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Friday 24th May
Libya Facts
The name Libya originates from a name by which the ancient Egyptians knew a particular Berber tribe, Libo. The Greeks used the name Libya to apply to most of North Africa.

Many Libyans can trace their descent from tribes which moved from Arabia in the eleventh century.

Tripoli was founded by the Phoenicians and expanded by the Romans.

Benghazi was first settled by the Greeks.

Cyrene was founded by Greek settlers from the island of Thera.

The city of Cyrene was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 364 AD.

Much of Cyrene's wealth was earned from silphium, a spice very popular in Greek cooking.

Among the important buildings of the city of Cyrene was the temple of Apollo dating back to seventh century BC.

Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276BC- 197) was a famous Greek mathematician who worked on prime numbers and geometry. He made an accurate measurement of the circumference of the earth.

Cyrene's author, Callimachus, was a major influence on the Roman poets Ovid and Catullus.

Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his Cross as he was taken to be crucified.

The Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus, was born in the Libyan city of Leptis Magna.

Libya has many well preserved Roman remains which were protected for hundreds of years by the desert sands.

The Roman Baths at Leptis Magna were built of marble. Some of the columns from the Baths are believed to be in Windsor Castle in the UK.

In the mid sixteenth century Libya became part of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1911 Italy annexed Libya. During the 1930s Italian peasants were settled on the farming land of Libya.

During World War II the Allies fought the Italians and Germans in Libya; the most famous battle was at Tobruk.

The Kingdom of Libya was established in 1951 after five years under British administration appointed by the United Nations.

Libya became a member of the League of Arab States in 1953.

Gamal Abdul Nasser, the leader of Egypt from 1954 to 1970, and his ideas of Arab solidarity were key influences on the Libyan revolutionaries who overthrew the monarchy in 1969.

After the military coup led by Muammar Al Qathafi (Colonel Gaddaffi) Libya became known as the Libyan Arab Republic.

Libya had one of the lowest standards of living in the world until the oil boom of the 1960s.

The women of Libya were given the vote in 1963.

Muammar Al Qathafi, the leader of the Libyan revolution, set out his thoughts in The Green Book.

In 1988 Colonel Al Qathafi made the point that borders between Arab countries are artificial and exist as a result of colonialism; he demonstrated this by driving a bulldozer and knocking down a customs post on the border between Libya and Tunisia.

Libya provides free education and medical care for all Libyans.

Libya has no natural rivers. Irrigation and water supply depends mainly on water drawn from wells. There are fears about increasing the salinity of the soil by lowering the water table through overuse of wells.

The exploration for oil in the southern deserts of Libya discovered vast underground resources of water.

The Great Manmade River Project was planned to reclaim land from the desert with the aim of agricultural self-sufficiency by bringing water from the natural underground supplies in the south. The natural reserves tapped by this civil engineering project will provide water for several hundred years.

On 19 December 2003 Libya decided to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. The UK Foreign Secretary hailed Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi as "statesmanlike and courageous". Al Qathafi's initiative cleared the way for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Libya.

On 16th February 2011, the arrest of a human rights campaigner sparked violent protest in the city of Benghazi in the east of Libya with the unrest rapidly spreading to other cities. The protests escalated and before long a revolution ensued with fighting between anti-Gaddafi rebels and government forces. A mass airlift of foreign nationals began on the 2nd March involving British, French and Tunisian aircraft. On 18th March the UN Security Council voted to impose a no-fly zone and air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces. Air and missile strikes commenced within 48 hours lead by a coalition of the US, France and Britain although command transferred to NATO by the beginning of April. On 30th March Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected to the UK.

Colonel Gaddafi was killed in October 2011 when rebel fighters captured his hometown of Sirte.

In September 2023, extensive damage was caused by two dams bursting in the coastal city of Derna, Libya; buildings and over eleven thousand people were swept away.

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