North Africa

Exclusive of Egypt, these listings cover the African coastal regions of the Mediterranean Sea, together with the interior districts directly adjacent to the coastal ones.

Presently, this covers: Adrar, Aïr, Algeria, Algiers, Aloa, Bagirmi, Bir Tawil, Bou Regreg, Brakna, Canary Islands, Carthage, Ceuta, Constantine, Cyrenaica, Damagaram, Dar al-Masalit, Darfur, Dendi, Djebel Nefusah, Djerba, Dotawo, Fez, Fezzan, Gabes, Gao, the Garamantes, (Old) Ghana, Gobir, Ifni, the Jarawa, Kaarta, Kanem-Bornu, Kangaba, Kel Ahaggar, Kenedugu, Kerkennah Islands, Kordofan, Leptis Magna, Libya, Macina, Madeira Islands, Mali, Mascara, Masmouda, Melilla, Meroë, Monastir, Morocco, Mukurra, Napata, Nekor, Nobatia, Nubia, Numidia, Oran, Phazana, the Rif, Sabratha, Segu, Sfax, the Shilluk, Sijilmasa, Sikasso, Songhai, the Sudan, Tabarca, Tagant, Tahert, Tamesna, Tangier, Taqali, Tibesti, Timbuktu, Trarza, Tripoli, Tugurt, Tukolor, Tunis, Tunisia, Wadai, Western Sahara, and Zaghawa.

ADRAR A Berber region in north-central Mauretania, north of Tagant, northeast of Trarza. It's chief city, Atar, is located at the southern end of the Meddahia Ridge, about 270 miles (435 km.) northeast of the national capital of Nouakchott and about 55 miles (88 km.) south of the border with Western Sahara.

AÏR (Agadez) A hilly region in northern Niger, more-or-less in the middle of the entire Sahara desert. The region has been a Tuareg Sultanate until nearly the present day. The town of Agadez, currently the capital of  Niger's most northerly province, is about 470 miles (750 km.) northeast of the national capital of Niamey, and about 230 miles (370 km.) north-northwest of Zinder.

ALGERIA The western portion of North Africa, opposite France, together with a considerable extent of the Western Sahara.

BAGUIRMI A Sultanate in western Chad, bordering Kanem-Bornu.

BIR TAWIL (and the Hala'ib)
Examining a map of southern Egypt and northern Sudan will reveal a generally straight-line frontier running along the 22nd Parallel. This mathematically drawn line is broken in three places; one is a small salient thrusting north a few dozen miles or so around the Nile River. The other two begin some 240 miles (385 km.) from the coast, when the official frontier parts company with the administrative line and jogs south for a bit, then heads east again, finally to wander north past the administrative line and meanders northeastwards until reaching the Red Sea. Two regions are thus defined: a roughly triangular zone fronting on the sea about 7915 square miles (20500 sq. km.) in area, the Hala'ib; and a much smaller trapezoid in the interior about 772 square miles (2000 sq. km.) in area - the Bir Tawil (for reference sake, the Hala'ib is roughly the size of Slovenia or New Jersey, the Bir Tawil approximates the size of Mauritius). The Bir Tawil is an almost completely flat wasteland, an arid district of sand and rock and some coarse desert-adapted grasses. There are no permanent inhabitants. The Hala'ib is hilly, and contains a few small villages on the coast. Why mention any of this? Because these two regions are at the center of a long-standing border dispute between Egypt and Sudan; both would like control over the Hala'ib, and as a result, neither so much as dares glance at the Bir Tawil - to make any sort of claim at all to it would, by treaty, surrender claims to the much larger and more valuable coastal district. Consequently, the Bir Tawil may be the only genuinely unclaimed land on Earth (aside from Antarctic "lands", decisions over political control of which have been suspended pending international conference since 1959). Both Egypt and the Sudan would be delighted if the other formally took it, and that's not likely to happen any time soon. The only people to have any immediate familiarity with the region are a few Bedawi who sometimes use the place to graze herds upon - they are unconcerned about international boundaries.

