The oldest artworks in Libya are the rock paintings in Fezzan. These paintings, which are more than 5,000 years old, depict animals and daily life in the days before the Sahara was a desert, when elephants and giraffes roamed the land.

Islam influences contemporary art in Libya. Muslims do not depict humans or animals in their art, because they believe that Allah is the exclusive creator of all living creatures. To create art that portrayes animals or human beings would be to infringe upon Allah's role. Instead, calligraphy (ornate Arabic writing), geometric patterns and flower motifs adorn metalwork, textiles, jewellery and pottery, as well as mosques and civic buildings.

Music is part of most religious and social ceremonies. Common instruments include the oud (a stringed instrument like a lute) the darbuka (a type of drum), the zokra (a small instrument similar to a bagpipe), bamboo flutes and tambourines. Complicated hand clapping adds to the varied texture of sounds.

Many popular folk songs have been made famous by Bedouin poet-singers. The songs tell of great heroes, their difficult struggles and good deeds, and emphasize Bedouin pride and wisdom. Other traditional folk songs of the nomadic people recount tales of famous desert journeys. The huda is a camel driver's song; the rhythm is supposed to mimic the tramp of camels' feet. At wedding celebrations, guests often sing folk songs and watch folk dances.

   Did you know?
Woman are the musicians among the Tuareg people. They play the anzad (a type of violin with one string) and drums made from gourds and wooden bowls. They use the drums to call people together for feasts.
Movies and live theatre are not common in Libya. Qaddafi wrote that "Those who direct the course of life for themselves have no need to watch life working through actors on the stage or in the cinemas." Although there are many writers in Libya, the country does not produce many books because of government censorship.

   Did you know?
Khadijah al-Jahmi became Libya's first female radio broadcaster in 1955. In 1966, she started a woman's magazine and later, a magazine for children. She also founded an organization that supported the arts for children. She died in 1996 and is remembered as a great contributor to Libyan culture.