North Africa

Northern Africa is the northernmost region of Africa and this include:

  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Sudan
  • Tunisia
  • Western Sahara

Mauritania is included in the United Nation’s definition of Western Africa and South Sudan in the definition of Eastern Africa. The countries of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya are often collectively referred to as the Maghreb, which is the Arabic word for “sunset”. Egypt lies to the northeast and encompasses part of West Asia, while Sudan is situated on the edge of the Sahel, to the south of Egypt.

Egypt is a transcontinental country because of the Sinai Peninsula, which geographically lies in Western Asia.

North Africa also includes a number of Spanish possessions (Ceuta and Melilla and tiny Spanish islets off the coast of Morocco). The Canary Islands and Madeira in the North Atlantic Ocean northwest of the African mainland are included in considerations of the region.

The distinction between North Africa and much of Sub-Saharan Africa is historically and ecologically significant because of the effective barrier created by the Sahara Desert for much of modern history. From 3500 BC, following the abrupt desertification of the Sahara due to gradual changes in the Earth’s orbit, this barrier has culturally separated the North from the rest of the continent.

As the seafaring civilizations of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims and others facilitated communication and migration across the Mediterranean Sea, the cultures of North Africa became much more closely tied to Southwestern Asia and Europe than Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamic influence in the area is also significant, and North Africa is a major part of the Muslim world.

Some researchers have postulated that North Africa rather than East Africa served as the exit point for the modern humans who first trekked out of the continent in the Out of Africa migration.