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Arabic term for northwest Africa in general, and for Morocco in particular.

In its broadest meaning, the Maghrib (also Maghreb) refers to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Tripolitania, and, occasionally, Libya. The region is characterized by fertile plains and the Atlas mountain range near the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, and sweeping desert in its hinterland.

The term maghrib comes from the Arabic word meaning "west" or "place of sunset." The Arabs conquered the region between 643 and 711 c.e., and ruled it through semiautonomous kingdoms and tribes. From the ninth to the fourteenth century, the Maghrib produced impressive Islamic realms with robust trade economies tied to Saharan caravan routes. In the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire conquered the coasts of present-day Tunisia and Algeria, while the interior desert regions and Morocco remained autonomous, free from imperial rule.

France colonized the Maghrib between 1830 and 1912, and from that period, French was commonly spoken in addition to Berber and Arabic. Morocco and Tunisia achieved independence with little violence in 1956, while Algeria fought the bitter Algerian War of Independence from 1954 until 1962 to achieve its freedom. Libya, once a colony of Italy, was next governed by France and Britain, and became independent in 1951.

see also algerian war of independence.


Laroui, Abdullah. The History of the Maghrib: An Interpretive Essay. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977.

elizabeth thompson

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Geographical term indicating the Arab West—North Africa and, before 1492, Spain. The Arabic word (sometimes rendered "maghreb") means "west" or "place of the sunset." Maghrib is also the name of the fourth Muslim prayer of the day, occuring at sunset, and the Arabic name for the country of Morocco.

SEE ALSO Mashriq.

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