North 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 Morocco in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to top North-Western countries like Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as “Afrique du Nord” and is known by all Arabs as the Maghreb (“West", The Western part of Arab World). The most commonly accepted definition includes Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, “North Africa”, particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.
North Africa includes a number of Spanish and Portuguese possessions, Plazas de soberanía, Ceuta and Melilla and the Canary Islands and Madeira. The countries of North Africa share a common ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity that is unique to this region. 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. Between the A.D. 600s and 1000s, Arabs from the Middle East swept across the region in a wave of Muslim conquest. These peoples, physically quite similar, 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.
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
The Sahel or “African Transition Zone” has been affected by many formative epochs in North African history ranging from Ottoman occupation to the Arab-Berber control of the Andalus. 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. In the present day, North Africa is associated with West Asia in the realm of geopolitics to form a Middle East-North Africa region. 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.
|GDP per capita||N/A|
North Africa has three main geographic features: the Sahara desert in the south, the Atlas Mountains in the west, and the Nile River and delta in the east. The Atlas Mountains extend across much of northern Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. These mountains are part of the fold mountain system that also runs through much of Southern Europe. They recede to the south and east, becoming a steppe landscape before meeting the Sahara desert, which covers more than 75 percent of the region. The tallest peaks are in the High Atlas range in south-central Morocco, which has many snow-capped peaks.
South of the Atlas Mountains is the dry and barren expanse of the Sahara desert, which is the largest sand desert in the world. In places the desert is cut by irregular watercourses called wadis—streams that flow only after rainfalls but are usually dry. The Sahara’s major landforms include ergs, large seas of sand that sometimes form into huge dunes; the hammada, a level rocky plateau without soil or sand; and the reg, a level plain of gravel or small stones. The Sahara covers the southern part of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, and most of Libya. Only two regions of Libya are outside the desert: Tripolitania in the northwest and Cyrenaica in the northeast. Most of Egypt is also desert, with the exception of the Nile River and the irrigated land along its banks. The Nile Valley forms a narrow fertile thread that runs along the length of the country.
Sheltered valleys in the Atlas Mountains, the Nile Valley and Delta, and the Mediterranean coast are the main sources of fertile farming land. A wide variety of valuable crops including cereals, rice and cotton, and woods such as cedar and cork, are grown. Typical Mediterranean crops, such as olives, figs, dates and citrus fruits, also thrive in these areas. The Nile Valley is particularly fertile, and most of the population in Egypt live close to the river. Elsewhere, irrigation is essential to improve crop yields on the desert margins.
|Countries and territories||Area (2016)
|Population (2016)||Density (2016)
|GDP per capita
|Algeria||2,381,740||40,606,052||17.05||Algiers||$160,784||$15,281||Algerian dinar||Presidential republic||Arabic and Berber (both official), French is commonly used|
|Egypt||1,001,450||95,688,681||96||Cairo||$332,349||$12,554||Egyptian pound||Semi-presidential republic||Arabic|
|Libya||1,759,540||6,293,253||3.58||Tripoli||$33,157||$8,678||Libyan dinar||Provisional authority||Arabic|
|Morocco||446,550||35,276,786||73.1||Rabat||$103,615||$8,330||Moroccan dirham||Constitutional monarchy||Arabic and Berber (both official), French is commonly used|
||63||Tunis||$41,869||$11,634||Tunisian dinar||Parliamentary republic||Arabic, French is commonly used.|
|Ceuta||18.5||82,376||4,500||—||—||—||Euro (official), Moroccan dirham (porter trade)||Autonomous city of a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy||Spanish|
|Melilla||12.3||78,476||6,380.1||—||—||—||Autonomous city of a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy||Spanish|
|Western Sahara||266,000||538,755||0.37||disputed||disputed||disputed||disputed||disputed||Disputed: commonly French and Arabic (Moroccan zone); commonly Spanish, Arabic (SADR zone)|
|Source: The World Bank|
Variously the Sudan and Western Sahara are considered to be part of the region by the United Nations, while Western Sahara and Mauritania (but not Sudan) are included by the African Union. In general geopolitical and business usage, as for example with the World Bank, North Africa is often grouped with the Middle East under the acronym MENA ("Middle East and North Africa") and sometimes in American governmental usage the geopolitical term Greater Middle East. Similarly, the traditional Arabic toponym Maghreb (meaning "the West") is commonly used to mean the African part of the Arab World, though usually with the exclusion of Egypt.