BOU REGREG A district in coastal northwestern Morocco, involving the twin cities of Salé and Rabat. The region attracting numerous Moriscos (Islamic Spanish refugees) in the 16th and early 17th centuries, it became the autonomous headquarters of the Sallee Rovers, Muslim pirates and slave raiders who preyed upon European shipping and coastal communities, a practice that did not abate until the latter 18th century.

BRAKNA An Emirate in southwestern Mauretania, east of Trarza Province and southwest of Tagant Province.

CANARY ISLANDS A group of islands off the coast of southern Morocco

CEUTA (Sabta) A port situated beside the southern Pillar of Hercules, opposite Gibraltar.

CONSTANTINE (Qustantina, Blad el-Hawa; Phoen. Kirtha, Rom. Cirta) An ancient city in northeastern Algeria, traditionally populated largely by Kabyle Berbers. It is about 180 miles (300 km.) east of Algiers, about 90 miles (145 km.) west of the Tunisian frontier, and about 30 miles (48 km.) south of the Mediterranean coast. Sited on a superbly defendable natural plateau nearly surrounded by deep gorges, the place has had a chequered history.

CYRENAICA On the coast of eastern Libya, a Greek Colony-Kingdom founded from Thera in the 7th century BCE. The interior just behind the coastal settlements was the scene of intense fighting during WWII between FM. Montgomery and FM Rommel.

DAMAGARAM A Sultanate in south-central Niger, based in modern times on the provincial capital of Zinder.

DAR al-MASALITAn ephemeral Sultanate in extreme western Sudan, near the frontier with Chad.

DARFUR An ancient district in extreme western Sudan, between Kordofan and Wadai. There has been a shadowy state, or series of states, of some sorts here since at least 2500 BCE, and a recognizable link exists to one degree or another between the early indigeneous people of Darfur and the people of pre-dynastic Egypt. The communities formed from early times one leg of triangular trade routes between Pharaonic Egypt on the one hand and Napata/Meroë on the other, and it has been suggested that surviving elements of the Kingdom of Cush may have set up a dynasty here after that state fell in c. 350 CE.

DENDI A nation and ethnic group located in the Niger watershed in southern Niger and northern Dahomey. They speak a dialect of Songhai, and became organized as a distinct political entitity following the absorption of Songhai into the Moroccan Empire at the end of the 16th century.

DJEBEL NEFUSAH The hill country in the interior of western Libya, south of Tripoli. The district was in the hands of a group of Kharijite Imams of the Ibadhiyah sect during the 8th through 10th centuries CE. The Kharijites ("Withdrawers", "Seceders") are Muslims who rejected both Sunni and Shi'ite interpretations of Caliphate succession and developed an idealist and deed-oriented version of Islam. The Ibadhiyah are the moderate wing of the Kharijtes, as opposed to the radical Azariqah movement of Basra, in Iraq.

DJERBA An island of about 200 sq. miles (510 sq. km.) in the Gulf of Gades, along the southern Tunisian coast. It was known in ancient times as Lotophagitis Nasos (Island of the Lotus-Eaters), and thought to be the place where the Hero Odysseus met with that folk whose diet caused amnesia.

FEZ An inland city located in northern Morocco.

FEZZAN The arid interior of western Libya.

GABÈS (Qabis) A town and oasis on the southern Tunisian coast, capital of the central Tunisian Vilayet (province) of the same name. It is the chief port on the Golfe de Gabès, 100 miles (161 km.) from the Libyan border.

GOBIR An ancient Hausa state, centered in what is now Maradi province of Niger. It was from the area of Gobir that the Fulani Jihad erupted, creating the Fulani states in northern and central Nigeria during the 19th century. At the end of the 18th century, a Muslim cleric of Fulani origin, Usman dan Fodio, established a religious training center in Gobir with the initial support of the Hausa King. Alarmed, however, by the schools growing autonomy and influence, the King attempted to rein it in, with the result that Usman resisted and ultimately declared Jihad, Holy War, on the Hausa. Ceding political and military control of the new empire to his two sons, Muhammad Bello at Sokoto and Abdullah at Gwandu, Usman created a puritanistic Muslim presence in the central Niger River basin.

