good.
It’s worth noting that the security detail of Gaddafi happened to consist of African women. The notions shared in his Green Book make it apparent that he believed in pan-Africanism. Further, he supported African Union to form a single-currency like European Union.
Further, during his regime, he provided interest free loans to many. Through funding the education fee of bright students he drastically increased the literacy rate.
10. Libya offers a window to Roman and Greek history
There are important historical sites in Libya which serve as a window to the history. For example, the Phoenician trading-post and the old cities of Greek and Roman empires. The Arch of Marcus Aurelius serves as a tribute to the famous stoic philosopher and Roman emperor.
Cyrene was an ancient city in both Greek and Roman empires. It gave the classical name of Cyrenaica to the Eastern Libya. A name which is often referred to the colonial periods of Libya. UNESCO has declared it as World Heritage Site. Leptis Magna is an ancient Roman city located in Libya. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1982.
Red Castle is another famous place in Libya. It’s a castle located on an island adjacent to the shore. Roman armies had used it as a base.