The inhabitants of the Spanish Canary Islands are of mixed Spanish and North African Berber ancestry, and the people of Malta are of North African ancestry and speak a derivative of Arabic. But these areas are not generally considered part of North Africa, but rather Southern Europe, due to their European-based cultures and religion.
The inhabitants of North Africa are roughly divided in a manner corresponding to the principal geographic regions of North Africa: the Maghreb, the Nile valley, and the Sahel. The Maghreb or western North Africa on the whole is believed to have been inhabited by Berbers since at least 10,000 B.C., while the eastern part of North Africa or the Nile Valley has mainly been home to the Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians record extensive contact in their Western desert with people that appear to have been Berber or proto-Berber. As the Tassili n'Ajjer and other rock art findings in the Sahara have shown, the Sahara also hosted various populations before its rapid desertification in 3500 B.C and even today continues to host small populations of nomadic trans-Saharan peoples.
In the eleventh century, the Banu Hilal invaded the North African plains and plateaus, but not the mountainous areas such as the Tell Atlas range, the Rif or the Aurès Mountains and brought with them Hilalian dialects of Arabic, which over the centuries have been in significant contact with other languages, including the languages of Europe. They have contributed to the Arabized Berber populations.
The official language or one of the official languages in all of the countries in North Africa is Arabic. Today, the largest ethnic groups in North Africa are Arabs, Berbers and West Africans. The region is predominantly Muslim with a Jewish minority in Morocco and Tunisia and significant Christian minority—the Copts—in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
The people of the Maghreb and the Sahara regions speak Berber languages and several varieties of Arabic and almost exclusively follow Islam. The Arabic and Berber languages are distantly related, both being members of the Afroasiatic language family. The Tuareg Berber languages are notably more conservative than those of the coastal cities.
Over the years, Berbers have been influenced by contact with other cultures: Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Europeans and Africans. The cultures of the Maghreb and the Sahara therefore combine indigenous Berber, Arab and elements from neighboring parts of Africa and beyond. In the Sahara, the distinction between sedentary oasis inhabitants and nomadic Bedouins and Tuaregs is particularly marked.
The diverse peoples of North Africa are usually categorized along ethno-linguistic lines. In the Maghreb, where Arab and Berber identities are often integrated, these lines can be blurred. Some Berber-speaking North Africans may identify as "Arab" depending on the social and political circumstances, although substantial numbers of Berbers (or Amazighen) have retained a distinct cultural identity which in the 20th century has been expressed as a clear ethnic identification with Berber history and language. Arabic-speaking Northwest Africans, regardless of ethnic background, often identify with Arab history and culture and may share a common vision with other Arabs. This, however, may or may not exclude pride in and identification with Berber and/or other parts of their heritage. Berber political and cultural activists for their part, often referred to as Berberists, may view all Northwest Africans as principally Berber, whether they are primarily Berber- or Arabic-speaking.
Egyptians over the centuries have shifted their language from Egyptian (in its late form, varieties of Coptic) to modern Egyptian Arabic while retaining a sense of national identity that has historically set them apart from other people in the region. Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslim, although there is a significant minority of Coptic Christians.
The Maghreb formerly had a significant Jewish population, almost all of whom emigrated to France or Israel when the North African nations gained independence. Prior to the modern establishment of Israel, there were about 600,000–700,000 Jews in Northern Africa, including both Sephardi Jews (refugees from France, Spain and Portugal from the Renaissance era) as well as indigenous Mizrahi Jews. Today, less than fifteen thousand remain in the region, almost all in Morocco and Tunisia, and are mostly part of a French-speaking urban elite. (See Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries.)
Due to the recent African origin of modern humans, the history of Prehistoric North Africa is important to the understanding of pre-hominid and early modern human history in Africa. The earliest inhabitants of central North Africa have left behind significant remains: early remnants of hominid occupation in North Africa, for example, were found in Ain el Hanech, near Saïda (c. 200,000 BCE); in fact, more recent investigations have found signs of Oldowan technology there, and indicate a date of up to 1.8 million BC.
The cave paintings found at Tassili n'Ajjer, north of Tamanrasset, Algeria, and at other locations depict vibrant and vivid scenes of everyday life in central North Africa during the Neolithic Subpluvial period (about 8000 to 4000 BCE). Some parts of North Africa began to participate in the Neolithic revolution in the 6th millennium BC, just before the rapid desertification of the Sahara around 3500 B.C. due to a tilt in the Earth's orbit.
While Egypt due to the early civilizations of Ancient Egypt entered historicity by the Bronze Age, the Maghreb remained in the prehistoric period longer. Some Phoenician and Greek colonies were established along the Mediterranean coast during the 7th century BC.