The JARAWA A Berber tribal confederacy in the Aures Mountains in eastern Algeria. The tribe absorbed large numbers of Jews fleeing Visigothic persecution in Spain and Byzantine persecution in North Africa, and converted to Judaism en masse sometime in the 600's.

KAARTA A Bambara state in the interior of southern Mauretania, south of Tagant, in the Hodh. Founded by a brother of the founder of Segu, to the southeast.

KANEM-BORNU An old realm lying north of Lake Chad, on the edge of the desert.

KEL AHAGGAR A Tuareg confederation located in the wastes of central and southern Algeria.

KENEDUGU (Sikasso) A small kingdom in far southern Mali, near the Cote d'Ivoire frontier - the town of Sikasso itself is a provincial capital about 20 miles (32 km.) from the Burkina Faso border and about 183 miles (294 km.) southeast of the national capital of Bamako.

KERKENAH ISLANDS (Insulae Cercinae) Two larger islands (Chergui, to the east, and Gharbi, closer to the coast to the west), and a number of small islets, on the Tunisian coast opposite Sfax. In Classic times, they were thought to be the place where Aeas (Ajax), king of Locrea brought his army and populated them after the destruction of Troy.

KORDOFAN A Montana-sized semi-arid province of central Sudan - the Sudanese capital of Khartoum is just beyond it's northeastern frontier. The region is the world's principal source of gum arabic. See also, Taqali.

LIBYA Central North Africa, between Tunisia and Egypt. See also, Fezzan and Tripoli.

MACINA The marshy region of the upper Niger, southwest of Timbuktu, in what is now central Mali.

MADEIRA ISLANDSAn archipelago in the North Atlantic, about 400 (640 km.) miles west of Morocco and roughly 300 miles (480 km,) north of the Canary Islands.

MALI An interior country with the upper reaches of the Volta River as a focus, there have been a number of empires to flourish here. Within this land is the fabled city of Timbuktu.

MASCARA A district in northwestern Algeria, essentially the region from Tlemcen through Oran and on to Tiaret. Mascara itself is a city some 50 miles (80 km.) southeast of Oran. There had been an Ottoman garrison hereabouts since the beginning of the 18th century, but the district only came into prominence in the early 19th century, when it constituted an Emirate (based initially at Tiaret) set in defiance of encroaching French authority.

MELILLA (Phoen. Rusaddir) A city on the north coast of Morocco, about 150 miles (240 km.) east-southeast of the Straits of Gibralter, on the eastern side of Cap Des Trois Fourches at the entrance to the Sebkha bou Areg inlet.

MONASTIR (Phoen. Miss-Tyr, Rom. Ruspina) A city in Byzacene (the middle east coast of Tunisia), modern Susah province. Located on a small peninsula extending out into the Mediterranean at the southern tip of the Gulf of Hammamet. It was was founded by Carthaginians or Tyrians c. 509 BCE. The second treaty between Carthage and Rome mentionned it as an ally of Carthage. In the Turkish era, Monastir became the capital of the Mansab (region) of Sahel, and became an important port and fortress - in 1864, the town hosted 11 consuls of European states.

MOROCCO The name is a corruption of "Marrakech", a major city in the region and for a very long time the capital.

NUBIA (KUSH, modern SUDAN) The Central Nile region; that land, mostly in Sudan now, between Upper Egypt and the mountains of Ethiopia. There has been a civilization here for a very long time, although it has been overshadowed by its neighbours to either side, and much is hidden nowadays.

ORAN (Wahran)A port in northern Algeria, about 210 miles (335 km.) west of Algiers, about 90 miles (145 km.) east of the Moroccan frontier, and roughly 70 miles (115 km.) northeast of the old Zayyanid capital of Tlemcen.

The RIF The Rif is a mountain range in far northern Morocco, extending from Tangier in the west to the Oued Moulouya Valley in the east, a length of about 180 miles (290 km.). To the north, it hugs most of the Moroccan Mediterranean coast - the chief cities in and adjacent to the region are Tangier, Ceuta, Tétouan, al-Hoceima, and Melilla.

