The Maghreb or the Arab Far West refers to the North African region spanning the southern coast of the Mediterranean and including the Sahara that forms a cultural spectrum and continuum which provide important insights on Muslim civilization in terms of religion and society, geopolitics, urbanism, and historic ties to Europe and the United States. The contemporary Maghreb consists of Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.
North Africa is a region of enormous diversity in climate, topography, populations, and traditions, shaped by variables that spawned marked differences from country to country yet forged a regional identity based on a distinct history and a moderate and accommodating Islam. These have had little visibility outside of academic circles, especially the nuances of religion and culture, civil society, and the built environment. But in this age of globalization, North African connections across the Sahara, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans are becoming increasingly evident.
Morocco was the first nation to recognize the newly independent United States, offering its merchant ships protection from the Barbary pirates (“...to the shores of Tripoli,” as the Marine anthem goes). The 1786 Treaty of Friendship between the two countries is America’s oldest friendship treaty. North African immigrants settled in the US in relatively small numbers beginning with the great migration at the turn of the 20th century, and in increasing numbers in contemporary times. In World War II, American troops landed in Morocco as part of “Operation Torch.” Today the forces of globalization impact North African nations and populations in varying degrees in the realms of commerce, information technology, media, and the movement of people and ideas. And while the imagined region was once a backdrop built on a Hollywood movie set, today the real North Africa serves as the location for many American films that deal with conflicts and the war on terror, real and fictive.
Copyright © 2009 Center for Near Eastern Studies