The most notable nations of antiquity in western North Africa are Carthage and Numidia. The Phoenicians colonized much of North Africa including Carthage and parts of present-day Morocco (including Chellah, Essaouira and Volubilis). The Carthaginians were of Phoenician origin, with the Roman myth of their origin being that Dido, a Phoenician princess, was granted land by a local ruler based on how much land she could cover with a piece of cowhide. She ingeniously devised a method to extend the cowhide to a high proportion, thus gaining a large territory. She was also rejected by the Trojan prince Aeneas according to Virgil, thus creating a historical enmity between Carthage and Rome, as Aeneas would eventually lay the foundations for Rome. Ancient Carthage was a commercial power and had a strong navy, but relied on mercenaries for land soldiers. The Carthaginians developed an empire in the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, the latter being the cause of First Punic War with the Romans.
Over a hundred years and more, all Carthaginian territory was eventually conquered by the Romans, resulting in the Carthaginian North African territories becoming the Roman province of Africa in 146 B.C. This led to tension and eventually conflict between Numidia and Rome. The Numidian wars are notable for launching the careers of both Gaius Marius, and Sulla, and stretching the constitutional burden of the Roman republic, as Marius required a professional army, something previously contrary to Roman values to overcome the talented military leader Jugurtha.
North Africa remained a part of the Roman Empire, which produced many notable citizens such as Augustine of Hippo, until incompetent leadership from Roman commanders in the early fifth century allowed the Germanic peoples, the Vandals, to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, whereupon they overcame the fickle Roman defense. The loss of North Africa is considered a pinnacle point in the fall of the Western Roman Empire as Africa had previously been an important grain province that maintained Roman prosperity despite the barbarian incursions, and the wealth required to create new armies. The issue of regaining North Africa became paramount to the Western Empire, but was frustrated by Vandal victories. The focus of Roman energy had to be on the emerging threat of the Huns. In 468 AD, the Romans made one last serious attempt to invade North Africa but were repelled. This perhaps marks the point of terminal decline for the Western Roman Empire. The last Roman emperor was deposed in 476 by the Heruli general Odoacer. Trade routes between Europe and North Africa remained intact until the coming of Islam. Some Berbers were members of the Early African Church (but evolved their own Donatist doctrine), some were Berber Jews, and some adhered to traditional Berber religion. African pope Victor I served during the reign of Roman emperor Septimius Severus
The early Muslim conquests included North Africa by 640. By 700, most of North Africa had come under Muslim rule. Indigenous Berbers subsequently started to form their own polities in response in places such as Fez and Sijilmasa. In the eleventh century, a reformist movement made up of members that called themselves the Almoravid dynasty expanded south into Sub-Saharan Africa.
North Africa's populous and flourishing civilization collapsed after exhausting its resources in internal fighting and suffering devastation from the invasion of the Banu Sulaym and Banu Hilal. Ibn Khaldun noted that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.
After the Middle Ages the area was loosely under the control of the Ottoman Empire, except Morocco. The Spanish Empire conquered several coastal cities between the 16th and 18th centuries. After the 19th century, the imperial and colonial presence of France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy left the entirety of the region under one form of European occupation.
In World War II from 1940 to 1943 the area was the setting for the North African Campaign. During the 1950s and 1960s all of the North African states gained independence. There remains a dispute over Western Sahara between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
In 2010–2011 massive protests swept the region leading to the overthrow of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as civil war in Libya. Large protests also occurred in Algeria and Morocco to a lesser extent. Many hundreds died in the uprisings. This uprising is commonly referred to as the "Arab spring"
The economies of Algeria and Libya were transformed by the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves in the deserts. Morocco's major exports are automobiles, phosphates and agricultural produce, and as in Egypt and Tunisia, the tourist industry is essential to the economy. Egypt has the most varied industrial base, importing technology to develop electronics and engineering industries, and maintaining the reputation of its high-quality cotton textiles.
Oil rigs are scattered throughout the deserts of Libya and Algeria. Libyan oil is especially prized because of its low sulfur content, which means it produces much less pollution than other fuel oils.
Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With
1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.
