The Maghreb describes a portion of Africa's northern region that covers roughly 2,316,613 square miles and is home to more than 100 million people. Historical evidence indicates that in the past, the region was previously referred to as the Barbary States because members of the Berber community primarily inhabited the region. During this period, the inhabitants of the area were referred to as Moors. In the modern era, five nations are situated within the Maghreb region. They are:
The smallest nation in the Maghreb region is Tunisia, which covers an area of roughly 63,170 square miles. Despite its relatively small size, Tunisia has a population of around 11 million people. Tunisia is a member of different regional organizations such as the Arab League and La Francophonie. Like the other countries within the Maghreb region, in ancient times, Berbers made up the most significant portion of Tunisia's population. Apart from Berbers, Tunisia was also home to Phoenicians who established the city of Carthage which was one of the most well-known cities in the ancient period. In the modern era, Arabs have replaced Berbers as the most prevalent group in Tunisia as they made up more than 90% of the country's population according to the World Factbook.
The second smallest nation located in the Maghreb region is Morocco, which covers an area of roughly 274,460 square miles. Morocco is one of the Maghreb’s most populous countries – it is home to 35,700,000 people. Historical evidence indicates that human societies have lived within Morocco's boundaries for a long period that began during the Paleolithic era. In the modern day, it was estimated that more than 40% of the Moroccan people were descendants of the Berbers who used to be the country's most dominant ethnic group.
One of the largest nations located within the Maghreb is Mauritania. It covers an area of about 400,000 square miles. Large numbers of Berber people previously inhabited what is currently Mauritania and their culture greatly influenced the culture of the present-day Mauritanian communities. The country was named after a Berber kingdom referred to as Mauretania. One of the main physical features in Mauritania is the Sahara Desert that covers roughly 90% of the country's territory.
Libya is one of the largest and influential nations situated in the Maghreb. The country covers an area of 700,000 square miles and it is the fourth largest in Africa. The nation's influence stems from the fact that its oil reserves are among the highest in the world. Despite its vast mineral wealth, Libya faces numerous challenges primarily caused by the country's political instability.
The largest nation in the Maghreb is Algeria which covers an area of roughly 919,595 square miles. Algeria is also the most populous country in the region and in 2012 it was home to approximately 37,100,000 people. A large section of the Algerian population has Berber roots; however, most of them identify themselves as Arabs.
Cooperation Among Nations in the Maghreb
The countries in the Maghreb region cooperate on many issues due to their close cultural and historical ties. In 1989, the leaders of the five states created the Maghreb Union to enhance cooperation among the countries.