Culture of Libya
This article is about the culture of Libya. Libya is an Arab country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west.
Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa remarks:
- "Against claims that Libya has a limited body of literature, classicists may be quick to note that ancient Greek lyric poet Callimachus and the exquisite prose stylist Sinesius were Libyan. But students of Libyan history and literature will note that a vast time gap between those ancient luminaries and the writers of today. [...] Libya has historically made a limited contribution to Arabian literature".
The Arab Renaissance (Al-Nahda) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not reach Libya as early as other Arab lands, and Libyans contributed little to its initial development. However, Libya at this time developed its own literary tradition, centred on oral poetry, much of which expressed the suffering brought about by the Italian colonial period.
Libyan literature began to bloom in the late 1960s, with the writings of Sadeq al-Neihum, Khalifa al-Fakhri, Khamel al-Maghur (prose), Muhammad al-Shaltami and Ali al-Regeie (poetry). Many Libyan writers of the 1960s adhered to nationalist, socialist and generally progressive views.
In 1969, a military coup brought Muammar al-Gaddafi to power. In the mid-1970s, the new government set up a single publishing house, and authors were required to write in support of the authorities. Those who refused were imprisoned, emigrated, or ceased writing. Censorship laws were loosened, but not abolished in the early 1990s, resulting in a literary renewal. Some measure of dissent began to be expressed in Libyan literature, but books remained censored and self-censored to a significant extent.
With the overthrow of Gaddafi's government in the Libyan civil war literary censorship was abolished, and Article 14 of the interim constitution guarantees "liberty of the press, publication and mass media". Contemporary Libyan literature is influenced by "local lore, North African and Eastern Mediterranean Arabian literatures, and world literature at large" (K. Mattawa). Émigré writers have also contributed significantly to Libyan literature, and include Ibrahim Al-Kouni, Ahmad Al-Faqih and Sadeq al-Neihum.
Libyan cuisine derives much from the traditions of the Mediterranean, North African (Tunisian cuisine) and the Middle Eastern (Egyptian cuisine) traditions. One of the most popular Libyan dishes is a thick highly-spiced soup, known simply as "Shorba Arabiya" or "Arabian soup". Shorba Arabiya contains many of the ingredients of many other Libyan dishes, including onions, tomatoes, meat (chicken or lamb), chillies, cayenne pepper, saffron, chickpeas, mint, cilantro, and parsley.
Bazeen is perhaps the most recognizable Libyan food there is, made of a mixture of mainly barley flour, with a little plain flour. The flour is boiled in salted water to make a hard dough, and then formed into a rounded, smooth dome placed in the middle of the dish. The sauce around the dough is made by frying chopped onions with lamb meat, adding turmeric, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, sweet paprika, and tomato paste. Potatoes can also be added. Finally, eggs are boiled and arranged around the dome. The dish is then served with lemon and fresh or pickled chillies known as amsayar.
One of the most popular meals in the Libyan cuisine is batatan mubatana (filled potato). It consists of fried potato pieces filled with spiced minced meat and covered with egg and breadcrumbs.
Libyans prefer to eat at home, except on Fridays, when they enjoy family beachside picnics. For the most part, restaurants and cafes are used by foreigners. Menus have become more sophisticated and one can find a greater variety of mainly Libyan and Middle Eastern cuisine. International cuisine is available in the larger hotels.
Government control over the media has resulted in much of the population preferring to entertain itself by watching videos or foreign stations via satellite. Libyan television programmes are mostly in Arabic with a 30-minute news broadcast each evening in English and French. It is also possible to watch the occasional sports programs. However, the majority of programming is cultural and thus showcases more traditional Libyan music and entertainment.
Libya's daily newspaper is Al-Fajr al-Jadid and is published in Tripoli. Foreign newspapers are available, but are often very out-of-date by the time they reach the shops.