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Maghreb
Arabic: 'al-maghrib


Name of north- western Africa, coming from Arabic word for "the land where the sun sets".
Maghreb is used in opposition to the Middle East, or Mashriq, which is often also used for the Orient, however inaccurate this is. Maghreb is used in order to avoid including the 5 (or 3, depending on definitions) countries in the Middle East.
According to the most limited definition, the Maghrib are the 3 countries touched by the Atlas Mountains: Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. A wider definition are the three countries with substantial Berber populations and cultures: The first 3 plus Mauritania and Libya.
There is a strong feeling of unity between the peoples of Maghreb, where Berbers constitute a large part, and in 1989 l'Union du Maghreb arabe (U.M.A.) was created between the 5 countries of the wider definition. The U.M.A. is an economic union, much built on the ideals of the European Community (now European Union), but still far from as important and cohesive.




By Tore Kjeilen