The Tripoli and Cyrenaica regions of present day Libya were Roman colonies until they were conquered by Arab Muslims in the 7th century. By the 19th century, the area was an increasingly independent Ottoman province until it came under the control of Italy in 1912.
The name "Libya" derives from the ancient Egyptian term "Lebu", referring to the Berber people living west of the Nile, and adopted into Greek as "Libya". The Sahara covers much of the country. Nearly all of Libya’s inhabitants live near the coast. Tripoli, located on the Mediterranean coast, is the capital and largest city.
Although Libya was known as the breadbasket of the Roman Empire for its output of grains in ancient times, climatic changes have eroded its agricultural productivity.
The principal resource of Libya is petroleum. Natural gas, gypsum, limestone, marine salt, potash, and natron (sodium carbonate) are also exploited. Libya was a poor country until the discovery of oil in the 1950s. Since then its large reserves of petroleum have made Libya one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. About 97 percent of the people of Libya are of Berber and Arab descent. Workers from other countries make up the remainder of the inhabitants. Arabic is the official language, though 8 other local languages are spoken in Libya.
Arabic is the official language spoken by 96% of the population
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