Libya is fourth in size among the countries of Africa and seventeenth among the countries of the world. It is on the Mediterranean between Egypt and Tunisia, with Niger and Chad to the south and Sudan to the southeast. Although the oil discoveries of the 1960s have brought immense wealth, at the time of its independence it was an extremely poor desert state whose only important physical asset appeared to be its strategic location at the midpoint of Africa's northern rim.
Libya lay within easy reach of the major European nations and linked the Arab countries of North Africa with those of the Middle East, facts that throughout history had made its urban centres bustling crossroads rather than isolated backwaters without external social influences. Consequently, an immense social gap developed between the cities, cosmopolitan and peopled largely by foreigners, and the desert hinterland, where tribal chieftains ruled in isolation and where social change was minimal....LESS