More than 90% of Libyans live in the coastal cities. Most are Arabs or of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry. In western Libya, there are Berber villages, where the people live in a traditional tribal society. Bedouin, including the Tuaregs, live in the south.

Islam shapes Arab family life. In the past, people lived in extended families. A typical family might include a husband and wife, their unmarried children, married sons and their families, elderly parents, and unmarried sisters and aunts. Today, many young couples set up their own homes, rather than living with the husband's parents.

Some Libyan marriages are arranged by parents through a professional matchmaker or through relatives and friends. Although today many young people, especially those living in cities, choose their own partners, arranged marriages still occur in rural areas. Wedding celebrations may last for a week. Islamic law allows men to have up to four wives, but it is no longer common for a man to have more than one wife. If a man takes a second wife, it is usually because his first wife cannot bear children.

In Libya, men are usually regarded as the head of the family. They make the important decisions and are the primary wage earners. Women are responsible for maintaining the home. In the past, few women went to school or worked outside the home. They wore veils in public to cover their faces and did not leave home without a male escort from their families. Today, women have more freedom and opportunities. Many women, especially younger women living in cities, no longer wear veils in public. It is much more common for women to leave home unescorted to attend school and work. However, women are largely restricted to careers in nursing, teaching and secretarial work.

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Traditional North African homes were built according to a standard pattern. Rooms were all on one floor and grouped around an open-air courtyard. Often there was a pool or fountain in the courtyard. Today, most Libyans in cities live in apartment buildings.
The Berber people live in small villages in western Libya. They tend to identify with their tribe or village rather than with the Libyan nation. Most live in single-family households. Their houses are often built underground, which keeps them cool in summer and warm in winter. The Berbers grow crops and tend herds of sheep or goats. Women are excluded from public life, but have the right to own property and to divorce and remarry if they choose. Men conduct the family's business and socialize with other men in the village.

The desert tribes are known collectively as the Bedouin. Many are nomadic, moving their livestock from place to place and living in tents. Today, some Bedouin live in settled farming villages beside oases. One tribe, the Tuaregs, were originally desert traders who used camels to transport goods across the desert. They are sometimes known as the Blue People, because they wear robes dyed with indigo.