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        Unlike the diversity of their eastern neighbors, the countries of  Northwest Africa share certain geographical and cultural patterns. Nearly all of them have a rich fertile strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea or Atlantic Ocean ( on which the bulk of their populations live), behind which there are rugged mountains and, further inland, endless stretches of the Sahara Desert. The vast majority of people are Sunni (Orthodox) Muslims and the official language of every country is Arabic.

The region is over 2,414, 751 square miles in size and has a total estimated population of 69,108,000. Most of the people are concentrated in cities such as Tripoli (Libya), Tunis (Tunisia), Algiers and Oran (Algeria), Tangier, Rabat, and Casablanca (Morocco), and Nouakchott (Mauritania). You can go to Google Earth and literally fly over these and other African cities, using detailed satellite images, for a truly eye-opening experience.

Northwest Africa (also called the Maghreb) is rich in literary and historical traditions. There is ample evidence to prove that the region has been inhabited since remote antiquity, and in nearly every country, prehistoric cave paintings have been discovered in the desert. It was from this region that the famous Carthaginian general, Hannibal , launched his nearly successful invasion of ancient Rome (218-203 B.C.). In fact many fine examples of Roman architecture and art are preserved in this part of Africa. Under the Roman Empire, Christianity took root in the region and several of the Church Fathers, including St. Augustine of Hippo, were natives of Africa, although many of the later European images of them depict them as Europeans.

Between 670 and 709 A.D., Northwest Africa was conquered by Arab armies. Within a few decades afterwards, the Berber natives had joined the Arabs and participated in the Muslim conquests of Spain and Sicily. The Moorish Empire deserves special attention. For 700 years, African “Moors” ruled Spain. They built fantastic mosques and cathedrals, established universities, and translated many of the classical Greek writers , saving them  from obscurity.

In modern times, the people of the Maghreb were subjected to French and a lesser degree Spanish colonialism and, especially in Algeria, fought a long and bitter struggle to regain their independence that cost over a million lives.


Modern Northwest Africa consists of 7 countries ranging in size from (Algeria to the disputed Sahara)  and in population from (Algeria to Tunisia)

These countries are from west to east:


Spanish Sahara






     Africa’s Five Regions and Islands               West  Africa               Northeast Africa


        Northwest Africa                          Southern Africa                          Africa’s Island Nations