North Africa


August 15, 2022

North Africa is a cultural subcontinent in the northern part of Africa. It is sometimes defined as stretching from the shores of the Atlantic, from Morocco in the west, to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, to Egypt in the east. The most commonly accepted definition includes from East to West: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara. The United States Census Bureau defines North Africa as Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. The countries of North Africa share a common ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity specific to this region, such as language (Arabic, Berber), as well as religion (Islam). North Africa has been inhabited by Berbers since the beginning of history, while the eastern part of North Africa was home to the ancient Egyptians, who maintained close relations with the Berbers during antiquity. After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, the region underwent a process of Arabization and Islamization that has since redefined its cultural landscape. The distinction between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa is historically and ecologically significant due to the natural barrier created by the Sahara Desert for much of modern history. North Africa is populated by Arabs and Berbers, while sub-Saharan Africa is populated by blacks. From 4000-3600 BC. AD, following the abrupt desertification of the Sahara due to gradual changes in the Earth's orbit, this barrier culturally separated the North from the rest of the continent. As the maritime civilizations of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims and others facilitated communication and migration across the Mediterranean Sea, North African cultures were more closely linked to Southwest Asia and to Europe than to sub-Saharan Africa. Islamic influence in the region is also significant, and North Africa is a major part of the Muslim world. A growing number of researchers have postulated that North Africa, rather than East Africa, served as an exit point for modern humans who first left the continent during migration out of Africa, ,.


There are other denominations designating North Africa: Mediterranean Africa, White Africa. The expression "Mediterranean Africa" ​​is due to the historical and cultural links linking North Africa to the Mediterranean world, but also to geographical and climatic criteria: the Mediterranean climate. The expression "white Africa" ​​is opposed to that of "black Africa", designating sub-Saharan Africa. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel also called it “European Africa” while Élisée Reclus saw in North Africa an appendage of the Latin Arc. The expression White Africa refers either, geographically, to the north of the Sahara or, ethnically, to the “white” minorities of “black” Africa: Tuaregs in the Sahel, Afrikaners in the south.


The Atlas Mountains span much of Morocco, northern Algeria and Tunisia, are part of the Fold Mountain System which also crosses much of southern Europe. They recede to the south and east, becoming a steppe landscape before meeting the Sahara desert, which covers more than 75% of the region. The sediments of the Sahara cover an ancient plateau of crystalline rock, some of which is over four billion years old. South of the Atlas lies the arid, barren expanse of the Sahara Desert, the largest sand desert in the world. In places, the desert is cut by irregular streams called Oueds (or wadis) which flow only after rainfall but are gener