Animals and Plants
What is growing in Libya?
The desert occupies most of the country. Only a few plants that can get by with little water can survive there. Occasionally you can find acacias, tamarisks and grasses. It grows lush in the oases, where the residents often grow date palms.
Typical Mediterranean plants can be found on the Mediterranean coast, where it rains at least in winter. The highlands of Jebel Akhdar are particularly fertile. There are even small areas of forest here, as well as junipers, mastic bushes and carob trees. Seven national parks and other protected areas were set up to protect nature.
Which animals live in Libya?
Typical animals of the desert or semi-desert are fenneks (desert foxes), dune gazelles, gerbils, striped hyenas and black cats. In total there are only 87 species of mammals in the country.
The bird world is more diverse with 338 species that have been counted so far. These include many migratory birds such as the white stork. Birds are also found in the desert, such as the desert sparrow or the desert raven. There are also reptiles. Lizards, turtles and snakes are among them.
Huge oil reserves are stored in Libya and off the coast of the country – the largest in Africa. Since it was discovered, oil has become the most important element of the Libyan economy. Crude oil generates 80 percent of the total economic output and 90 percent of the income from exports. The oil also ensures that Libya is doing well economically overall. In the Human Development Index it is the country in Africa with the best value.
Problems of the economy
Despite a good economic situation, unemployment is high in Libya, especially among young people. The dependence on oil makes the economy fragile: as soon as oil prices fall, so do revenues. In addition, the oil sector provides only a few jobs and makes only a few people rich.
The political situation is unstable. The civil war led to falling production. Added to this are poor water and electricity supplies and a lack of security. Islamists repeatedly cause deaths and injuries with terrorist attacks. They also want to bring oil and gas production under their control because it guarantees high income.
Agriculture can only be practiced in a narrow belt on the Mediterranean Sea and in the rainier northeast of Libya. Agriculture does not even contribute two percent (1.3 in 2017) to the entire economy. Still, 17 percent of the population work in it.
In addition to wheat and barley, dates and olives are mainly grown. Dates come mainly from the oases in the desert. Major irrigation projects began in the Kufra oases in southeast Libya in the 1970s. There, circular fields are irrigated using a specific circular irrigation system. You can see a photo of it below.
Most of the food has to be imported from Libya, the needs of the population cannot be met in their own country.
What is life like in Libya?
Arabic is spoken in Libya. The signs are of course in Arabic too. By the way, you read that from right to left! If you lived in Libya, that would be completely normal for you. For shopping you would go to the market district, the souk, or a small shop. There you pay with dinars.
Like their parents, almost all Libyan children belong to Islam. That also shapes everyday life. For example, you don’t eat pork. In the fasting month of Ramadan you are not allowed to eat or drink anything during the day, but only after sunset. However, this does not apply to children. In Libya it is legal for a man to have more than one wife.
In recent years, however, one thing in particular has determined everyday life: the civil war. In 2011 and then again from 2014 there was a lot of violence in the country. This continues to this day, as several groups are fighting for power. Among them is the terrorist organization “Islamic State”, which repeatedly carries out attacks. All schools were partially closed. Many Libyans have fled.
Children and School
School in Libya
Libyan children start school when they are six. School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 15, i.e. up to 9th grade. Teaching is in Arabic. The school year starts in mid-September.
At the time of the ruler Gaddafi – until 2011 – all students had to learn his thoughts and ideas and read the “Green Book” in which he recorded them. A picture of the dictator hung in each classroom. It’s different today.
Incidentally, many schools were closed or turned into hospitals during the civil war. Although school enrollment rates are high in the country, this led to problems in education, as many children naturally missed classes. That was the case in 2011, but also in 2014 and 2015, when there was again fighting in the country. Today classes are taking place again in many schools.
Eating in Libya
What do the Libyans eat?
The recipes and ingredients of Libyan cuisine were influenced by the Mediterranean and North Africa, by Arabs, Berbers and Italians. Meat is mainly eaten from lamb and chicken, while pork is forbidden for Muslims. Typical vegetables are onions, tomatoes, chilies and chickpeas. As in Morocco or Algeria, there is often couscous with it. This is coarsely ground grain, mostly wheat, which only needs to be poured with boiling water and then cooked.
Saffron, cayenne pepper, mint, parsley and coriander add flavor. Often times, dates, figs, oranges, apricots and olives are also used. Especially in Tripoli you can still feel the influence from Italy. For example, there is often pasta here.
Bazin: dumpling with tomato sauce
Bazin is the name of a bread. You bring barley or wheat flour to the boil in salted water and then form a dumpling from the dough. It is then baked and finally placed in the middle of the plate. The bazin is then served with a tomato sauce, potatoes, boiled eggs and mutton or lamb. This is how you see it in the picture. Bazin is considered the national dish of Libya. It is traditionally eaten with the right hand and together from a large plate.
What is Asida?
Asida is a dish that you also need bazin for. Honey, date syrup and butter are other ingredients. So Asida is cute. It is especially eaten as breakfast. The brown sauce in the picture is the date syrup. It is also used in other areas in Libya, a country located in Africa according to historyaah.
Shorba Libiya – Libyan soup
A typical food from Libya is also Shorba Libiya: the Libyan soup. It is also popular in Algeria and Tunisia and is sometimes called Shorba Arabiya, or Arabic soup. In addition to meat (mostly from mutton or lamb), there are either small noodles (they are called orzo or we also call them Greek noodles) or bulgur as well as various vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, carrots or zucchini. It is seasoned with mint and coriander. You can cook the Shorba – have a look at our hands-on recipe !
Lastly, sweets – with dates and honey
In Libya, as in other Arab countries, people like it sweet for dessert. Pastries are often made with honey, dates, and nuts. Fruit is also popular: in addition to bananas, there are often figs (fresh in late summer, otherwise dried) and of course dates. They grow on date palms, often in oases.