Northwest Africa

The Northwest Africa is made up of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, plus the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The region has been dominated by Arabs and their religion, Islam, for more than 1,300 years. Algeria and Libya are huge countries, but much of the land is desert. However, they and Tunisia have abundant reserves of oil and natural gas. Farming, made possible by irrigation projects, is still important to the region. Many people lead nomadic lives roaming the land with their herds of animals.


Physical Features:

Along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts is a fertile strip where most of the people live. The Atlas mountain chain runs across Morocco and continues as rolling hills in Algeria and Tunisia. The rest of the land is desert, broken by oases and bleak mountain rages.


Regional Climate:

Along most of the coast and on high ground summers are hot and dry and winters are warm and wet. Daytime desert temperatures average about 38’C (100 ‘F). At night they are low. Desert rainfall may be little as 2.5 cm (1 in) a year and irregular.


Mediterranean Coast:

Once occupied by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, northwest Africa’s Mediterranean coast has many ancient ruins that are particularly popular with tourists in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Most people live on the coastal plain which has fertile land and a warm climate.


Atlas Mountains:

The Atlas Mountains consists of several chains of mountains that stretch 2,140 km (1,500 miles) from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to Cape Bon in eastern Tunisia. The highest peak is Djebel Toubkal at 4.167 m (13.665 ft) which lies in the high Atlas range in southern Morocco.


Sahara:

The Sahara desert covers about 9,065, 000 sq km (3,263,400 sq miles). Only about one – fifth is sand. The rest includes vast, flat expanses of barren rock and gravel and mountains such as Algeria’s Ahaggar range, peaking at 2,918m (9,573 ft). Crops are grown in 90 large oases.


Berbers:

The original people of Northwest Africa are the Berbers. Today, about 15,000,000 Berbers still live in the mountains and deserts of the region. Most are Muslims, but retain their own language and dialects. The Tuareg are group nomadic Berber herders who roam the North African desert.


Morocco:

One of the important countries in The Northwest Africa is Morocco. It is a mix of African, Islamic, Arab, Berber and European influences. Morocco attracts more than four million tourists each year. The country’s strengths are farming and phosphate mining. Founded in Fes, in AD 859, Karueein University is the oldest in the world.


Mint Tea:

The traditional drink in Morocco is a refreshing mint tea, served in glasses or ports with plenty of sugar and a spring of mint. It is often offered free of charge in the souks (Markets) when bargaining is about to begin.


Carpets:

Hand – knotted woolen carpets are one of Morocco’s great craft industries. The leading carpet Factories are in Fes and Rabat. The carpets have bold coolers and symbolic, abstract Islamic patterns. Though sold by men, most rugs are made by women.


Morocco Facts:

Capital City: Rabat
Area: 446,300 sq km (172, 316 sq miles)
Population: 30,400,000
Main Languages: Arabic, Berber, French
Major Religions: Islam
Currency: Moroccan Dirham


Algeria:

Another important country in The Northwest Africa is Algeria. Under French rule from 1830, Algeria won independence in 1962. The country has a high birth rate and young population. 86 per cent are below the age of 44. Crude oil and natural gas are an important source of income. Increasingly, fundamentalist Islamic groups pose a threat to non – Muslims.


Overpopulation:

Since more than four – fifths of Algeria is desert, 90 percent of Algerians live in the far north of the country where it is cooler. However, as Algeria’s population continues to increase at a rate of more than 17 per cent a year, many northern towns, like Constantine, are struggling to house everybody. And slum areas are growing.


Dates:

Algeria is the world’s sixth largest producer of dates. They are grown in the fertile north as well as in the many oases of the Sahara and provide a main source of income. Date palms also yield timber. Their leaves are used to thatch buildings.


Algeria Facts:

Capital City: Algiers
Area: 2,381,740 sq km (919,590 sq miles)
Population: 30,800,000
Main Languages: Arabic, Berber, French, Tamazight
Major Religions: Islam
Currency: Algerian Dinar


Libya:

Another important country in The Northwest Africa is Libya. Since 95 per cent of Libya is desert, the Great Man – made river project was set up to irrigate farming land. Water is piped from beneath the Sahara to populated coastal regions.


Oil and Gas:

The discovery of oil natural gas in 1959 transformed Libya into wealthy nation and many people moved to the towns in search of work in 1992. Trade with the west was severely disrupted when the UN imposed sanction because of leader Colonel Gaddafi’s alleged links with international terrorist groups.


Roman Ruins:

Libya was abandoned by the Romans after the Arab conquest of AD 643 and was an Italian colony between 1911 and 1951. Today; some of the finest Roman ruins outside Italy can be seen at Leptis Magna, now called Labdah, to the east of the capital. Tripoli.


Libya Facts:

Capital City: Tripoli
Area: 1,759,540 sq km (679,358 sq miles)
Population: 5,400,000
Main Languages: Arabic, Tuareg
Major Religions: Islam
Currency: Libyan Dinar


Tunisia:

Another important country in The Northwest Africa is Tunisia. A former French colony, Tunisia is the smallest country in the region and one of the more liberal Arab states. Although not admitted into politics, Tunisian women enjoy a high level of equality, making up of 31 percent of the work-force.


Couscous:

The staple food in Tunisia is granules of semolina called conscious. Originally a Berber dish, Conscious is served with meat of vegetable sauce. Tunisians like their food spicy. After this main course, dates stuffed with almond paste, or sweet pastries filled with honey and nuts are served.


Sauk:

A feature of Tunisian cities – and indeed all northwest African cities – is the Sauk or market. This is traditionally a tangle of narrow streets flanked by open fronted stalls, where people can buy anything from food to carpets or hand made jewelers.


Tunisia Facts:

Capital City: Tunis
Area: 163,610 sq km (63,169 sq miles)
Population: 9,600,000
Main Languages: Arabic, French
Major Religions: Islam
Currency: Tunisian Dinar


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