Maghreb or Magrib (both: mäˈgrĭb) [key] [Arab., = the West], Arabic term for NW Africa. It is generally applied to all of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia but actually pertains only to the area of the three countries between the high ranges of the Atlas Mts. and the Mediterranean Sea. Some writers also included Spain—especially during its period of Muslim domination—in the definition. Isolated from the rest of the continent by the Atlas Mts. and the Sahara, the Maghreb is more closely related in terms of climate, landforms, population, economy, and history to N Mediterranean areas than to the rest of Africa. The region was united politically only during the first years of Arab rule (early 8th cent.), and again under the Almohads (1159–1229). The Arab Maghreb Union was established in 1989 to promote cooperation and integration among the Arab states of N Africa; its members are Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. Envisioned initially by Muammar al-Qaddafi as an Arab superstate, the organization is expected eventually to function as a N African common market, although economic and political unrest, especially in Algeria, and political tensions between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara have hindered progress on the union's joint goals.
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