Africa's average population is the youngest amongst all the continents; the median age in 2012 was 19.7, when the worldwide median age was 30.4. Algeria is Africa's largest country by area, and Nigeria is its largest by population. Africa, particularly central Eastern Africa, is widely accepted as the place of origin of humans and the Hominidae clade (great apes), as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids and their ancestors as well as later ones that have been dated to around 7 million years ago, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster—the earliest Homo sapiens (modern human), found in Ethiopia, date to circa 200,000 years ago. Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones.Africa hosts a large diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages. In the late 19th century, European countries colonised almost all of Africa; most present states in Africa originated from a process of decolonisation in the 20th century. African nations cooperate through the establishment of the African Union, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.Arab Spring
The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي) was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in late 2010. It began in response to oppressive regimes and a low standard of living, beginning with protests in Tunisia (Noueihed, 2011; Maleki, 2011). In the news, social media has been heralded as the driving force behind the swift spread of revolution throughout the world, as new protests appear in response to success stories shared from those taking place in other countries (see Howard, 2011). In many countries, the governments have also recognized the importance of social media for organizing and have shut down certain sites or blocked Internet service entirely, especially in the times preceding a major rally (see The Telegraph, 2011). Governments have also scrutinized or suppressed discussion in those forums through accusing content creators of unrelated crimes or shutting down communication on specific sites or groups, such as through Facebook (Solomon, 2011; Seyid, 2011).The effects of the Tunisian Revolution spread strongly to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where either the regime was toppled or major uprisings and social violence occurred, including riots, civil wars or insurgencies. Sustained street demonstrations took place in Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Iranian Khuzestan, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Sudan. Minor protests occurred in Djibouti, Mauritania, the Palestinian National Authority, Saudi Arabia, and the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world is ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām ("the people want to bring down the regime").The wave of initial revolutions and protests faded by mid-2012, as many Arab Spring demonstrations were met with violent responses from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias, counter-demonstrators and militaries. These attacks were answered with violence from protestors in some cases.
Large-scale conflicts resulted: the Syrian Civil War; the Iraqi insurgency and the following civil war; the Egyptian Crisis, coup, and subsequent unrest and insurgency; the Libyan Civil War; and the Yemeni Crisis and following civil war.A power struggle continued after the immediate response to the Arab Spring. While leadership changed and regimes were held accountable, power vacuums opened across the Arab world. Ultimately it resulted in a contentious battle between a consolidation of power by religious elites and the growing support for democracy in many Muslim-majority states. The early hopes that these popular movements would end corruption, increase political participation, and bring about greater economic equity quickly collapsed in the wake of the counter-revolutionary moves by foreign state actors in Yemen and of the Saudi-UAE-linked military deep state in Egypt, the regional and international military interventions in Bahrain and Yemen, and the destructive civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.Some have referred to the succeeding and still ongoing conflicts as the Arab Winter. As of May 2018, only the uprising in Tunisia has resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance.Barbary Coast
The term Barbary Coast (also Barbary, Berbery or Berber Coast) was used by Europeans from the 16th century to the early 19th to refer to the coastal regions of North Africa inhabited by Berber people. Today this land is part of the modern nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
The English term "Barbary" (and its European varieties: Barbaria, Berbérie, etc.) could refer to all the Berber lands whether coastal or not, as seen in European geographical and political maps published during the 17th–20th centuries.The name derives from the Berber people of North Africa, from Greek Bàrbaroi (Βάρβαροι) and the Arabic Barbar ( بربر ), meaning "barbaric". In the West, the name commonly evoked the Barbary pirates and Barbary slave traders based on that coast—who attacked ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern North Atlantic Ocean, and captured and traded slaves or goods from Europe, America and sub-Saharan Africa. These actions finally provoked the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century.Berbers
Berbers, or Amazighs (Berber language: Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ; singular: Amaziɣ, ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ, ⵎⵣⵗ) are an ethnic group of several nations indigenous mostly to North Africa and in some northern parts of Western Africa.
Berbers constitute the populations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, northern Mali, northern Niger, and a small part of western Egypt.
Berber nations are distributed over an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River in West Africa. Historically, Berber nations spoke the Berber language, which is a branch of the Afroasiatic language family.
There are about 100 million Berbers in North Africa, but only some 25–30 million of them still speak the Berber language. The number of ethnic Berbers (including non-Berber speakers) is far greater than the speakers of the Berber language, as a large part of the Berbers have lost their ancestral language and switched to other languages over the course of many decades or centuries.
The majority of North Africa's population west of Egypt is believed to be Berber in ethnic origin, although due to Arabization and Islamization some ethnic Berbers identify as Arabized Berbers.Most Berber people who speak Berber today live in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, northern Mali, and northern Niger. Smaller Berber-speaking populations are also found in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Egypt's Siwa town.
