countries making up North Africa
Population density of Africa (2000)
North Africa is a collective term for a group of
Mediterranean countries situated in the northern-most region of the
African continent. The term "North Africa" has no single accepted definition. It is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of
Morocco in the west, to the
Suez Canal and the
Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to the countries of
Tunisia, a region known by the French during colonial times as “Afrique du Nord” and by the Arabs as the
Maghreb (“West”). The most commonly accepted definition includes
Tunisia, as well as
Egypt. It is important to note that the term “North Africa”, particularly when used in North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the
Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, due to its greater
Middle Eastern associations, is often considered separately.
The countries of North Africa share a common ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity that is unique to this region. North west 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. Following the
Muslim conquest in the seventh century C.E., the region underwent a process of Arabization and Islamization that has defined its cultural landscape ever since.
The distinction between North Africa and
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
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
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.