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Libyan DesertLibyan Desert Apart from a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast, about 90% of the Libya is made up of the Libyan Desert, part of the vast Sahara Desert and one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. Here, vast sand dunes and gravel plains stretch for hundreds of kilometres; some areas have not seen rain for many years. Even in the north of Libya, there are only a few green areas. This region has a sunny Mediterranean climate and is where Libya’s only farmland is found. The southern desert is too dry to support more than a sparse population. Since 2011, Libya has been racked by political upheaval and civil war, leading to the collapse of its economy.

A map of LibyaA map of Libya
Protesters in Libya, 2012Protesters in Libya, 2012


Libya was first settled by Berber peoples more than 3000 years ago. Today, most Libyans are descendants of the Berbers, as well as Arab and Turkish peoples who have settled in the country in the last millennium. Most of the population lives in a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast. About one sixth of Libyans live in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya. 

The eastern desert is home to the Bedouin people, who live a nomadic herding lifestyle as their families have done for centuries. Another desert people, the Tuareg, live in the southeastern corner of Libya, herding and trading cattle.

Libya’s “Great Manmade River” project is the largest irrigation system in the world. A 2820-km (1750-mile) network of underground pipes pump water from desert aquifers (underground rivers) to the coastal cities of Tripoli, Benghazi and Sirte (Surt).

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