The Culture Of Libya

Ruins near Al Khums, Libya.
Ruins near Al Khums, Libya.

Culture is a term that refers to the totality of a people's way of life, and it includes a wide range of issues such as the food people eat, the clothes they wear, and the way they organize their societies. Libya is a North African nation that occupies an area of about 679,363 square miles and in 2018 it was home to approximately 7,200,000 people. Libya has a unique cultural heritage that draws upon its rich history as well as the multiple communities that live within the nation's borders. Archaeological discoveries in Libya indicate that people had lived within the nation's borders since at least 8000 BC when the climate was more conducive to agriculture. The climate was one of the main factors that affected the region's culture as it influenced migration into and out of the area. Another factor that influenced Libyan culture is the interaction with other cultures such as the Greeks, the Romans, and the Phoenicians. The Italians also influenced the Libyan way of life as they took control of the nation during the colonial period.

People and Societies

Despite Libya's vast size, it has a population density of about 9.7 people per square kilometer with most of the people living along the nation's coastline in cities such as Misurata and Tripoli. Libyan societies are particularly conservative with a lot of emphasis placed on stereotypical gender roles. The Libyan people have a tradition of women being completely covered and excluded from the society which is referred to as purdah. The practice limits the freedom women have when outside their homes. Libyan societies hold marriage in high esteem because it ensures the family line does not die out. Among more traditional Libyan families, the parents and the older members of the family bear the responsibility of arranging marriages for the younger generation. Libyan men are required to pay a bride price to the bride's family before the wedding can take place.

Food and Drinks

Libyan cuisine is one of the most famous all over the world due to its unique flavor. Its popularity might be because it draws from a large number of culinary traditions such as the Berber, Italian, and Arabian traditions. Due to the widespread influence of Sharia law, eating pork is illegal in the nation. In place of pork, other meals have gained widespread attention such as Bazin which is a type of bread whose main ingredient is barley. The most common way of consuming Bazin is with a sauce made of lamb meat as well as peppers and tomato paste. Due to the ease of making Bazin, it is one of the most commonly eaten meals in the country. Due to Libya’s vast size, each region has a unique culinary tradition that draws on different influences. The people living around Tripoli prefer eating meals inspired by the Italian culinary tradition. In the nation’s southern section, the meals are generally prepared following the Arabian and Berber culinary traditions. The people of Libya have a great fondness for tea and have developed a unique blend known as Libyan Tea which has a very specific method of preparation. Sodas and coffee are also popular beverages in Libya.

Art and Literature

Art has been an essential section of the Libyan way of life since the early days of human settlement in the country. The southwestern area of Libya is well-known throughout the world because of the rock art located there which has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Libya's artistic traditions have inspired several of the nation's most popular artists, for example, Ali Omar Ermes whose work has been showcased in some cities such as St Petersburg, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi. Libyan literature is one of the most diverse in the Arab world as the Libyans established a unique literary style based on both Arabian and Italian influences. Politics has always played a significant role in Libyan literature with publications such as al-Bawākir and al-Muṣawwar chronicling the Libyan political experience. Libya also has some well-known poets such as Khaled Mattawa who apart from being a renowned poet has also translated poetry from Arabic to English.

Music and Dance

Music in Libya is mainly tribal although several musicians have transcended the tribal divide in the country and become national stars such as Mohammed Hassan and Ahmed Fakroun. There are several popular musical instruments in Libya such as the darbuka, the zokra, and the oud which are a common component of Libyan folk music. Dancing, mainly traditional dancing, is quite popular in Libya with television channels often featuring programs that involve traditional dance. Dancing is also popular during events with the Hagallah, usually being performed at weddings.


Data from the CIA World FactBook indicates that the population of Libya is mainly Muslim with the Sunni branch being the most widespread. Islam has had a significant presence in Libya since the Arabs invaded and took control of the territory from the Byzantines. The Islamic rulers built mosques and were successful in converting the Berber tribes in Libya to Islam. Religion is a significant part of the life of many Libyans, and it influences the nation's law. Although Christianity does not have a dominant presence in Libya, the Coptic Orthodox church has a couple of members in the country. The church's growing presence in the nation is due to the migration of Egyptians to Libya.

Sports and Leisure

The Libyan people place a lot of emphasis on sports with camel racing and horse racing having a presence in the nation for the longest period. The sports are still popular mainly in the rural areas where access to modern sporting facilities is limited. In the urban areas, soccer and basketballs are some of the most popular leisure activities. The Libyan people are passionate about soccer, and in 1982 the nation hosted the African Cup of Nations. Libya is a common participant in the Summer Olympics; however, they are yet to achieve success at the event. Libya does not participate in the Winter Olympics because the climate is not conducive to winter sports.


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