There are large immigrant Berber communities living in France, Spain, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and other countries of Europe.The majority of Berbers are currently Sunni Muslim. Although, since recently, some Berbers have openly converted to Shia Islam, Christianity and atheism.
The Berber identity is usually wider than language and ethnicity and encompasses the entire history and geography of North Africa. Berbers are not an entirely homogeneous ethnicity, and they encompass a range of societies, ancestries and lifestyles. The unifying forces for the Berber people may be their shared language or a collective identification with Berber heritage and history.
Berbers call themselves some variant of the word i-Mazigh-en (singular: a-Mazigh), possibly meaning "free people" or "noble men". The name probably had its ancient parallel in the Roman and Greek names for Berbers such as Mazices.Some of the best known of the ancient Berbers are the Numidian king Masensen, king Yugerten, the Berber-Roman author Apuleius, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and the Berber-Roman general Lusius Quietus, who was instrumental in defeating the major wave of Jewish revolts of 115–117 in ancient Israel. The Berber queen Dihya, or Kahina, was a religious and political leader who led a military Berber resistance against the Arab-Muslim expansion in Northwest Africa. Kusaila was a 7th-century leader of the Berber Awerba tribe and King of the Iẓnagen confederation and resisted the Arab-Muslim invasion. Yusef U Tashfin was a Muslim king of the Berber Almoravid dynasty. Abbas Ibn Firnas was a Berber-Andalusian prolific inventor and early pioneer in aviation. Ben Bettota was a medieval Berber explorer who departed from Tanja, Morocco and traveled the longest known distances of his time and chronicled his impressions of hundreds of nations and cultures.Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States.
Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a domestic security service, the CIA has no law enforcement function and is mainly focused on overseas intelligence gathering, with only limited domestic intelligence collection. Though it is not the only agency of the Federal government of the United States specializing in HUMINT, the CIA serves as the national manager for coordination of HUMINT activities across the U.S. intelligence community. Moreover, the CIA is the only agency authorized by law to carry out and oversee covert action at the behest of the President. It exerts foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division.Before the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the CIA Director concurrently served as the head of the Intelligence Community; today, the CIA is organized under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Despite transferring some of its powers to the DNI, the CIA has grown in size as a result of the September 11 attacks. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that in fiscal year 2010, the CIA had the largest budget of all IC agencies, exceeding previous estimates.The CIA has increasingly expanded its role, including covert paramilitary operations. One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations.Eastern Mediterranean
The Eastern Mediterranean denotes the countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea (Levantine Seabasin). The Eastern Mediterranean populations share not only geographic position but also cuisine, certain customs and a long, intertwined history.French North Africa
French North Africa was a collection of territories in North Africa controlled by France during the 19th and 20th century colonial era, centering on French Algeria. At its height, it comprised most of the Maghreb.
In the 19th century, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which had loosely controlled the area since the 16th century, left the region vulnerable to other forces. In 1830, French troops captured Algiers and from 1848 until independence in 1962, France treated Mediterranean Algeria as an integral part of France, the Métropole or metropolitan France. Seeking to expand their influence beyond Algeria, the French established protectorates to the east and west of it. The French protectorate of Tunisia was established in 1881, following a military invasion, and the French protectorate in Morocco in 1912. These lasted until 1955, in the case of Morocco, and 1956, when Tunisia gained full independence.
French North Africa came to an end soon after the Évian Accords of March 1962, which enabled the Algerian independence referendum of July 1962.MENA
MENA is an English-language acronym referring to the Middle East and North Africa region. An alternative for the same group of countries is WANA (West Asia and North Africa). The term covers an extensive region stretching from Morocco to Iran, including all Mashriq and Maghreb countries. This toponym is roughly synonymous with the term the Greater Middle East.
The population of the MENA region at its least extent is estimated to be around 381 million people. This constitutes about 6% of the total world population. The MENA acronym is often used in academia, military planning, disaster relief, media planning as a broadcast region, and business writing.Maghreb
The Maghreb (; Arabic: المغرب, translit. al-Maɣréb, lit. 'The West'), also known as Northwest Africa or Northern Africa, Greater Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي الكبير, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi al-Kabir), Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi) or Greater Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب الكبير, translit. al-Maghrib al-Kabīr), or by some sources the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. It additionally includes the disputed territories of Western Sahara (mostly controlled by Morocco) and the cities of Melilla and Ceuta (both controlled by Spain and claimed by Morocco). As of 2018, the region has a population of over 100 million people.