SEGU A Bambara state in what is now south-central Mali, southwest of Macina and approximately where modern Ségou Province is today. Founded by a brother of the founder of Kaarta, to the northwest.

SFAX A port city on the central Tunisian coast, opposite the Kerkennah Islands. Based on two small trading posts in Classical times (Taparura and Thaenae), during the 17th and 18th centuries it was a stronghold of the Barbary pirates.

The SHILLUK A tribal folk dwelling on the west bank of the Nile, in south-central Sudan, about 400 miles (640 km.) south of Khartoum.

SIJILMASA A Berber town in southeastern Morocco.

TABARCA A port town in far northwestern Tunisia, about 10 miles (16 km.) east of the Algerian border. The bay is dominated by a small island of the same name.

TAGANTA Berber sultanate in present-day Mauretania, founded by the Idawi tribal confederacy.

TAHERT An inland city in northwestern Algeria, about 95 miles (155 km.) from the coast.

TAMESNA Tamesna itself is a mountain village on the spine of the Atlas Mountains, in south-central Morocco about 50 miles (80 km.) southeast of Marrakech, but this region also includes the Masmuda Berber peoples, which extend across the southern Atlas and down to the sea along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Between 744 and 1058 the region was an independent kingdom ruled by the Berghwata, one of the Masmuda Berber tribes. The Berghwata followed a syncretic religion inspired by Islam featuring the second ruler of the dynasty, Salih ibn Tarif, as the final prophet.

TANGIER A port in extreme northern Morocco, on the Straits of Gibralter.

TAQALI A tribal kingdom located within the Nuba Mountains, in southeastern Kordofan province, Sudan.

TIMBUKTU Once a byword for the most distant place imaginable, it is today a dusty market town in central Mali, just north of the Niger River, nowadays within the desert, although formerly it was the terminus to trans-Sahel trade routes at the edge of the wastes.

TRARZA An Arabo-Berber emirate in present-day southwestern Mauretania - the modern capital of Mauretania, the port of Nouakchott, is located here. The ruling dynasty claimed descent from Dja'far ibn 'Ali Talib al-Tayyar, an older brother of the Caliph 'Ali and a cousin of Muhammad the Prophet.

TRIPOLI A port in western Libya, it is the country's largest city. Note as well: "Tripoli" is named as such because Oea formed one settlement within an extended tri-cities district. The other settlements were Sabratha (now al-Khums) and Leptis Magna (sometimes transcribed as Lepcis; the nearest modern town of any size is Misratah).

TUGURTA Berber sultanate in the desert of southern Algeria, founded in the early 1400's.

TUNIS Located near the site of ancient Carthage, and normally associated with Tunisia, listed fully just below. The following were rulers of the immediate city in the Zirid Era.

TUNISIA The coast of central North Africa, where the sea suddenly turns south toward Libya.

WADAI A Sultanate located in what is now central Chad, between Darfur in the east, and Kanem-Bornu to the west. As such, it was an important link in caravan routes plying the southern verge of the Sahara from west to east, and back again.

Ar. Sahra' al-Gharbiyah; Sp. Sahara Occidental, also - Rio del Oro) A stretch of coast in northwestern Africa between Cap Juby in the north and Cap Blanc to the south - the Canary Islands archipelago is a short distance to the northwest. The interior is a desolate reach of  nearly unihabited desert, by times flatland or hill country. The chief city, el-Aaiún (Laâyoune), a port in the far northwest with a population of close to 200,000, accounts for over half the total population of the region.

ZAGHAWA (Tibesti) A Mediaeval kingdom in northern Chad, in the Tibesti Highlands beyond the Bodele Depression, established by Berber nomads and especially influential from c. 1000 to c. 1350 CE. Almost no hard data is known about this place, although the Zaghawa as an identifiable Berber ethnic group exist to this day - they are now nomads, living in northern and northeastern Chad, and in neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan. It is known that Zaghawa was important in the Islamicization of Kanem, to the south, c. 1100.