North Africa, Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes seven countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and often Mauritania are the Maghreb or Maghrib, while Egypt and Sudan are referred to as Nile Valley. Egypt is a transcontinental country by virtue of the Sinai Peninsula, which is in Asia. North Africa also includes a number of Spanish possessions, Ceuta and Melilla (tiny Spanish exclaves or islets off the coast of Morocco). The Canary Islands and the Portuguese Madeira Islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean northwest of the African mainland, are sometimes included in considerations of the region.
The distinction between North Africa and much of Sub-Saharan Africa is historically and ecologically significant because of the effective barrier created by the Sahara. Throughout history this barrier has culturally separated the North from large parts of the rest of the continent. As the seafaring civilizations of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and others facilitated communication and migration across the Mediterranean, the cultures of North Africa became much more closely tied to Southwestern Asia and Europe than Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamic influence in the area is significant, and North Africa, along with Somalia, Djibouti and the Middle East, is also a part of the Arab World.
Some researchers have postulated that North Africa, and not East or Southern Africa, was the original home of the modern humans who first trekked out of the continent.