In historical English and European literature, the region was known as the Barbary Coast or the Barbary States, derived from the native Berbers. Sometimes it was referred to as the Land of the Atlas, derived from the Atlas Mountains. In current Berber language media and literature, the region is part of what is known as Tamazgha.
The region is usually defined as much or most of northern Africa, including a large portion of Africa's Sahara Desert, and excluding Egypt, which is part of Mashriq. The traditional definition of the region that restricted it to the Atlas Mountains and the coastal plains of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya was expanded by the inclusion of Mauritania and of the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
During the era of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula (711–1492), the Maghreb's inhabitants, the Muslim Berbers or Maghrebis, were known by Europeans as "Moors", or as "Afariqah" (Roman Africans). Morocco transliterates into Arabic as "al-Maghreb" (The Maghreb).
Before the establishment of modern nation states in the region during the 20th century, Maghreb most commonly referred to a smaller area, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the south. It often also included the territory of eastern Libya, but not modern Mauritania. As recently as the late 19th century, Maghreb was used to refer to the Western Mediterranean region of coastal North Africa in general, and to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, in particular.The region was somewhat unified as an independent political entity during the rule of the Berber kingdom of Numidia, which was followed by the Roman Empire's rule or influence. That was followed by the brief invasion of the Germanic Vandals, the equally brief re-establishment of a weak Roman rule by the Byzantine Empire, the rule of the Islamic Caliphates under the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Fatimid Caliphate. The most enduring rule was that of the local Berber empires of the Almoravid dynasty, Almohad Caliphate, Hammadid dynasty, Zirid dynasty, Marinid dynasty, Zayyanid dynasty, and Wattasid dynasty - from the 8th to 13th centuries. The Ottoman Empire for a period also controlled parts of the region.
Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya established the Arab Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote cooperation and economic integration in a common market. It was envisioned initially by Muammar Gaddafi as a superstate. The union included Western Sahara implicitly under Morocco's membership, putting Morocco's long cold war with Algeria to a rest. However, this progress was short-lived, and the union is now dormant. Tensions between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara re-emerged, reinforced by the unsolved border dispute between the two countries. These two main conflicts have hindered progress on the union's joint goals and practically made it inactive as a whole. However, the instability in the region and growing cross-border security threats revived the calls for regional cooperation, with foreign ministers of the Arab Maghreb Union declaring a need for coordinated security policy in May 2015 at the 33rd session of the follow-up committee meeting, which revived hope of some form of cooperation.Maghreb cuisine
Maghreb cuisine is the cooking of the Maghreb region, the northwesternmost part of Africa along the Mediterranean Sea, consisting of the countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. The region has a high degree of geographic, political, social, economic and cultural diversity which influences its cuisine and culinary style.
Well-known dishes from the region include couscous, pastilla, and the tajine stew.Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin (also known as the Mediterranean region or sometimes Mediterranea) is the region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation.Middle East
The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East (as opposed to the Far East) beginning in the early 20th century.
Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris (excluding Azerbaijan) constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population. Arabs constitute the largest ethnic group in the region by a clear margin. Indigenous minorities of the Middle East include Jews, Baloch, Assyrians, Berbers (who primarily live in North Africa), Copts, Druze, Lurs, Mandaeans, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats, and Zazas. European ethnic groups that form a diaspora in the region include Albanians, Bosniaks, Circassians (including Kabardians), Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Franco-Levantines, and Italo-Levantines. Among other migrant populations are Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Pashtuns, Romani, and sub-Saharan Africans.
The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the (geopolitical) importance of the region being recognized for millennia. Several major religions have their origins in the Middle East, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the Baha'i faith, Mandaeism, Unitarian Druze, and numerous other belief systems were also established within the region.
The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate, with several major rivers providing irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia, and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.
Most of the countries that border the Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil, with monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula in particular benefiting economically from petroleum exports.Muslim conquest of the Maghreb
The Muslim conquest of the Maghreb (Arabic: الفَتْحُ الإسْلَامِيُّ لِلمَغْرِبِ) continued the century of rapid Arab Early Muslim conquests following the death of Muhammad in 632 AD and into the Byzantine-controlled territories of Northern Africa. In a series of three stages, the conquest of the Maghreb commenced in 647 and concluded in 709 with the "Byzantine" Roman Empire losing its last remaining strongholds to the then-Umayyad Caliphate.
By 642 AD, under Caliph Umar, Arab Muslim forces had laid control of Mesopotamia (638), Syria (641), Egypt (642), and had invaded Armenia, all previously territories split between the warring Byzantine and Persian Empires, and were concluding their conquest of the Persian Empire with their defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Nahāvand. It was at this point that Arab military expeditions into North African regions west of Egypt were first launched, continuing for years and furthering the spread of Islam.
