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The Maghreb (Arabic: بلدان المغرب , Berber: Tamazgha), also rendered Maghrib refers to the 5 countries constituting North Africa, (not to be confused with Northern Africa). It is an Arabic word, literally meaning "place of sunset" or "the west" (from an Arabian perspective). The term is generally now used, mainly by Arabs, to refer collectively to the African countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania. However, before the establishment of modern nation states in the region in the 20th century, "Maghreb" signified the smaller area that lies between the high ranges of the Atlas Mountains in the south, and the Mediterranean Sea in the north, thus excluding most of Libya and Mauritania. Sometimes, after Islam entered the region, the term has included the previously Muslim Andalusia, Sicily, and Malta.

Partially isolated from the rest of the continent by the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert, inhabitants of the northern parts of the Maghreb have long been tied in to the inhabitants of the Mediterranean countries, Southern Europe and Western Asia.

The region was somewhat unified as an independent political entity during the rule of the Berber kingdom of Numidia, and later for a short time during the first years of Arab-Muslim conquest (early 8th century). But the firmest and longest unification of the region was under the Berber empires of Almoravids and Almohads between 1040 and 1269.

The 5 modern states of North Africa established the Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote cooperation and economic integration in a common market. It was envisioned initially by Muammar al-Gaddafi as an Arab superstate, ignoring the Berber identity of the North Africans. The union included Western Sahara implicitly under Morocco's membership, putting Morocco's long cold war with Algeria to a rest. However, this progress didn't live for long, and the union is now frozen. Tensions over Western Sahara between Algeria and Morocco reimmerged strongly, reinforced by the unsolved borderline issue between the two countries. These two main conflicts have hindered progress on the union’s joint goals and practically made it inactive as a whole.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Maghreb" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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