Libya Geography and Population

By | December 24, 2021

Libya is a State of North Africa, bordering to the West with Tunisia and Algeria, to the South with Niger and Chad, to the SE with the Republic of Sudan, to the East with Egypt ; to the N it overlooks the Mediterranean with a coastline of 1770 km.

Physical characteristics

The Libyan territory is almost entirely a portion of that immense desert expanse which, with mainly tabular forms, extends, with the name of Sahara, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. If in the part overlooking the sea it is easy to divide it into four natural regions (Tripolitania, Gran Sirte, Cirenaica , Marmarica), the same cannot be said for Libya Saharan, which occupies about 95% of the territory. Tripolitania, to the West, consists of three sub-regions: Gefara, or coastal plain, the Gebel, or mountain, which looms over the plain with a steep and steep escarpment (culminating at 968 m in the Jebel Nefusa), and the southern plateau called Ghibla, monotonous plateau furrowed by dry stream beds. The Gran Sirte, continuation towards the E of the Tripolitan plain, takes its name from the wide gulf it overlooks: it is a flat or slightly undulating region, sandy, poor in water, covered by steppes. As an extension of that sirtica the Bengasi plain extends in Cyrenaica, which is narrowing towards the E, where the plateau (Jebel Akhdar, 872 m), formed by tertiary limestone, steeply faces the coast with an imposing staircase. The name Marmarica designates the region to the East of Cyrenaica, partly extended also in Egyptian territory: it consists of a plateau of modest altitude, arid, which descends to the sea with wide and low steps, carved by always dry valley furrows, while inside insensibly declines towards the Libyan Desert. For Libya geography, please check

AS of the marginal regions just described, the widest and most characteristic part of the Libyan territory extends between the Algerian and the Egyptian-Sudanese borders, with its desolate desert landscapes. The predominant landscape is that of the erg, a vast sandy expanse covered with dunes; however, to the South of the Tripolino Jebel the desert has for vast stretches the appearance of a rocky plateau (Hamada al-Hamra), followed further to the South by other shelves, now naked, now masked by vast blankets of sand and pebbles and furrowed by numerous uidians, rich in groundwater and dotted with oases. All the territory that forms the Cyrenaic Jebel belongs to the Libyan Desert, which also continues in neighboring Egypt. Sandy desert and pebbly desert alternate to cover most of the surface, but in some places Nubian sandstones also emerge largely, from which, at the south-eastern end, some isolated massifs rise conspicuously fragmented and demolished by the erosive action.

The climate of Libya is affected both by the influences of the Mediterranean Sea and, above all, by the continental ones of the Sahara. A salient feature of the country is the lack or the accentuated scarcity of rains, as well as their extreme variability from one year to the next. In fact, they remain below 400 mm per year in the coastal strip and in the immediate hinterland and gradually decrease with the progress towards the interior, where very low and even zero values ​​are recorded. Temperatures in coastal locations are mild in winter and not excessive in summer, due to the evident moderating action of the sea: moving away from this, summer values ​​rise and daytime and annual excursions are accentuated (over 22 ° C in Ghadames and 20 ° C in Fezzan).

Due to the scarcity of rainfall and the great permeability of the soil (which on large surfaces is formed by karst limestones), Libya lacks a real subaerial hydrographic network: the numerous uidians represent the beds of temporary or they are witnesses of the existence of perennial rivers in by now very distant times (uidian fossils). In the coastal strip of Tripoli, as in the depressed areas of the interior, lake basins are frequent (sebche) so poor in water that in the dry season they dry up completely and often turn into real salt flats. Moreover, water is not completely lacking: in fact, the superficial circulation is replaced by an underground one, with more or less rich and much less deep aquifers as one proceeds towards the coast. In the central-southern desert region, in particular, there are, at a depth of about 800 m, enormous quantities of fossil waters dating back 3500-5000 years ago, a resource of extraordinary value for a country oppressed by aridity.


The population is essentially made up of an ancient native Berber (Hamitic) substratum, to which the new ethnic, Semitic element has been superimposed (in part by replacing it, in part by merging with it), which came with the Arab invasions of the 7th and even more with those of the 11th century. Today Arabs and Arabized Berbers are in clear predominance (97%). The Italian element represented 13% of the entire population in 1936, but it had already significantly reduced in the years immediately following the Second World War ; then in 1970 the drastic measures of the Libyan government forced the Italian community to leave the country for good.

In the first half of the 20th century, the censuses carried out by the Italians in 1931 and 1936 contributed to providing reliable information on the size of the Libyan population: the increase recorded between the two dates (from 704,700 to 848,000 units) was mainly due to the immigration of Italian farmers and in subordination to the natural increase. The latter, on the other hand, was decisive for the post-war demographic increase: in fact, the birth rate remained very high for a long time, above 40 ‰ (while in 2009 it appeared to be reduced to 25.1 ‰, compared to a mortality rate dropped to 3.4%). The result was a very notable increase which in some periods, during which there was also a considerable immigration, reached almost 5%; in the last decade of the twentieth century the balance of the natural movement stood a little above 2.2%. The absolute population, which was already 1.1 million at the 1954 census, was 3.6 million at the 1984 census and had risen in 2009, according to an estimate, to about 6.4 million. The average density (4 residents/km2) reveals that Libya is a very sparsely populated country, but it says nothing about the actual spatial distribution of the population, strongly concentrated in the coastal strip and in particular around the large urban centers of Tripoli and Benghazi (the Libyan urban population amounts to 80%); proceeding inwards, the human veil becomes thinner and is limited only to the oases.

The official language is Arabic, but Berber is also used by some tribes.

The religion of almost the entire population (97%) is Sunni Muslim.

Libya Geography