• Origin of Name
  • Facts & Statistics
  • National Anthem
  • Flags
  • Geography



abstract composition of Libya



hieroglyphic name Rebu

The Berber name Rebu in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.


The Origin of The Name Libya

There are several theories attempting to explain the origin of the name, but it is almost certain that it comes from the ancient Berber tribe known to the ancient Egyptians as Rebu or Ribu; from which the Greeks derived "Libya", and which the Arabs of today's Egypt know as Lubia, whence Lubians, in line with their relatives and neighbours the Nubians. The name "Libia", as found in the archaeological site of "Qaser Libia", in Cyrenaica, is widely thought to have been derived from the ancient village of Olbia. Some sources also derive the names "Libya" and "Lubda" (Leptis Magna) from Lewwa, one of the Berber ancestors given by Ibn Khaldun. However, the Greek form Leptis itself was derived from the Berber and Punic Libqi, which Bates linked to the Berber Ribu.

According to the Berber Leo Africanus (1600, p.13), it was called "Libya" by the Greeks, "Because it was in old time conquered by Libs the king of Mauritania. In the holie scriptures it is called Chamesis, by the Arabians and Ethiopians Alkebulam, and by the Indians Besecath.” In the Bible the Libyans appeared as the Lubim, or Lebahim, the son of Mizraim; which Oric Bates was the first to identify with the modern variant Ta-Mazigh-t -- an appellation widely applied to the proud Berbers of North Africa.

The proposed etymology of 'Libya' being moisture has no support other than the "Libyan wind" which brought rain to Greek mainland; and as it is obvious that Greek Libu is the same as Egyptian Ribu one does not need to propose a Greek etymology for a name that is not Greek. The proper etymology must be sought in the mother language of the given word - the ancient Libyan language: Tamazight, others know as 'Berber'. Egyptian and Berber languages are both members of the Hamitic branch of the Hamito-Samitic linguistic family, and many of the ancient Egyptian and Berber mythical gods and goddesses are still represented on the rock art of the great Mother Sahara, in what is known as the largest collection of prehistoric art in the world: well over one hundred thousand sites.



ancient Libyans in Egyptian drawings

Ancient Libyans, as pictured by the ancient Egyptians.



The Mythology of The Name Libya

Libya was also the name of the Goddess known to the Greeks as the Goddess Libya, and also of the whole continent before the Romans named it Africa after the Berber Goddess Afri. In mythology, the "Goddess Libya" had three sons by the Libyan Sea-God Poseidon: Belus, Agenor and Lelex. King Belus ruled  at Chemmis or Chamesis of Leo Africanus,  Agenor migrated to Cana'an (the Middle East), and Lelex became king of Megara. The wife of Belus Anchinoe, daughter of the Nile-god Nilus, bore him three sons: Aegyptus, Danaus and Cepheus, and  one daughter:  Lamia, the Libyan Snake-goddess. The myth relates an interesting "deception tale" in which Danaus was sent to rule Libya where he had fifty daughters, and Aegyptus, who had fifty sons, ruled over Egypt.


The Political Name of Libya

The following map shows how the country looked like during the colonial periods. A look at the map of Egypt (bordered red) shows traces of the ancient Libya, as in the "Libyan Desert", the site of the Libyan Desert Glass, and the "Libyan Plateau".  Not much was left of Libya then; just an Italian-occupied  regency called TRIPOLI. Note how Cyrenaica was made part of British-Egypt before the Italian takeover.



Map of Libya
Map of Libya & North Africa in 1914, showing The Country Tripoli (in green).
From: Harmsworth's Atlas of The World And Pictorial Gazetteer With An Atlas of The Great War,
Edited by J. A. Hammerton, The Amalgamated Press, LTD., London, pp. 284-285.

In 1912 the Ottoman Turks surrendered control of Tripoli to Italy in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne. In 1918 the Tripolitanian Republic was created to become the first ever republic in North Africa & the Middle East; only to be destroyed by the Italians a few years later. Following the Benyadem Peace Accord  the constitution (known as The Primary Law) was created for the republic on May 1919, and  an 8-member government was appointed for the Republic. Unfortunately the Tripolitanian Republic never gained the full support in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and subsequently it disappeared from the pages of history.



libya map  during imperial military geography
1920s Italian Tripoli, from:
"Imperial Military Geography", by D. H. Cole, London, 1928, p. 78.

