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LIBYA is a vast, north African country that stretches from the south coast of the Mediterranean to, and in some parts beyond, the Tropic of Cancer. The Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is an oil-rich country, but most of its territory is uninhabited, consisting of a rocky or sandy desert with extensive “sand seas.”

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The Sahara Desert covers much of the country, extending right to the Gulf of Sirte’s Mediterranean coast. The only green areas are the scrublands found in the north­west and the forested hills near Benghazi.

In general, Libya’s terrain con­sists of undulating rocky plains with two areas of hills, one in the north­west and one in the northeast, and an outcrop of the Tibesti Massif the border with Chad.

The climate is hot and dry, although moister on the coast where there is winter rainfall. Natural vegetation is very sparse and confined to some coastal areas, hill slopes, and oases. Wildlife species consist of animals able to survive reasonably harsh conditions, notably reptiles, rodents, gazelles, hyenas, and vultures.

Most people live in cities and urban areas along the north coast. Some people, however, still follow a seminomadic, traditional way of life. Many sheep, goats, and cattle are reared, and there is an export trade in skins, hides, and hairs. The central agricultural region is northwest near Tripoli (Tarabulus), but this depends on rainfall. The main crops produced are wheat, tomatoes, fruits, and barley.

Libya is one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas producers and produces potash and marine salt. Other industries include food processing, textiles, cement, and handicrafts.

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More than six hundred million years ago, an enormous mountain range once covered Libya, which lies on the African Tectonic Plate. Over the centuries, the sea advanced then retreated over the region; the corresponding water, wind, and temperature changes eroded the mountains, leaving behind the sands and plateaus that comprise Libya’s landscape. The fourth-largest country in Africa, Libya, is sectioned into three main geographical areas: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan. Tripolitania covers the northwestern corner of the country, and the Fezzan covers the land south of Tripolitania. Cyrenaica, the largest geographic region, covers the entire eastern half of the country. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica are made up of low-lying land and plateaus. Tripolitania contains the Nafūsah Plateau, and Cyrenaica houses the Jabal al-Akhdar (Green Mountains). Fezzan is home to desert lands, including the Sahara.

Libya has a northern coast along the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean is an almost completely landlocked sea between southern Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia. It links to the Atlantic Ocean (at its western point) through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Red Sea (at its southeastern shore) through the Suez Canal. It also connects to the Black Sea in the northeast through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus.

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The Sahara Desert covers 9,065,000 square kilometers (3,500,000 square miles) and is the largest desert in the world. The Sahara covers the entire region of North Africa, from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Red Sea in the east. It borders the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the north and extends into a southern region known as the Sahel and Sudan. Scientists believe that during the Ice Age (about fifty thousand to one hundred thousand years ago), the Sahara was once covered with shallow lakes that provided water for large lush vegetation areas. Now, it is a vast and barren wasteland of rocky plateaus and sand.

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