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Libya Information - Page 2
The first outsiders to settle in Libya were the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC. They founded the three main cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Tripoli: the area took its name from these three cities (Tripolitania from the Greek words for three and city).

The Greeks followed the colonists in the fifth century BC and after the Roman conquest of Carthage (also founded by the Phoenicians) the area became a province of Rome.

Subsequent conquerors of the region were the Vandals, the Byzantines and then in the seventh century the Arabs.

In the sixteenth century the Spanish captured Tripoli but soon handed it to the Knights of St John based in Malta. The Knights were eventually defeated by the Turks and the area came under the control of the Ottoman Empire ruled from Istanbul.

By the start of the twentieth century the Turkish Empire was crumbling and Italy took the opportunity to invade Libya in 1911 annexing the country. Omar Mokhtar, a celebrated hero, resisted the Italians until 1931.

In the years up to the Second World War the Italians dispossessed thousands of Libyans and gave their land to peasants resettled from Sicily and southern Italy.

During the war the Allies fought and eventually defeated the Italians and Germans. The siege of Tobruk and the tank battles against Rommel were the major campaigns.

After a brief period under British and French rule, overseen by the United Nations, Libya became independent in 1951 as a monarchy ruled by King Idriss.

Libya's early years of independence were marked by the country's extreme poverty but all this changed with the discovery of oil in 1959. Libyan oil has particular chemical advantages and this with its location close to the main markets of Europe gave the industry a great boost. By the mid 1960s Libya was among the world's largest suppliers of oil.

In 1969 a military coup under Colonel Muammar Al Qathafi overthrew King Idriss and established the Libyan Arab Republic. Oil was nationalized and the leases for the USA and the British military bases in Libya were not renewed.

Libya's history in recent years has been troubled. In 1977 there was a brief war with Egypt and between 1977 and 1987 Libya fought with Chad over the northern territory of that country with its uranium deposits.

During the 1980s there was conflict between Libya and members of the Western world. In 1981 two Libyan jet-fighters were shot down by the USA over the Gulf of Sidra and in 1986 the USA sunk two Libyan ships in the same area. Continuing disputes led to the USA with the support of the British Prime Minister bombing military targets in Libya. In 1988 the Lockerbie disaster - when a Pan American flight exploded over Scotland - caused more tension when Libya refused to extradite the suspects (until 1999).

The oil industry, nationalized in 1973, provides the country with its main source of revenue. Libya also has big reserves of natural gas.

Agriculture is an important non-oil sector of the economy. Most of the agricultural activity takes place in the coastal regions though crops are also grown at the larger oases and in the highlands of Jebel Nefusa. Libya's main crops are olives, dates, citrus fruits, wheat and barley. The livestock is mainly sheep, goats, cattle and chickens while camels are important assets in the desert region.The Mediterranean coastline provides fisheries with tuna and sardines the main catch.

Libya's main concern has been the Great Man-made River Project. This huge civil engineering project began in 1984. Water is brought from underground natural reservoirs in the south to the north and to the towns and villages along the route. The project provides water for irrigation schemes which greatly increase the amount of land under cultivation.

In addition to oil and gas Libya's natural resources include gypsum. Other industries are petrochemicals, iron and steel, construction materials, leather and handicrafts, textiles and food processing.

In late February 2011 international authorities commenced imposing economic sanctions against the Gaddafi regime.

The rock paintings of Tadrart Acacus are on the World Heritage List. They record a time before the climate change which brought the desert, when the region supported very different flora and fauna.

Libya has a rich tradition of the arts especially poetry and music. Its famous author Callimachus was a major influence on the Roman poets. Today Libya is blessed with many talented writers and poets.

Swimming, soccer and horse-racing are popular activities.

Libya observes the Islamic holidays and commemorates the Italian, British and US Evacuation Days. Revolution Day is celebrated. Also included is the day which commemorates the declaration of people's authority.

News from Libya is available from Newslink.

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