Before Gadhafi and a group of military officers overthrew King Idris on September 1, 1969, Benghazi enjoyed a type of joint-capital status with Tripoli.
This was mainly because the king used to reside in nearby Al Bayda’ and his family was generally associated with the Cyrenaica region, rather than the Tripolitania.
This why some of the institutions normally associated with a country’s capital are still located in Benghazi.
As you can see from the astronaut photo to the right, the National Library is located in the heart of the city, as are the administrative offices of Libya’s national airline.
Estimates put the city's population before the uprising began last month at a little over 1 million.
Human settlement in what is now known as Benghazi dates back to the ancient Greek city of Euesperides, which was founded about 525 BC.
Benghazi was invaded by the Italians in 1911, and by the onset of World War II, more than 35 percent of the city’s population was of Italian descent. The city was heavily bombed during the war, and was later lavishly rebuilt thanks to the country’s newly found oil reserves.
The photo of Benghazi to the right was taken by an astronaut orbiting aboard the International Space Station on January 20, 2011, a month before the country's second-largest city became the capital of what is being called “Free Libya.”
Full story and image: NASA