Libya is literally covered by the Sahara Desert. The only exception is the narrow 1200 mile coastline bordering the Mediterranean Sea, where almost 80% of its population resides.
Once part of the Roman province of New Africa, it was subsequently controlled by the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. In modern times it was occupied by the British and French, but since 1969, the country is led by the government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.
In total, there are six distinct historical periods of Libya: Ancient Libya, the Roman era, the Islamic era, Ottoman rule, Italian rule, and the Modern era.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Libya's coastal plain was once inhabited by nomadic hunters and herders around the thirtieth millennium BC. This culture prospered until 2000 BC as the desert began expanding, thus forcing the population to migrate into the Sudan.
Tripoli, the ancient capital city, was designed by the Romans, and remains one of the most exotic destinations on the planet. They conquered the region around Tripoli (Tripolitania) in 106 BC, and unified all three of Libya's provinces into the single Africa proconsularis.
Libya flourished under Roman ruling, and experienced a golden age during the 2nd century AD. Tripoli remained wealthy and prosperous for over 400 years, and grew to be a major exporter of olive oil.
An army of 40,000 Arabs conquered the area in 647 AD, and integrated Libya into the Abbasid dynasty by the year 750.
Although the Abbasid dynasty managed to restore order and bring a measure of prosperity to the region, the economic and political stability of Libya began to slowly collapse.
The beginning of the 16th century marked a period of minimal central authority within Libya, and its waterways grew into a haven for pirates. The Ottomans arrived in the mid-1500s, and Libya was divided into three provinces: Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis.