North Africa

North Africa
North Africa (orthographic projection).svg
Countries
Sovereign states (7)
Other territories (3)
Partially recognized states (1)
Time zonesUTC+00:00
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Population density of Africa (2000)

North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal.

Varying sources limit it to the countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by Arabs as the Maghreb ("West", The western part of Arab World).[1]

The United Nations definition includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and the Western Sahara, the territory disputed between Morocco and the Sahrawi Republic.[4]

The African Union definition includes the Western Sahara and Mauritania but not Sudan.[5] When used in the term Middle East and North Africa (MENA), it often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb.

North Africa includes the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and plazas de soberanía and can also be considered to include other Spanish, Portuguese and Italian regions such as Canary Islands, Madeira, Lampedusa and Lampione.

The countries of North Africa share a little bit of ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity with the Middle East.

Northwest Africa has been inhabited by Berbers since the beginning of recorded history, while the eastern part of North Africa has been home to the Egyptians.[6] Between the A.D. 600s and 1000s, Arabs from the Middle East swept across the region in a wave of Muslim conquest. These peoples formed a single population in many areas, as Berbers and Egyptians merged into Arabic and Muslim culture. This process of Arabization and Islamization has defined the cultural landscape of North Africa ever since.

The distinction between North Africa, the Sahel and the rest of the continent is as follows:

Nineteenth century European explorers, attracted by the accounts of Ancient geographers or Arab geographers of the classical period, followed the routes by the nomadic people of the vast "empty" space. They documented the names of the stopping places they discovered or rediscovered, described landscapes, took a few climate measurements and gathered rock samples. Gradually, a map began to fill in the white blotch.

The Sahara and the Sahel entered the geographic corpus by way of naturalist explorers because aridity is the feature that circumscribes the boundaries of the ecumene.   The map details included topographical relief and location of watering holes crucial to long crossings. The Arabic word "Sahel" (shore) and "Sahara" (desert) made its entry into the vocabulary of geography.

Latitudinally, the "slopes" of the arid desert, devoid of continuous human habitation, descend in step-like fashion toward the northern and southern edges of the Mediterranean that opens to Europe and the Sahel that opens to "Trab al Sudan." Longitudinally, a uniform grid divides the central desert then shrinks back toward the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. Gradually, the Sahara-Sahel is further divided into a total of twenty sub-areas: central, northern, southern, western, eastern, etc.

In this way, "standard" geography has determined aridity to be the boundary of the ecumene. It identifies settlements based on visible activity without regard for social or political organizations of space in vast, purportedly "empty" areas. It gives only cursory acknowledgement to what makes Saharan geography, and for that matter, world geography unique: mobility and the routes by which it flows.

— An atlas of the Sahara-Sahel : geography, economics and security[7]

The Sahel or "African Transition Zone" has been affected by many formative epochs in North African history ranging from the Ancient Roman colonization, the subsequent Arab expansion, to the Ottoman occupation.[8][9] As a result, many modern African nation-states that are included in the Sahel evidence cultural similarities and historical overlap with their North African neighbours.[10] In the present day, North Africa is associated with West Asia in the realm of geopolitics to form a Middle East-North Africa region.[11] The Islamic influence in the area is also significant, and North Africa is a major part of the Muslim world.

  1. ^ a b Brett, Michael. "Definition: North Africa (region, Africa)". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  2. ^ Mattar, Philip (1 June 2004). Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 9780028657691.
  3. ^ De facto government of parts of Western Sahara, claimant to the whole area).
  4. ^ Division, United Nations Statistics. "UNSD — Methodology". unstats.un.org.
  5. ^ "The Assembly – African Union". au.int.
  6. ^ National Geographic Geno Project: Egyptians are North Africans
  7. ^ An atlas of the Sahara-Sahel : geography, economics and security. Bossard, Laurent., Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development., Sahel and West Africa Club., OECD iLibrary. Paris. ISBN 978-9264222342. OCLC 900622439.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ es-Sadi, Abderrahman (1898). Tarikh es soudan (in Arabic). Paris E. Leroux.
  9. ^ Andrew, McGregor (2001). "The Circassian Qubbas of Abbas Avenue, Khartoum: Governors and Soldiers in 19th Century Sudan" (PDF). Nordic Journal of African Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  10. ^ "North Africa and the African Transition Zone". 17 June 2016. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Güney, Aylın; Gökcan, Fulya (February 2012). "The 'Greater Middle East' as a 'Modern' Geopolitical Imagination in American Foreign Policy". Geopolitics. 15: 22–38. doi:10.1080/14650040903420370.

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