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October 2011



Libya, slightly larger than Alaska, is located in North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, Chad, Niger, and Sudan. Libya is fourth in size among the countries of Africa and seventeenth among the countries of the world. The official name of Libya is Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. In theory, Jamahiriya is defined as a state of the masses governed by the people through local councils.

Libya has a small population in a large land area. Population density is about 50 persons per sq. km. (80/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per sq. km. (1.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere. Ninety percent of the people live in less than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast. More than half the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the two largest cities: Tripoli (capital), and Benghazi. Thirty-three percent of the population is estimated to be under age 15.

Native Libyans are primarily a mixture of Arabs and Berbers. Small Tebou and Tuareg tribal groups in southern Libya are nomadic or semi-nomadic. Among foreign residents, the largest groups are citizens of other African nations, including North Africans (primarily Egyptians and Tunisians), West Africans, and other Sub-Saharan Africans. Arabic is the primary language. English and Italian are understood in major cities.

Libya’s climate is Mediterranean along the coast and dry in the desert interior; more than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert. The country’s terrain is mostly barren with flat to undulating plains, plateaus, and depressions. The lowest point of elevation is Sabkhat Ghuzayyil (47 m) and the highest point is Bikku Bitti (2,267 m). Natural hazards consist mainly of the hot, dry, dust-laden southern winds known as ghibli, which last one to four days in the spring and fall; other hazards include dust storms and sand storms. Libya’s main natural resources are petroleum, natural gas, and gypsum.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 07/2011; 10/2011

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