This map shows how Tripoli was enlarged by the colonial powers in 1919 to arrive at the current map of Libya: the area between the dotted lines and the actual borders (on the left) was given to Italy by France in accordance with the secret treaty of London; while the area between the dotted [red] lines and the actual borders (on the right) was given to Italy by Britain; with some sources saying the British attempt to add Cyrenaica (Barqa) to their Egyptian colony was blocked by the Italians who quickly formulated "Libya" to include Cyrenaica.

Also, note how the borders with Sudan were before 1935, when Italy received the "Aouzou Strip" as a result of the Mussolini-Laval agreement. The Libyans fiercely resisted the Italian takeover (from the Turks) and continued to fight the Italians until 1931, when the fascists hanged the leader of the resistance Omar Almukhtar, in humiliation before his conquered people. Unfortunately foreign powers continue to interfere in other sovereign states with unfortunate consequences being effected in the name of  "independence", "democracy" and now "mistakes".




libya map in 1911

(Image from the Chronicle of the 20th Century, Longman, 1988, p.159).
As part of a larger map of Africa under the year 1911.

The Longman's Chronicle stated that in the last 40 years (prior to 1911) "Africa became the cockpit for colonial rivalries; in one generation the map of a continent has been redrawn with new boundaries, new names and new masters". Libya at the time was disputed between Italy and Turkey.



libya map under Italian occupation in 1934
Libya under Italian occupation, 1934.
Image based on the image from: Administrative subdivision of Italian Libya, from "Atlantino storico" (1938),
by professor Arcangelo Ghisleri (1855-1938),
via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Administrative_subdivision_of_Italian_Libya


The actual name "LIBYA" as a state (or a country) came into effect for the first time around 1934 when the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were united during the Italian occupation; initially Fezzan was not included. In 1943 Italian Tripoli came under the control of the Allied forces: the British took Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (the British Military Administration of Libya), while France took Fezzan (the Military Territory of Fezzan-Ghadames).  However, all the three provinces were united into one country (namely Libya) on the 24th of December 1951, when Libya was granted its (so-called) independence to become the United Kingdom of Libya.

Shortly after the installation of Colonel Mua’mmar al-Qaddafi (Gaddafi) in 1969, Libya became known as the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, where the last word became synonymous with Libya. Many Libyans feel the introduction of the term "Arab" by the government into the name of Libya does not democratically represent all the populations of Libya, originally inhabited by the Berbers ('Imazighen'), and still is inhabited by the Berbers in various parts of the country, including most of Nafousa Mountain, Zuwarah, Ghadames, Jalo, Awjlah, and most of the Sahara, the home of the Berber Tuareg confederacies.

However, "Libya" is back as the official name of the country after the installation of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in 2011; only to be changed once more on the 8th of January 2013 by the GNC to دولة ليبيا (meaning "The State of Libya"); until the final name is decided by the forthcoming constitution. No one knows why the word "state" was added to the official name - maybe to distinguish it from "The Goddess Libya"!




map of ancient Libya during the Egyptian empire

Map of Ancient Libya, showing the locations of the native Berber tribes of Ancient Egypt.


The above ancient map, which is over 2000 years older than the colonial map, shows there was no Egypt, just a huge expanse of land known to classical geographers and historians as Libya, to the extent that the name Libya also came to designate the whole continent of Africa. When the Romans arrived through the western gates (Tripolitania and Tunisia), they adopted the name Aprica or Africa, originally from the Berber name of the local tribes who inhabited the region, as in Yefren today, and thereafter Libya became known as Africa. This means that the names "Libya" and "Africa" are both Berber in origin.