In 644 at Madinah, Caliph Umar (Omar) was succeeded by Uthman ibn Affan (Othman), during whose twelve-year rule Armenia, Cyprus, and all of Iran, would be added to the growing Islamic empire; Afghanistan and North Africa would receive major invasions; and Muslim sea raids would range from Rhodes to the southern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula. The Byzantine navy would be defeated in the eastern Mediterranean.North Africa during Antiquity
The History of North Africa during the period of Classical Antiquity (c. 8th century BCE – 5th century CE) can be divided roughly into the history of Egypt in the east, the history of Ancient Libya in the middle and the history of Numidia and Mauretania in the West. The Roman Republic established the province of Africa in 146 BCE after the defeat of Carthage. The Roman Empire eventually controlled the entire Mediterranean coast of Africa, adding Egypt in 30 BCE, Creta et Cyrenaica in 20 BCE, and Mauretania in CE 44.
Initially, in the east, Egypt was under Persian rule during the early phase of classical antiquity, passing to the Ptolemaic dynasty in the Hellenistic era. Libya was inhabited by Berber tribes, while along the coast Phoenician and Greek colonies were set up.
Rome lost parts of Africa to the Vandals in the 5th century. The Byzantine Empire finally lost all control of Africa as the region fell to the Umayyad conquest of North Africa by the close of the 7th century.North African Campaign
The North African Campaign of the Second World War took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts (Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War) and in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch), as well as Tunisia (Tunisia Campaign).
The campaign was fought between the Allies, many of whom had colonial interests in Africa dating from the late 19th century, and the Axis Powers. The Allied war effort was dominated by the British Commonwealth and exiles from German-occupied Europe. The United States officially entered the war in December 1941 and began direct military assistance in North Africa on 11 May 1942.
Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British Army's 11th Hussars (assisted by elements of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 1st RTR) crossed the border from Egypt into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. This was followed by an Italian counter-offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September 1940 and again in December 1940 following a British Commonwealth counteroffensive, Operation Compass. During Operation Compass, the Italian 10th Army was destroyed and the German Afrika Korps—commanded by Erwin Rommel, who later became known as "The Desert Fox"—was dispatched to North Africa in February 1941 during Operation Sonnenblume to reinforce Italian forces in order to prevent a complete Axis defeat.
A fluctuating series of battles for control of Libya and regions of Egypt followed, reaching a climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery inflicted a decisive defeat on Rommel's Afrika Korps and forced its remnants into Tunisia. After the Anglo-American landings (Operation Torch) in North-West Africa in November 1942, and subsequent battles against Vichy France forces (who then changed sides), the Allies encircled several hundred thousand German and Italian personnel in northern Tunisia and finally forced their surrender in May 1943.
Operation Torch in November 1942 was a compromise operation that met the British objective of securing victory in North Africa while allowing American armed forces the opportunity to engage in the fight against Nazi Germany on a limited scale. In addition, as Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, had long been pleading for a second front to be opened to engage the Wehrmacht and relieve pressure on the Red Army, it provided some degree of relief for the Red Army on the Eastern Front by diverting Axis forces to the North African theatre. Over half the German Ju 52 transport planes that were needed to supply the encircled German and Romanian forces at Stalingrad were tied up supplying Axis forces in North Africa.Information gleaned via British Ultra code-breaking intelligence proved critical to Allied success in North Africa. Victory for the Allies in this campaign immediately led to the Italian Campaign, which culminated in the downfall of the fascist government in Italy and the elimination of Germany's main European ally.Operation Torch
Operation Torch (8–16 November 1942) was an Anglo–American invasion of French North Africa during the Second World War. It was aimed at reducing pressure on Allied forces in Egypt, and enabling an invasion of Southern Europe. It also provided the ‘second front’ which the Soviet Union had been requesting since it was invaded by the Germans in 1941. The region was dominated by the Vichy French, officially Nazi-controlled, but with mixed loyalties, and reports indicated that they might support the Allied initiative. The American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding the operation, planned a 3-pronged attack, aimed at Casablanca (Western), Oran (Center) and Algiers (Eastern), in advance of a rapid move on Tunis.
The Western Task Force encountered unexpected resistance, as well as bad weather, but Casablanca, the principal French Atlantic naval base, was captured after a short siege. The Center Task Force suffered some damage to its fleet, trying to land in shallow water, but the enemy ships were sunk or driven off, and Oran surrendered after heavy fire from British battleships. The Eastern Task Force met less opposition because the French Resistance had staged a coup in Algiers, and the Allies were able to push inland and compel surrender on the first day.
