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Geography of Libya

Learn Information about Libya, the Fourth Largest Country in Africa


Libya Flag

The Libya flag is plain green; green is the traditional color of Islam (the state religion).

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007
Updated February 23, 2011

Population: 6,461,454 (July 2010 estimate)
Capital: Tripoli
Bordering Countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia
Area: 679,362 square miles (1,759,540 sq km)
Coastline: 1,100 miles (1,770 km)
Highest Point: Bikku Bitti at 7,437 feet (2,267 m)
Lowest Point: Sabkhat Ghuzayyil at -154 feet (-47 m)

Libya, officially called the Great Socialist People's Libya Arab Jamahiriya, is a large country located in northern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. It is the fourth largest country in Africa by area and its capital and largest city is Tripoli. Libya is one of the wealthiest nations in Africa because of its large petroleum reserves but currently it is also one of the most unstable due to recent protests and social unrest.

History of Libya

According to the U.S. Department of State, Libya has had a long history of foreign control. During its early history, the region making up Libya was controlled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals and Byzantines. In the 7th century C.E., Libya was conquered by the Arabs and Islam was adopted as the region's primary religion, while Arabic became its main language.

In the mid-16th century, the Libya region was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and was a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1911. In that year it was invaded by Italy and established as a colony of Italy. In 1934, Italy formally named the colony Libya. During World War II, the Allies removed Italy and other Axis powers from the region and in 1947, Italy gave up its claims to Libya. As a result, in 1949, United Nations General Assembly created a resolution that said Libya would become independent by January 1, 1952.

In response to the U.N. resolution, Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951 and according to the U.S. Department of State, it was the first nation to gain independence through the U.N. and it was one of the first former European colonies in Africa to gain independence.

In 1959, large oil reserves were discovered in Libya and the country quickly became one of Africa's most wealthy based on its gross domestic product. However, much of Libya's wealth became concentrated with the elite and this, along with other problems, caused social instability to develop. In 1969, a coup d'état forced Libya's king into exile in Egypt and the monarchy was abolished and replaced with the Libyan Arab Republic.

During the 1970s, Libya began to join international organizations and attempted to unite other Arab nations. In the 1980s, tensions grew between Libya and western countries because it had ties with the USSR as well as terrorist acts. As a result, the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on Libya in 1992 and the country became economically isolated for much of the 1990s.

In 2004, the U.N. sanctions on Libya were lifted after it fulfilled the requirements set forth by the U.N. Security Council years earlier. Today, Libya is working on its international relationships but it has recently suffered from social unrest.

Government of Libya

Today Libya's government is considered a Jamahiriya which means it should be governed by the people through various local councils. In practice however, Libya is mainly governed as an authoritarian state with a chief of state and a head of government in its executive branch and a unicameral General People's Congress in its legislative branch. Libya's judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and the country is broken down into 22 states. Libya has no constitution.

Economics and Land Use in Libya

Libya's economy is mainly dependent on its oil reserves which make up 95% of its earnings from exports. Its other industries include petrochemicals, aluminum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts and cement. Libya also has some agriculture and its main products are wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans and cattle.

Geography and Climate of Libya

Libya (map) is located in the northern part of Africa and it has 1,100 miles (1,770 km) of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the country is barren as portions of its borders include the Sahara Desert. The topography of Libya varies from flat to gently rolling plains and it has several plateaus and depressions. The highest point in Libya is Bikku Bitti at 7,437 feet (2,267 m), while its lowest is Sabkhat Ghuzayyil at -154 feet (-47 m).

The climate of Libya varies based on location, but the coast is Mediterranean and the interior transitions from dry desert to extreme desert farther inland in the Sahara. Libya's capital, Tripoli, is located on the coast and has an average August high temperature of 91˚F (32˚C) and a January low of 48˚F (9˚C). Because of the extreme desert climate farther inland, most of Libya's large cities are located on the coast.

To learn more about Libya, visit the Geography and Maps section on Libya on this website.


Central Intelligence Agency. (25 January 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Libya. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ly.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Libya: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107722.html

United States Department of State. (17 November 2010). Libya. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5425.htm

Wikipedia.com. (22 February 2011). Libya - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya

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