Facts & Statistics

  • Name: Libya (ليبيا).
  • Nationality: Libyan (لیبی , ليبيية).
  • Capital: Tripoli.
  • Area: 1.759.540 sq. km.
  • Coastline: 1,770 km.
  • Week Holidays: Friday & Saturday.
  • GDP per capita: $16,000.
  • Working Hours Summer: 7:30 am to 3:00 pm; Winter: 8:00 am to 3:30 pm.
  • Libyan Population: 5 million approximately.
  • Immigrant Population: 1.5 million approximately.
  • Total Population: 6,461,454 (July 2010).
  • Literacy: 82.6%.
  • Installation of King Idris: 24/12/1951.
  • Installation of Col. Gaddafi: 01/09/1969.
  • 17 February 2011 Uprising (UN-Authorised Bombing Campaign).
  • Installation of the NTC: 23/10/2011.
  • Average annual rainfall: 400 mm.
  • Internet (TLD): .ly.
  • Telephone: country code: +218; Tripoli: 021.
  • Emergency Telephone line: 193.
  • Ambulance Telephone line: 191.
  • Driving: on the right-hand-side of the road.
  • Alcohol: all alcoholic drinks were prohibited by Gaddafi.
  • Weights: kilograms; measurements: meter.
  • Life expectancy: 77 years (women), 72 years (men).
  • Monetary Unit (currency): Libyan Dinar (LYD).
  • Climate: Mediterranean along the coast; dry desert in the interior.
  • Average January Temperature: 12 degrees Celsius (about 53 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Average July Temperature: 40 degrees Celsius (about 104 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Ethnic groups: Arabs, Berbers and Tebu (97%); Africans, Asians, Europeans (3%).
  • Electricity: 220, 230, 240 volts - 50 Hz (plugs: two round pins, and three square pins).
  • Post: ordinary and express mail; international DHL available in large cities.
  • Natural Hazards: sand storms; hot, dry, dust-laden wind (gibli) in Spring and Fall.
  • Location: North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan.



The National Anthem




The national anthem was established during the independence of Libya in 1951. The original anthem was written by al-Bashir al-Oreibi, and composed by Mohammed Abdul Wahab (1907-1991). After the staged coup of 1969, the anthem was replaced with an Egyptian "marching song", popularised during the Suez Canal War (1956).



Monarchy & New Libya National Anthem (source: YouTube).






After the February Uprising, the Berbers adopted the same monarchy anthem, with the introduction of Tamazight, instead of Arabic. The anthem is not recognised officially and does not represent the official anthem in any way; but the Berbers saw no harm in singing the national anthem in their language. Likewise the Tamazight flag, it is a mere cultural expression of the new freedom, after the long persecution they endured in the past.



The Independence Anthem in Tamazight,
in Martyrs Square (previously Green Square).

The Flags of Libya



Tripolitanian Republic flag

(1): Flag of  the Tripolitanian Republic (1918 - 1923).
Source: Wikipedia.





the flag of cyrenaica

(2): Flag of Cyrenaica (1949 - 1951).

The name Sanusi (or Senusi) refers to a political-religious order, said to have been founded in 1837 by the grandfather of King Idris, the Grand Sanusi (Sayyid Muhammad Ibn Ali as-Senussi). The black flag with the white star and the crescent was adopted by Idris after he proclaimed the eastern region of Libya as "The Emirate of Cyrenaica" on the 1st of March 1949, and appointed himself the Emir of Cyrenaica. Even though the UK did aknowledge the Emirate, the UN failed to recognise the new country. Two years later (in 1951) he was installed the King of Libya.



the flag of the kingdom of Libya

(3): The Flag of "The Libyan Kingdom" (1951 - 1969).

On the 24th of December 1951 the country was declared an independent state, under the name of The Libyan Kingdom, also known as The United Kingdom of Libya - uniting Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. After the Emir of Cyrenaica was installed the King of Libya, Cyrenaica's flag was modified by the addition of red and green, supposedly to represent Tripolitania and Fezzan.




flag of libya from 1969 to 1972

(4): Flag of the "Libyan Arab Republic" (1969 - 1972).



flag of libya from 1972 to 1977

(5): Flag of the "Federation of Arab Republics".
The federation is a short-lived union between Libya, Syria and Egypt. (1972 - 1977).
Source: wikipedia



the green flag of Gaddafi's libya

(6): Flag of "The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" (1977-2011).




the current flag of Libya 2011

(7): The current official flag of "Libya" (2011).

It is not clear how exactly the flag came to be adopted, nor why a flag of a "corrupt" monarchy should be used to represent what meant to be a "revolutionary" Libya. But like before, the decision was made somewhere, without consulting the Libyan people.

There were a number of Libyan opposition groups that used the monarchy flag in exile during their campaign to depose the ousted despot, and it is possible that one of these groups had re-introduced the flag early on during the uprising. In a matter of weeks it was effectively used all over the country by peaceful protesters, armed rebels, web masters, the NTC, and the international media; followed by a range of flag-decorated products quickly appearing in the market, ranging from hand-held flags, scarves, hats, cups, badges and key-rings among other novelty items.

The flag is now once more the official flag of Libya since the 23rd of October 2011 (The Liberation Day) -- the day Libya was prematurely declared liberated by the NTC from the 42-year rule of Gaddafi. The flag was defined by the NTC in its interim Constitutional Declaration (Article 3). The flag was defined by the NTC in its interim Constitutional Declaration's Article 3, in which the white star was referred to as 'planet': كوكب .





the Berbers' cultural flag

(0): The unofficial, cultural flag of the Berbers (2011).

