The regions encompassed by both the second and third definitions, however, have also been called Northwest Africa.
Sahara, the territory whose native peoples were subjects of Carthage, and also as a name for the whole continent.
An overview of the region’s physical and human geography can be found in the article Africa.
For discussions of the physical and human geography of individual countries in the region and of their history beginning in the 19th century, The 11th to 13th centuries were not peaceful in the Maghrib.
The Romans applied the name Africa (of Phoenician origin) to their first province in the northern part of Tunisia, as well as to the entire area north of the Sahara and also to the entire continent.
The Arabs used the derived term Ifrīqiyyah in a similar fashion, though it originally referred to a region encompassing modern Tunisia and eastern Algeria.
They are not continuous but constitute separate blocks, especially in the coastal areas.
Although it was in the mountains that precipitation was highest, the forest there was intractable, and early settlements tended to choose the plains and valleys between or south of the mountains.
It has been regarded by some as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco in the west to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east, though this designation is more commonly referred to as northern Africa.
Others have limited it to the countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, a region known by the French during colonial times as Afrique du Nord and by the Arabs as the Maghrib (“West”).
The most commonly accepted definition, and the one used here, includes the three above-mentioned countries as well as Libya but excludes Egypt.
The Mediterranean coast—separated from Europe by only 8 miles (13 km) at the Strait of Gibraltar—is extremely inhospitable for much of its length, offering few natural harbours and still fewer natural lines of communication into the interior.
Even the major rivers, such as the Majardah (Medjerda) and the Chelif, are unnavigable.