Most of Matar’s In the Country of Men is set in Libya, a country located on the northeast coast of Africa between Tunisia and Algeria on the west, Egypt on the east, and Sudan, Chad, and Niger to the south. To the north is the Mediterranean Sea. These are important landmarks, as many of these points are discussed in the novel. The chief of state is Muammar Qaddafi (sometimes spelled Gadhafi), who has been a dictator in Libya since 1969. Tripoli is the capital of Libya, a city of over 2 million people today. The dinar is Libya’s monetary unit, an item also mentioned in this story. Sunni Islam is the religion of the majority of the Libyan population. The largest portion of the population is made up of Berbers and Arab, while about three percent of the people are from Italy, Greece, Pakistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, India, and Tunisia. Moosa and his father Judge Yaseen (to whom Suleiman is later sent) are Egyptians living in Tripoli until the very end of the novel.
Throughout its history, both the Greek and Roman empires controlled parts of Libya. The statue of Septimius Severus is mentioned in the beginning of the novel. This Roman emperor (146-211) was born in present-day Libya. At one time, Tripoli was also the home base for Barbary pirates, who raided ships as they passed by the Mediterranean coast. Italy took over control of Tripoli in 1911 and despite battles with local residents eventually brought together various groups, uniting the people, thus creating the colony of Libya in 1934. The United Nations declared Libya an independent country in 1951. Oil was discovered there seven years later, which gave a much-needed boost to the country’s economy.
On September 1, 1969, a young revolutionary figure, twenty-seven-year-old Qaddafi, deposed the reigning king Idris I (as well as his designated successor Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi) in a bloodless coup and created a pro-Arabic Muslim regime.
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