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North Africa
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North Africa

North Africa is the region of the continent of Africa north of the Sahara desert, comprising the Maghreb and Egypt, and by some definitions the Sudan.

Contact between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa was limited almost exclusively to trade along the Eastern and Western coasts of the continent and to travel up and down the Nile, due to the difficulty in crossing the desert. This remained the case until after the time of the Arabic expansion and the spread of Islam.

Genetically, North Africans are about 80% Caucasoid people with ancient Middle Eastern origin and are considered as white Africans. But today the mixing with black Africans is growing because many Africans are migrating north.

Though North African culture as well as its people have both African and Middle Eastern roots, most North Africans are either Arabic or Berber-speaking Muslims (or, in the Copts' case, Christians).

Some North African countries, particularly Egypt and Libya, often get included in common definitions of the Middle East due to continuous contacts with the Middle East. In addition, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt is in Asia, and is thus unquestionably part of the Middle East.

Modern territories of northern Africa

Sometimes Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Mauritania are considered to be a part of this region.


Originally, much of North Africa was inhabited by black Africans, as demonstrated by Saharan rock art throughout the region; however, this does not appear to have been the case in the Maghreb and Lower Egypt, which were inhabited by white Africans speaking Afro-Asiatic languages. Following the desiccation of the Sahara, most black Africans migrated South into East and West Africa.

After the Middle Ages, the area was loosely under the control of the Ottoman Empire, except Morocco. After the 19th century, it was colonized by France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

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