Libya is one of Africa’s wealthiest countries thanks to its natural resources such as crude oil. However, the country has been marred with political instability, rebel wars, and interference from Western forces, thereby suppressing its potential. For the longest time, the country’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was at loggerheads with the West and was wanted for the atrocities he committed. His eventual death resulted in divided opinions, painting a certain picture of the country. Here are some lesser-known facts about Libya.
1. Libya was One of the 7 Countries that Voted Against the Setup of the ICC
In 1998, the decision to form the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7. Libya was one of the seven countries that voted against this policy. Others included the United States, Qatar, China, and Iraq.
2. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s Favorite Car was a Fiat 500
Even though Gaddafi owned a fleet of vehicles, his favorite was a green and gold Fiat 500. It is estimated to cost £175,000 and run on electricity instead of petrol. This Fiat 500 was seized in 2011 by Libyan rebels in Bab al-Azizia.
3. A UCLA Student VisitedLibya During Summer Break and Fight with the Rebels
In 2011, a 21-year-old Chris Jeon visited Libya so he could fight with the rebels. Jeon was a Chinese UCLA math student at the time and was on summer break. He bought a one-way ticket to Cairo, Egypt, before sneaking into Libya. According to Jeon, he thought joining the rebels was cool; it was a perfect idea for getting a “sick” vacation.
3. Same-Sex Acts are Prohibited in Libya
In 1953, Libya adopted a penal code that criminalizes same-sex activity. Such acts are considered indecent and carry a punishment of up to five years imprisonment. To date, Libyans believed to be LGBTQ members suffer constant harassment from both armed militia and the police. The law applies to both men and women.
4. Female Guards Protected The Former Libyan Leader
Also known as the Revolutionary Nuns, the elite female bodyguards were tasked with protecting Libya’s then president Muammar Gaddafi. Estimates show more than 400 women were recruited as Revolutionary Nuns. They also served as the leader’s housekeepers.
5. A Former Minister Said Gaddafi Blew Up a Libyan Plane Intending to Blame the West
In 2011, the former justice minister of Libya told a Swedish newspaper that Gaddafi was responsible for bombing a Libyan plane in 1988. The Lockerbie bombing claimed 270 lives, whose families were compensated by the Libyan government. Gaddafi blamed the Western governments for the ordeal.
6. Gunmen Once Opened Fire from Inside the Libyan Embassy in London, Killing a Policewoman
During a protest outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984, two gunmen opened fire on unknowing protesters from inside the building using Sterling submachine guns. An English policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, was shot and killed, and 11 other protesters were wounded. This led to an 11-day siege of the Libyan Embassy. Those found inside the building were deported from the UK; the diplomatic ties between the two countries were severely affected.
7. Boxing Was Banned in Libya in 1979
In 1979, boxing, wrestling, and other combat sports were banned in Libya. At the time, the country’s president, Muammar Gaddafi, considered the sports to be too violent. However, after his demise, the locals started reviving them.
8. Libya Had an All-Green Flag from 1977 to 2011
Libya chose an all-green flag from 1977 to 2011; it represented Gaddafi’s political philosophy. During that period, Libya was the only country in the world to have a plain colored flag in the world.
9. Libya Has the Biggest Oil Reserves in Africa
From the most recent data, Libya is the wealthiest country in Oil in Africa, with 48.4 billion barrels of oil reserves. Nigeria ranks second with 36.9 billion barrels of oil.
10. More than 90% of Libya is a Desert
The majority of Libya’s land mass is either a desert or a semi-desert. The temperatures there are very hot during the day, making the conditions unsuitable for agriculture, which is one of Africa’s most prominent economic activities. Libya imports 75% of its food from neighboring countries.
11. Libyans Love Tea
As is the case with most Arabs, Libyans love their tea! They serve it from morning to evening. They prefer it thicker, almost like a syrup.
12. Gaddafi Was Libya’s Longest Serving Leader
Muammar Gaddafi was and remains Libya’s longest-serving leader – he ruled from 1969 to 2011. After leading for 42 years, he is also one of the longest-serving African leaders.
13. 97 Percent of Libyans are Muslim
Libya is mainly an Islamic country, with at least 97% of the population being staunch followers of this religion. There are two main ethnic groups in Libya: the Berbers and the Arabs. This contributes to the overwhelming majority.