North Africa

North Africa is a cultural subcontinent in the northern part of Africa. It is sometimes defined as extending from the shores of the Atlantic, from Morocco to the west, to the Suez Canal and to the Red Sea, in Egypt to the east. The most commonly accepted definition includes from East to West : Egypt, Sudan (sometimes included in East Africa), Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania (often included in West Africa). 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 the language (Arabic), 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 7th century, the region underwent an Arabization and Islamization process which 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 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 Europe than in sub-Saharan Africa. Islamic influence in the region is also significant, and North Africa is a major part of the Muslim world.

An increasing number of researchers have postulated that North Africa, rather than East Africa, served as a point of exit for modern humans who first left the continent during migration from Africa.


North Africa is also called White Africa. This term contrasts with that of “black Africa”, designating sub-Saharan Africa. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel also called it “European Africa” ​​while Elisha Reclus saw in North Africa an appendage of the Latin Arc. The expression white Africa referred either geographically to the north of the Sahara or, ethnically, to the “white” minorities of “black” Africa : Afrikaners in the south, Tuaregs in the Sahel.


The Atlas mountains extend over a large part of Morocco, northern Algeria and Tunisia, are part of the fold mountain system which also crosses much of southern Europe. They retreat 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 are more than four billion years old. South of the Atlas is the arid and desert expanse of the Sahara Desert, the largest sandy desert in the world. In places, the desert is cut by irregular rivers called wadis (or wadis) which do not run until after the precipitation but are generally dry. The main reliefs of the Sahara include ergs, large seas of sand which sometimes form immense dunes ; the hammada, a flat rocky plateau without soil or sand ; and the reg, a flat surface made up of gravel or small stones. The Sahara covers the southern part of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and most of Libya. Only two regions of Libya are outside the desert : Tripolitania to the northwest and Cyrenaica to the northeast. Most of Egypt is also desert, with the exception of the Nile and the irrigated land along its banks. The Nile Valley forms a narrow fertile streak that spans the entire length of the country. The sheltered valleys in the Atlas Mountains, the Nile Valley and Delta, and the Mediterranean Sea are the main sources of fertile agricultural land. A wide variety of valuable crops, including grains, rice and cotton, and woods such as cedar and cork, are grown. Typical Mediterranean cultures, such as olive, figs, dates and citrus fruits, also thrive in these regions. The Nile Valley is particularly fertile, and most of the population in Egypt lives near the river. Elsewhere, irrigation is essential to improve crop yields on the margins of the desert.

North Africa’s countries

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