The success of Torch caused the commander of French forces in the region, Admiral Darlan, to order full co-operation with the Allies, in return for being retained as High Commissioner, with many Vichy officials keeping their jobs. But Darlan was assassinated soon after, and De Gaulle’s Free French gradually came to dominate the government.
Operation Torch was the first mass involvement of US troops in the European–North African Theatre, and saw the first major airborne assault carried out anywhere by the United States.Vandal Kingdom
The Vandal Kingdom (Latin: Regnum Vandalum) or Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans (Latin: Regnum Vandalorum et Alanorum) was established by the Germanic Vandal people under Genseric, and ruled in North Africa and the Mediterranean from 435 AD to 534 AD.
In 429, the Vandals, estimated to number 80,000 people, had crossed by boat from Spain to North Africa. They advanced eastward conquering the coastal regions of 21st century Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. In 435, the Roman Empire, then ruling in North Africa, allowed the Vandals to settle in the provinces of Numidia and Mauretania when it became clear that the Vandal army could not be defeated by Roman military forces. In 439 the Vandals renewed their advance eastward and captured Carthage, the most important city of North Africa. The fledgling kingdom then conquered the Roman-ruled islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. In the 460s the Romans launched two unsuccessful military expeditions by sea in an attempt to overthrow the Vandals and reclaim North Africa. The conquest of North Africa by the Vandals was a blow to the beleaguered Western Roman Empire as North Africa was a major source of revenue and a supplier of grain (mostly wheat) to the city of Rome.
Although primarily remembered for the sack of Rome in 455 and their persecution of Nicene Christians in favor of Arian Christianity, the Vandals were also patrons of learning. Grand building projects continued, schools flourished and North Africa fostered many of the most innovative writers and natural scientists of the late Latin Western Roman Empire.The Vandal Kingdom ended in 534 when it was conquered by Belisarius in the Vandalic War and incorporated into the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.Vandals
The Vandals were a large East Germanic tribe or group of tribes that first appear in history inhabiting present-day southern Poland. Some later moved in large numbers, including most notably the group which successively established kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula and then North Africa in the 5th century.The traditional view has been that the Vandals migrated from southern Scandinavia to the area between the lower Oder and Vistula rivers during the 2nd century BC and settled in Silesia from around 120 BC. They are associated with the Przeworsk culture and were possibly the same people as the Lugii. Expanding into Dacia during the Marcomannic Wars and to Pannonia during the Crisis of the Third Century, the Vandals were confined to Pannonia by the Goths around 330 AD, where they received permission to settle from Constantine the Great. Around 400, raids by the Huns forced many Germanic tribes to migrate into the territory of the Roman Empire, and fearing that they might be targeted next the Vandals were pushed westwards, crossing the Rhine into Gaul along with other tribes in 406. In 409 the Vandals crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, where their main groups, the Hasdingi and the Silingi, settled in Gallaecia (northwest Iberia) and Baetica (south-central Iberia) respectively.After the Visigoths invaded Iberia in 418, the Iranian Alans and Silingi Vandals voluntarily subjected themselves to the rule of Hasdingian leader Gunderic, who was pushed from Gallaecia to Baetica by a Roman-Suebi coalition in 419. In 429, under king Genseric (reigned 428–477), the Vandals entered North Africa. By 439 they established a kingdom which included the Roman province of Africa as well as Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta and the Balearic Islands. They fended off several Roman attempts to recapture the African province, and sacked the city of Rome in 455. Their kingdom collapsed in the Vandalic War of 533–4, in which Emperor Justinian I's forces reconquered the province for the Eastern Roman Empire.
Renaissance and early-modern writers characterized the Vandals as barbarians, "sacking and looting" Rome. This led to the use of the term "vandalism" to describe any pointless destruction, particularly the "barbarian" defacing of artwork. However, modern historians tend to regard the Vandals during the transitional period from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages as perpetuators, not destroyers, of Roman culture.
Countries and territories of North Africa
|Partially recognized state|
1Entirely claimed by both Morocco and the SADR. 2Spanish exclaves claimed by Morocco. 3Portuguese archipelago claimed by Spain. 4Disputed between Sudan and Egypt. 5Terra nullius located between Egypt and Sudan. 6Disputed between Sudan and South Sudan. 7Part of Chad, formerly claimed by Libya. 8Disputed between Morocco and Spain