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Libya’s Cultural Highlights

4 December 2017

Libya’s Cultural Highlights

The Libyan culture is a mix of tradition and modern lifestyle, due to the country's turbulent history.

People Percentage

Immigrants currently comprise over 12% of the country’s population, according to United Nations Data based on July 2015 estimate.

However, major ethnic groups in Libya consist of 97% Berber and Arab, with 3% comprising Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians and Tunisians.

Sunni Islam is the official religion with 96.6% followers while others consist of 2.7% Christians, 0.3% Buddhists, less than 0.1% Hindu, less than 0.1% Jewish, less than 0.1 % folk religion, and 0.3% unaffiliated with any religion.

Greeting Styles

For ordinary Libyans, when interacting with another person, reputation and honour are highly important.

Failing to greet a person you meet is considered rude and unkind. When entering a room full of strangers, it is best to greet everyone by saying Assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you) and respond with Wa alaikum assalaam (peace be upon you as well).

Social interactions between non-related people of the opposite gender are not frequent. Often it is best to wait for the woman to initiate contact before responding.

Family Bond

To ordinary Libyans, loyalty to one’s family tends to be more important than personal needs. It is best to avoid talking about a family disagreement or talking about a person’s wife, sister or adult daughter.

At the same time, social class and family background are crucial elements for a person’s social status, which is later followed by character and achievements. Disrespecting a person’s family name is the ultimate form of rudeness.

Conservative Behaviour

Physical contact between men and women in public places is forbidden even among family members. Kissing and hugging is especially socially unacceptable, regardless of marriage or relationship.

Mind Your Manners

Use your right hand when eating, passing goods or greeting another person. The left hand is often considered disrespectful and unclean, especially during a communal dining.

Never use the toe, heel or any part of your feet to point at or move anything. This is because the feet are considered as the lowliest part of the body.

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