This flag was used by the Berbers during the uprising as an expression of freedom and  revolt against oppression. It was carried, together with the independence flag, during the February wars by the Berber natives in Zuwarah, Nafousa Mountain, and the oases of the Sahara, as well as by their Libyan Arab brothers from Mesratha and Benghazi. The flag does not represent any political inclinations and has nothing to do with dividing the country, as some Libyans were quick to respond. It is a mere gesture of one's identity and culture, previously oppressed by all the regimes of Libya. Nearly all the Berbers are almost united in Libya staying united, and have no separate tendencies.


sea sparkling under the sun


Libya is located in North Africa and is bordered by the Mediterranean sea from the north, Egypt from the east, Tunisia and Algeria from the west, and Niger, Chad and Sudan from the south. Being the fourth largest country in Africa (1.759.540 sq. km), its coastline stretches for about 1900 kilometres, of sand beaches, clear water, and pure hot sunshine. Geographically speaking, Libya is the African gate through which early human civilisations found their way to Egypt, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Its strategic location was equally responsible for the successive waves of invasions throughout history, from the arrival of the Phoenicians down to Hitler's attack on Tobruk.



The highest temperature in the world was recorded in Libya on the 13th of September 1922, in el-Azizia, was a staggering 136.4 degree Fahrenheit (or 58°C: degrees Celsius). During the period between May and September the coastal temperature can rise to 38°C (100F), while in the southern parts of the country it can reach 50°C. Generally it is recommended to visit Libya between late October and April, when the temperature is generally mellow. However, be prepared as winter temperatures, especially at night, can drop to below 0C. Snow does fall sometimes in Libya, but only in the mountains, just as it does in Morocco’s Jebel Toubkal – North Africa’s highest peak (4167 km).


Demographic Data

The population density varies from region to region. For example, along the coast and in the regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica the density is about 50 persons per a square kilometre, while in Fezzan it drops to less than one person - the reason, of course, being nothing other than the huge expanse of barren sand we know as desert. The ethnic groups of Libya are mainly Arabs, Berbers, Hausa and Tebu. There are also immigrant communities, mostly from North African countries, like Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco; the Middle East; Sub-Saharan Africa; and a very small number from European and Asian countries.


Land Borders & Seaports of Libya


Land Borders:
  • Ras Ejdayr (Tunisian-Libyan border), also spelt as: Ras Ejdir, Ras Jdayr.
  • Musaid [Emsaa'd] (Egyptian-Libyan border).
  • Debdab (Algerian-Libyan border), Ghadames.
  • Wazen (Tunisian-Libyan border), Nalut.
  • Ghat or Tenalkum (Algerian-Libyan border), Ghat.
  • Ethoom or Alqatroun (Niger & Chad-Libyan border).
  • Alkufra  (Sudan-Libyan  border).
  • Zuwarah
  • Tripoli
  • Misratha
  • Khoms
  • Ras Lanuf
  • Briga Commercial
  • Darna
  • Benghazi
  • Tobruk


administrative divisions

Administrative Divisions of Libya

At the highest level, Libya is divided into three regions or provinces: Tripolitania, with its capital Tripoli; Cyrenaica, with Benghazi being the second largest city in Libya; and Fezzan, with Sabha being its political centre. These then became the three mouh'afadat or muhafazat (municipalities), compromising twenty five districts or baladiyat (town halls), which later were replaced by thirty two sha'biyat (plus three administrative regions), before they were finally reduced to twenty two districts, known as sha'biyat or shabiyat (شعبيات), which can be translated as '*populates'.

The current administrative municipalities (numbers are shown in the above map):


An-Nuqat Al-Khams (1)
Az-Zawyah (2)
Tarabulus (Tripoli) (3)
Al-Murgub (4)
Mesratha (5)
Surt (6)
Al-Wahat (7)
Benghazi (8)
Al-Marj (9)
Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar (10)
Al-Butnan (12)
Al-Kufra (13)
Murzuq (14)
Aj-Jufrah (15)
Sabha (16),
Wadi Al-Hayat (17)
Ghat (18)
Wadi As-Shati (19)
Nalut (20)
Al-Jabal Al-Gharbi (21)
Aj-Jfarah (22)


Click here for an image of a table showing the administrative municipalities and their constituent towns and cities, as defined by the ousted government.