Libya Geography

By | September 27, 2021


The oldest fund of the Libyan population is represented by Berber groups that the successive invasions of Arab peoples have gradually confined to the country’s refuge areas, and in particular above the Tripolitania hills. In Jabal Nafūsah these ancient populations, who live in the characteristic kasr, have partly preserved their identity, but otherwise the country is populated by Arab-Berber people, with a high percentage of pure Arabs. Apart from the Saharan populations, such as the Tuaregh and Tebu. The former populate the oases of Tripolitania and much of the Fezzan, that is the areas rich in human testimonies that refer to the most ancient Saharan populations and the Garamanti Roman period; the latter are confined to the southernmost oases and are notoriously Saharan people with traces of “black” blood.

The Romans were responsible for the first colonization of the Libyan coastal areas, and with this their stable population, which then experienced a new flowering under the Arabs. However, the development of Libyan lands was never full and subsequently, under Ottoman rule, the country experienced a painful decline. The Italian conquest revitalized, albeit in the forms proper to colonialism, the Libyan economy and created solid foundations for the population of the coastal regions, both through the renewal of agriculture and through the commercial impulse given to the cities. At the first census of 1931 there were 704,000 residents in Libya, which became 848,600 in 1936. The increase, however, was due to Italian immigration: in that year 13% of the population was in fact represented by Italians (112,600), largely farmers. After the Second World War, the Italian presence decreased and was further reduced starting in the 1970s, following a wave of Arab nationalism, which also led to the confiscation of all property belonging to foreigners.

According to threergroup, the current population consists of Libyans (57%), Egyptians (8%), Berbers (7%), Sudanese (4%), Tunisians (3%) and other groups (21%). The oil activities then detained numerous European and American technicians in Libya, attracting significant masses of workers from other Arab countries. The natural increase is very rapid: the population thus passed to 4,404,986 residents at the census of 1995 and at 5 million according to the estimates of 1998, 1999 and 2000 and finally at almost 6 and a half million in 2017. The country has a very lowaverage density (3.80 residents / km²), due to the unfavorable climatic and environmental conditions. The most populous areas are those around Tripoli and Benghazi, where there are over 200 residents / km². In the other coastal areas there are averages that can reach 50 residents / km², while inside the population is concentrated in the oases. The urban population, which in 1973 made up 24% of the total population, had risen to 79.8% in 2017.

However, there are still conspicuous groups of nomadsand semi- nomads, which however belong to the oasis centers, some of which are very populous, such as Ghadāmis, Sabhā, Ghāt, Murzūq, Cufra etc. Today in the desert there are oil centers, which in many cases have attracted the residents of the oases. Throughout the sixties of the twentieth century and in the following decade, conspicuous migratory flows were added, which brought about 600,000 foreign workers (in particular Arabs and Turks) to Libya, attracted by the industrialization launched in the country and by public works programs. Subsequently, economic difficulties and conflicts and in international relations have prompted the Libyan authorities to expel part of this foreign labor force. Libya continued its demographic, infrastructural and productive growth process during the nineties, while paying for the negative effects of the embargo commercial decreed by the international community in 1992 and removed in 1999. In spite of this, the country remains substantially depopulated and far from reaching the critical demographic mass which would allow it a differentiated development of the production structure and would put it in conditions of greater security from a strategic point of view. The population is concentrated in large part along the coastal strip. § The country’s territorial organization naturally refers to the coastal centers and in particular to the two major cities: Tripoli, which is the most populous and the liveliest in the country, also due to its significant port and industrial activity, and Benghazi, the historic capital. of Cirenaica, also with port functions. Other important coastal centers are Misrata (Misrātah) and Derna (Darnāh), respectively in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, revitalized by their agricultural hinterlands. On the coasts of the Gulf of Sirte new centers have sprung up which act as an outlet for oil traffic: among these the main one is Marsa Brega (Marsá a-Burayquah). A recently founded city is El Beida (Al-Baydā), commissioned by the last Senusite king, located on the Cyrene hills.


In the coastal area, where rainfall is more abundant, the vegetation is own of the Mediterranean regions (mastic trees, carob trees, oaks, cypresses etc.); in the interior there are steppe expanses of grasses, including the alpha, interrupted by thorny shrubs. Much of the Libyan territory is covered by the desert almost totally devoid of vegetation except in the oases, where date palms, figs, olive trees and oranges grow. Libya extends along the migration route of numerous bird species, including quail, turtle doves, ducks, herons and snipe. In this harsh territory live eagles, hawks, vultures, camels, dromedaries, gazelles, scorpions, snakes and various reptiles. Desertification and scarcity of water resources are certainly the most urgent environmental problems: the depletion of aquifers, caused by their excessive exploitation, is causing the infiltration of marine waters into the soil and a consequent increase in soil salinity. The percentage of protected areas is very low and only 0.1% of the territory is protected by the state. There are seven national parks.

Libya Country and People