North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal.
Varying sources limit it to the countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by Arabs as the Maghreb ("West", The western part of Arab World).
The United Nations' definition includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and Western Sahara, the territory disputed between Morocco and the Sahrawi Republic.
The African Union definition includes the Western Sahara and Mauritania but not Sudan. When used in the term Middle East and North Africa (MENA), it often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb.
North Africa includes the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and plazas de soberanía and can also be considered to include other Spanish, Portuguese and Italian regions such as the Canary Islands, Madeira, Lampedusa, and Lampione.
The countries of North Africa share a large amount of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identity with the Middle East.
Northwest Africa has been inhabited by Berbers since the beginning of recorded history, while the eastern part of North Africa has been home to the Egyptians. Between the A.D. 600s and 1000s, Arabs from the Middle East swept across the region in a wave of Muslim conquest. These peoples formed a single population in many areas, as Berbers and Egyptians merged into Arabic and Muslim cultures. This process of Arabization and Islamization has defined the cultural landscape of North Africa ever since.