Libya



Figure 1.--Here we see the traditional clothing commonly worn in Libya. This snapshot was taken by an German Afrika Korps soldier in 1941 or 42. The boxes are German military supplies. At the time, Libya was an Italian colony.

Libya is a North African country located in the easter Magreb between Egypt to the east and Tunisia and Algeria to the west. to the south in the tractless Sahara are borders with Niger, Chad, and Sudan. The population is almost entirely Muslim. Most of the population is concentated on the narrow coastal plain. The rest of the country is mostly desert. South of the coastal area the vast Sahara Desert begins. We do have much information on Libya. The country has an ancient history. It was an ancient crossroads of civilisations. It was part of the Roman Empire and there are intersting Greek and Roman ruins. Unfortunalely it is too dangerous to visit them. The Barbary Pirates dominted the Libya for many years. It was here at Tripoli that the United States fought its first foreign war. We have a Libyan history page. It is the most backward of the North African countries, largely because it was the last to be colonized. The Italiand invased (1912), but it was not until the Fascist era that the Italians defeated Arab resistance (1920s). Until the arrival of the Italians, the country was essentially medieval. The economy since ancient times has been agricultural. Libya was better watered in ancient times than today and was a source of grain during the Roman era. During the Ottoman era, Libya has an economy based on slavery nd piracy. Oil was discoverted in Libya after World War II which for the first time since the Roman Empire had brought wealth into Libya. The Libyan Government has used the oil income for a variety of projects, including the military and terrorism, there seems to have been no real effort to develop a modern economy and the economy is almost entirely dependant on oil and gas exports. Until after World War II there were smaller Christian and Jewish communities. As far as we can tell, clothing styles are similar to Egypt and Tunisia, although Libya is less urbanized than Egypt. We think Arab-style clothing is somewhat more common than im Egypt, at least urban styles which are more Westernized. We have little information about Libyan photographer, but note a German photograher active we think in the 1930s.

Geography

Libya is a North African country located in the easter Magreb between Egypt to the east and Tunisia and Algeria to the west. To the south in the tractless Sahara are borders with Niger, Chad, and Sudan. The country's Mediterranean coast and the Sahara Desert are the most notble natural features. Libya has the longest Mediterranean coastline of all mediterranean countries. And as a result boasts many unspoiled beaches, few of which re developed for tourists. Most of the Libyan population is concentated in the narrow coastal plain. The rest of the country is mostly desert. South of the coastal area the vast Sahara Desert begins. Libyan has a terrain that is mostly barren ground. There are undulating plains, plateaus and depressions. There are no real mountain ranges although some highpoints dot the countryside. The closest to mounaneous ground is the Tibesti Massif in the extreme south marking the lengthy border with Chad. The highest point in Libya is Bikku Bitti at 7,437 ft (2,267 m). The lowest point is Sabkhat Ghuzayyil at -154 ft (-47 m). Along the narrow coastal strip is sparse grasslands gradully giving way to the Sahara Desert. This vast, dry wasteland dominates most of Libya. as it is infertile, in fct virtully sterile, it supports an extremely small percentage of Liby's population and agriculture.

History

The country has an ancient history. It was an ancient crossroads of civilisations. It was part of the Roman Empire and there are intersting Greek and Roman ruins. Unfortunalely it is too dangerous to visit them. The Barbary Pirates dominted the Libya for many years. It was here at Tripoli that the United States fought its first foreign war. It is the most backward of the North African countries, largely because it was the last to be colonized. The Italiand invased (1912), but it was not until the Fascist era that the Italians defeated Arab resistance (1920s). Until the arrival of the Italians, the country was essentially medieval.

Economy

The economy since ancient times has been agricultural. Libya was better watered in ancient times than today and was a source of grain during the Roman era. During the Ottoman era, Libya has an economy based on slavery nd piracy. Oil was discoverted in Libya after World War II which for the first time since the Roman Empire has brought wealth into Libya from a domestically produved product. The Libyan Government has used the oil income for a variety of projects, including the military and terrorism, there seems to have been no real effort to develop a modern economy and the economy is almost entirely dependant on oil and gas exports.

Ethnicity

Libya the rest of North Africa has aopulation composed primarily of Berber-Arab descent. The Berber people are the indiginous population at least from historical times. The Sahara Desert was a huge barrier as it developed limiting the mixing of sub-Saharan African populations with Mederranean populations. The Berber people are by a large majority (about 90 percent) the base of the modern Liyan population. Small numbers of other people reached Libya in ancient times, including Phonecians, Cartheginians, Greeks, and Romans, but they had only a limited impact on the largely Berber ethnic base. This changed somewhat with the Arab outburst from Arabia (7th century AD). Unlike previous conquerors, the Arabs came in sustantial numbers. The Arabs as a result or the only other important ethnic element to the Libyan ethnic mix (perhaps 10 percent). There is not, however a sharp division between the two groups. The Berbers at first resisted the Arabs and Islam. The Arab conquest eventually imposed both Arab culture and Islam on the Berbers. This opened up extensive inter-marriage and cultural merging. As a result, Libyan ethnicity today is commonly described as Arab-Berber. And because the Sunni Arabs imposed their version of Islam on the Berbers, the population is almost entirely Sunni Islam (something like 97 percent). Libya is one of the most homogenous ethnic, religious and cultural country in the world--and we must mention one of the most backward. The Berber language as largely been lost and Libyans speak Arabic.

Activities

We do not yet have much information on children's activities in Libya. We have an image of Libyan boys playing. We are not sure just what they are doing. For the most part Libyans were very poor which of course affects activities, including school attendance. School for mamy children especially since the 19th century has been a major activity for children. This has not been the case for Arab children and Libya in this regard was especially backward. Very few Libyan children attenaned school until after World War II. The Italianns did open school, but primarily for Italian colonists. With independence and the oil money this changed. It is difficult to see, however, any major positive impact that has accrued to Libya. Religion as an importnt activity. The population is almost entirely Muslim. As in other Arab countries, any assesment of the country's life is incomplete wuthoit looking varey carefully at religion meaning fundamentally Islam. Until after World War II there were smaller Chistian and Jewish communities.

Clothing

As far as we can tell, clothing styles are similar to Egypt and Tunisia, although Libya is less urbanized than Egypt. We think Arab-style clothing is somewhat more common than im Egypt, at least urban styles which are more Westernized. Iraly seems to hacehad less impact on liya than Britan had in Egypt or France had on Tunisia and Slgeria.

Photography

We have little information about the history of Libyan photography. We do not yet have any 19th century photographic images from Libya. This is because it was extremely backward. It was, however, nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. In other aran countries, photography was intriduced by Europeans bring ing the needed technology. We do not know what the demand, if any, for photography was in Libya during the 19th century. Presumbly photography de eloped more significanly with the arrvival of the Italians. We do not yet have any exmples of Italian work. We do note a German photograher active we think in the warly-1940s with the arivl of the Afrika Korps. He has left us some interesting ethnographic images, but as far as we can tell he made no attempt to develop any lind of relationship with them, only photographing a few along the roads or around German military camp.







HBC





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Created: 9:21 PM 2/9/2010
Last updated: 6:05 PM 12/28/2016