Culture grows with the growth and development of societies. Each society has its own culture that reflects its personality and identity. Therefore, cultural development, in our time, is receiving great attention. Culture is the basis of progress and prosperity and the fruit of the efforts that formed successive human civilizations. For Libya, culture is an essential variable in the formation of Libyan society. Society faced and still faces many changes and transforming events due to changes in the political and economic powers.

Diverse in Culture

Digital Art by Hiba Shalabi, four pictures used for the making of this piece

This cultural diversity represents a great criterion in the scale of civilization. The Libyan community is one of the most diverse communities in the MENA region. It consists of Arabs but also minority groups. The Amazigh community resides mostly in the Nafousa Mountains region. The culture didn’t only impact Libyans within; it impacted foreigners who lived in Libya and left later on in their lives. You will find them still remembering the practices they witnessed. People come from different parts of the world. From the US, Europe, and Asia to interact with the Libyan culture and learn from it.

In addition to the Tabu and Tuareg in the southern region in the Libyan desert. This diversity was overshadowed on purpose by the former regime in Libya. Gaddafi’s regime lasted for 42 years in power tried to define and reflect Libya. Based on his ideologies and beliefs, not necessarily the people of the country.

A man in the Libyan Attire in the Prophet’s Birth Anniversary celebration

The political powers managed to bury the diversity of Libya and impose Arabism on the entire nation. It tried to reflect the notion of Arabism to neighboring countries in order to identify Libya as an Arab country. However, post the revolution in 2011, the power of culture overtook the scene. It emerged back to the surface through embracing and re-introducing/re-representing their cultures within the whole Libyan culture.

Libya, a country by the Mediterranean, has faced numerous changes throughout history. However, the cultural heritage is deeply interlinked with its rich history and society. Regardless of the technological development and modernity of the world; the impact of culture is clearly present within society and within the interaction of people. The Libyan culture is as diverse as the community in Libya. The traditional practices are still embedded within the daily lives of people.

The Culture’s Impact Felt Throughout History

In addition, the preservation of traditional practices shows a huge impact on the Libyan culture. However, the past 10 years in Libya following the revolution have opened doors of opportunities. To learn and unfold stories of culture in Libyan society. Learning and discovering the details of the present. Also, past practices are part of the making of the Libyan culture. For example, Libya’s Jewish community and its influence. Mainly in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s before their final exile. It is still felt and observed in corners all over Libya. The presence of the six-angle stars in the old historical arches in Tripoli’s old city. These symbols are used to kick out evil souls.

On the other hand, the features of the Tuareg culture consist of the poetry they compose. They call (Tiswai), the recital art (Tinfusin), which they are distinguished for, and the lyrical art (Asohagh). This plays a huge importance in social events and gatherings. People of Tuareg make sure to celebrate it in every way possible.

Members of Tuareg, Tuareg, and Arabs playing music in harmony

Keeping the Details Alive

In addition, the popular Libyan dress is no longer based on Libyan occasions, holidays, or rituals. This was a big reason for its industry to witness a very large commercial failure. As the number of people specialized in the production of this type of dress began to decrease. Now local designers are using traditional attire to show the world modern designs. In order to make it reachable and known by a wider audience.

In the Jewish Alley in Tripoli’s old city

Libyans are very keen on inheriting the traditional dress of their young sons and daughters. Therefore, we see them wearing it on social occasions. Moving around in their joyful clothes in a scene that gives happiness to the soul. Yet, you will find it different from one city to another given the region of focus. However, most often people use the same pieces of clothing. The diversity is in the way dressed or their quality.

Some of them are made of silver and silk, and some of them are embroidered with gold. On occasions, holidays, and some major occasions, this dress is not complete without the presence of gold. Especially the attire that is worn by women. It is important to address the different attires worn by women of different ages. From the new bride, the married women, the older women in families (mainly grandmothers). This is an indication of the uniqueness of the Libyan attire and the specific details of wearing this attire.

Photography Work by the Libyan Photographer Hiba Shalabi

Libyan attire in weddings consisting of gold jewelry
The making of a traditional jewelry piece

The diversity of culture in Libya has given people the chance to discover it in detail. Libyans still find ways to showcase their culture in modern forms. This allows for the comprehension of this culture from other communities outside of Libya.

Artwork by the Libyan Photographer Hiba Shalabi
Local Store selling Libyan sweets
Portraying Traditional Jewellery
Haweta and Khmesa (the fish and the hand, symbols used in Libyan culture)

Please note that this work in in collaboration with the Libyan photographer Hiba Shalabi.