North Africa is the most precisely defined multinational geographic unit in
Africa. Their main determining factor is the Sahara desert, which in some places
almost reaches the coast. Since the Arabian Plate or the Arabian Peninsula
belongs geologically to Africa, it is geographically part of North Africa.
cultural unit is mainly determined by Islam, the ethnic unit by Arabs, Moors and
Berbers, in the southernmost area also Nubians, Amharen and black African ethnic
The core states of North Africa include Morocco with the controversial
Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia (small Maghreb), Libya (large Maghreb), Egypt
and Sudan (only the north). Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Chad and Eritrea, on the
other hand, are marginal zones and only relevant in the necessary contexts (e.g.
geology, climate, ecology, Sahel zone).
The borders of the individual states were once drawn by the colonial powers
with a ruler and take into account ethnic aspects or the traditions of the old
African states, especially the Sub-Saharan (Bornu, Kanem, Songhay, Darfur,
Tarkur, the Sultanate of Sannar, Kordofan or Nubia) no consideration, which is
now causing conflicts everywhere from Sudan to Western Sahara, especially since
the sometimes thousands of kilometers long borders (Algeria five and a half
thousand km on land) mostly lead through deserts and their course is imprecise
and can hardly be monitored. The offshore Canary Islands, which geologically no
longer belong to the North African crystalline basal shield, but have arisen
volcanically, belong to Spain, which also has two exclaves on the Moroccan coast
with the port cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
Geography and topography
North Africa in the broader geographical sense refers to the area of the
continent Africa, the Sahara and the coastal strip to the north, west and east
of it to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Red Sea or the Suez Canal
between about 19 and 38 degrees of latitude the 13th degree west and 25th degree
east longitude (definition of the Encyclopedia Britannica). It has an area of
4.75 million square kilometers. Four fifths of them are currently desert.
North Africa is bounded in the west, north and east by the edges of the African
plate, which at the same time form the coastlines to the central Atlantic, the
southern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Several large high plateaus and mountains are located in the southern area of
the Sahara, in the north a large, strongly folded coastal mountain range, the
Atlas Mountains at the extreme western end of the Mediterranean coast, extends
over more than 2000 km from southwest Morocco to northeastern Tunisia parallel
to the Coast and is the reason for the lack of natural harbors there. There is
also the Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa (4165 m). The Rif
Mountains are located in the north-western tip of Morocco.
In the south, the west-east running Sahel is the border. In contrast to the
others, the southern border of North Africa is not a geological-geographical
border, but a landscape-ecological border and therefore less precisely
There are very large sandy deserts (Erg), the extent of which increases from
east to west. The largest are in the west the Grand Erg Oriental and the Grand
Erg Occidental, both in Algeria, in the east it is the Libyan Desert, which
stretches from western Egypt to Libya, where it is also called Calancio Desert.
In between are the Rebianah and Murzuk Deserts in Libya and the Selima Sandsheet
in the north of Sudan. The semi-deserts and dry savannas of the Sahel zone
border the desert area of the Sahara in the south as a transition zone.
Climate, prehistory and early history
In North Africa, the connections between climate and history were and are
particularly pronounced, as semi-humid and dry phases alternated again and
again, beginning 11,000 years ago. In a distinctly humid period, a savannah
landscape formed in the southern Sahara, in the course of which a Neolithic (New
Stone Age) regionally established itself.
About 6000 years ago an arid climate set in and people gradually withdrew
from the increasingly inhospitable Sahara to the oases, to the coasts, but above
all to the Nile Valley, and created between 3500 and 3000 BC. The organizational
basis for the first high culture in ancient Egypt.
Countries in Northern Africa